Dogs are extremely energetic and active creatures, and this means that playtime is one of the most important parts of their day. Playtime is most commonly defined by playing fetch with their owners, and its popularity isn’t hard to understand. Fetch helps to promote better health of your pup through engaging exercise, and it also helps to strengthen your bond with your dog.
Although many owners opt to simply through a ball with their arm, there are several other options for enhancing your fetch experience. The two options I’m referring to here are manual and automatic dog ball launchers. Both of these tools bring their own benefits and take your game of fetch to the next level.
Because they’re so different, I’m going to review the best manual dog ball launchers and best automatic ball launchers separately.
Table of Contents
Chuckit!Ultra Grip Dog Ball Launcher
This extremely popular ball launcher can throw tennis balls very far with its ergonomic handle and flexible arm.
Nerf Dog16″ Compact Tennis Ball Blaster
An excellent value, this Nerf launcher offers hands-free pickup and can launch balls 50+ feet away.
Hyper PetK9 Kannon Ball Launcher
Featuring adjustable power settings, this launcher can launch balls extremely far and offers simple hands-free pickup.
iFetchToo Interactive Ball Launcher
This very popular ball launcher has consistent, variable launch distances and can launch many different kinds of balls.
IDOGMATESmall Automatic Ball Launcher
For smaller dogs, this launcher is great with its smaller balls, consistent launching distance, and large top opening.
PlayballAutomatic Ball Launcher
Another small dog pleaser, this launcher is great for indoor use and launches the balls a consistent distance.
Why Do Dogs Love Playing Fetch?
Pretty much everyone knows that dogs love to play fetch – but not many people know why they love it. Research has led experts to agree that the “fetch” instinct exists in the nature of dogs and has existed in them since before their domestication. There are several reasons why this instinct exists.
First of all, chasing and fetching plays into a dog’s predatory instincts. In the wild, dogs are fine-tuned hunters, where anything that stimulates their senses could be considered prey. So, whenever dogs sense something through hearing, sense, or sight, they lock onto it as if it’s prey. A ball flying through the air is simply too enticing for this instinct, so they run after the ball when they see it.
Fetch also gets them human attention. Every time that a dog brings a ball back to you, they get attention from their favorite person, and that makes them so happy. This makes the dog want to chase after and return the ball because every time that they do so, they get loving attention. This isn’t something that dogs can easily pass up.
Finally, dogs just feel good doing things like fetching. They feel good performing a task such as chasing after a ball and returning it to their master, and they don’t even need a pat on the back or to be told “you’re a good boy!” (although you should always tell them that).
All of these traits have been reinforced and refined over many years and many generations, making the desire to fetch very strong in your dog. Because of this, playing fetch with your dog is an excellent way to strengthen your bond and just make your dog a lot happier!
Automatic vs Manual Dog Ball Launchers
This post covers both automatic and manual dog ball launchers. The reason why I’m covering both of them is because they have different functions, cost different amounts of money, and bring different benefits. Therefore, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of both of them before choosing which one is the best one for you and your pup.
Automatic Dog Ball Launchers
– Best for owners with active dogs and a busy personal life
- Dogs can play by themselves without human involvement
- Encourages dogs to be active by providing a constant source of enrichment
- Enhances dog’s cognitive abilities
- Can be pricey
- Lots of moving parts that can fail
- Requires maintenance and occasional monitoring
Manual Dog Ball Launchers
– Best for owners with plenty of time available for playtime
- Very affordable and easy to use
- Makes it a lot easier on you and your arm to personally play fetch with your dog
- Makes fetch more fun and engaging for the dogs and humans
- Requires human involvement
- Can still be uncomfortable for the owners to use in some situations
- Lower-priced, so quality of the launcher or ball can be poor sometimes
How To Train Your Dog To Use A Launcher
Manual dog ball launchers are very straightforward — you just pick up the ball and you launch it. However, the automatic launchers are a bit more complex. In order for them to work, your dog needs to understand how to use it in the first place.
- Introduce the launcher – Ball launchers are weird! Give your dog time to get comfortable with it. Don’t turn it on, and just leave it around the house or in the backyard so that your dog can properly inspect it. When your dog does go to sniff it, give them a treat. You want to start having them associate the launcher with a reward.
- Get your dog comfortable with it – Launchers are also loud, so you’ll need to get your dog comfortable with that, too. Place the launcher a distance away from your dog to where it’s still audible but not too loud. Turn it on, and give your dog a treat when it starts making sounds. Get them excited and give them positive affirmation when they react well to the machine. Gradually bring them closer and even start to show them the launcher in action by placing a ball in it.
- Guide your dog towards using it – Once they’re comfortable with the sounds it makes, bring them right up next to the launcher, place a ball in it, and have it launch the ball. Your dog will most likely fetch the ball, but won’t understand that they need to put the ball in the machine. When your dog brings the ball back, hold your hand right over the opening to the launcher and tell them to drop it while offering them a treat. This will teach your dog to return the ball right above the opening while dropping it in anticipation of a treat. Repeating this for a little should eventually get your dog comfortable with how the machine works!
Automatic Dog Ball Launcher Safety Tips
While automatic dog ball launchers are very hands-off, there’s a few things that you’ll want to do to ensure the safety of your pup:
- Supervise your dog – While the main selling point of the automatic launchers is that your dog can play while you’re away, it’s essential that you watch your dog use it for a couple of days or even a week or two. This ensures that your dog knows how to use it, there’s no way your dog can harm himself while playing, and the launcher actually works properly!
- Train your dog – This goes hand-in-hand with supervising. Primarily, you’ll want to train your pup to wait in a safe position off to the side of the launcher so that the ball doesn’t hit them.
- Position the launcher properly – Location location location! Ensure that the launcher has plenty of open space to properly shoot the ball, in addition to making sure that your dog has plenty of room to fetch. If the launcher is outside, face the front of it towards a large open space where it won’t launch the ball into a bush or over a fence. Inside launchers should be set to a lower power and only be used in a large room without fragile items.
What Defines The Best Dog Ball Launcher?
Not all dog ball launchers are created equal! In fact, there are a ton of bad launchers for sale, both automatic and manual. Therefore, there are certain things that you’ll want to make sure of when looking at launchers for your dog:
Automatic Dog Ball Launchers
- Interactive potential – The reason why you would get your dog an automatic launcher is because they can play fetch with themselves. So, if a launcher requires a lot of human intervention, it’s simply not a good option! The best dog ball launcher has a port that is low and wide that makes it easy for your dog to drop a ball into it. It also works reliably – consistently launching a ball several seconds after it’s fed one.
- Good quality – A massive problem with a lot of automatic launchers is the quality. There are a lot of moving parts, and slobber and grass can enter the machine, so it needs to be high-quality enough to function through the abuse it’ll see. Fortunately, we’ve picked out the best quality automatic ball launchers so that you don’t have to worry about that.
- Versatile play – A good launcher should be versatile, too! By versatile, this means that a launcher should accept different kinds of balls, launch the ball at variable distances, and work both indoors and outdoors. Life is constantly changing, so a ball launcher that changes with it is a huge plus!
Manual Dog Ball Launchers
- Effective at throwing – If you’re buying a manual dog ball launcher, it’s because you want to take your fetch experience to a different level. Because of this, you’d want a launcher that’s a lot easier on your arm and gives the ball a lot more distance than you could give it. Fortunately, lots of manual launchers are really good at this.
- Good quality – Some manual launchers are pretty cheap. This doesn’t mean that cheap launchers are all low-quality, but some might be. You’ll want to ensure that your launcher can handle play in all conditions and not be affected by grass and slobber.
- Hands-off – A big reason why many owners opt to use a ball launcher is because they don’t want to touch the slimy ball! So it’s definitely a benefit if your ball launcher allows you to pick a ball up off of the ground and launch it without you having to touch it.
What Is The Best Dog Ball Launcher?
There are a ton of dog ball launchers available, all of them with strengths, weaknesses, and unique benefits that they’ll bring to your fetch game. To make it easier on you, we’ve compiled our top 3 best manual dog ball launchers and 3 best automatic dog ball launchers. To make these decisions, we’ve taken into account things like quality, value, and longevity of the launcher.
our #1 rated
OUR TOP MANUAL PICK
Ultra Grip Dog Ball Launcher
If you’re going the manual ball launcher route, you absolutely can not go wrong with Chuckit! Chuckit! has been a leader in the ball launcher space for quite a while, with consistently great quality and an effective product that takes your fetch game to another level. This Ultra Grip dog ball launcher measures in at 26 inches long, giving you a lot of leverage for a powerful throw and enough length to easily pick up balls off the ground. Additionally, the ergonomic grip handle is comfortable to hold and allows you to easily control where you’re throwing the ball. With years of experience in this space, Chuckit! knows exactly what owners need and brings it to the market.Dog owners that use this launcher with their pups have great things to say about it. Many owners absolutely love how effective it is, saying that it throws balls very far with little effort at all. Additionally, its ability to easily grab dirty tennis balls from the ground without having to bend too far over is a huge benefit to this. The enhanced handle doesn’t go unnoticed, either.An overwhelming majority of owners love this launcher. However, a couple of owners have noted that there are occasional issues with it. For example, one owner said that the long arm may be a little bit stiff which makes it hard to throw. Another owner said that the handle is uncomfortable. Regardless, these issues seem to come down to personal preference, as most owners are pleased.
- Throws balls very far with ease
- Included tennis ball
- Ergonomic, comfortable handle
- Easy to pick up ball off ground
- Ball isn’t good quality
our #2 rated
16″ Compact Tennis Ball Blaster
Nerf has been a name in the children’s toy market for many years, so seeing that they’ve made a dog ball launcher was surprising. However, what’s more surprising is how good this launcher actually is. With the ability to launch tennis balls 50+ feet with the pull of a trigger, this launcher couldn’t be easier to use. You don’t have to launch the ball over 50 feet, though — it offers adjustable power so that you can adapt to any environment, indoors or outside. Additionally, hands-free pickup is something that makes this launcher even better, as it picks up even dirty tennis balls by placing the barrel over the ball.Dogs falling in love with this launcher is a very common story within the reviews. The ease of use and effectiveness of the launching itself makes it a great toy for both dogs and owners of all ages. Owners have used the launcher in all types of weather, and even heavily abused launchers lasted for over a year with daily use. Overall, owners are very satisfied with the value and quality of this launcher.A couple of owners have said that the launcher doesn’t launch nearly as well as they were hoping, with one owner saying it only launched 10 feet. This issue is most likely due to a defective unit, but it’s a problem that occasionally exists nonetheless.
- Excellent value
- Easy hands-free pickup
- Launches balls 50+ feet
- Some quality issues
our #3 rated
K9 Kannon Ball Launcher
The Hyper Pet K9 Kannon Ball Launcher is a launcher that is very similar to the Nerf Dog launcher above. One notable difference with this launcher is that it looks a little bit more futuristic! Aside from looks, the functionality is there as well. This launcher launches balls up to 75 feet, allows for very easy hands-free pickup, and has an extra ball holder built in. The pull lever can be set from 1 to 10 to determine the launch distance, which allows great variance wherever you’re using this launcher. Overall, this launcher fits the requirements for a good ball launcher and has the ability to make many dogs very happy.Most owners of this launcher are very pleased with their purchase as well. A lot of the owners are older or have some kind of bodily limitation, and this launcher makes playing fetch so much easier and pain-free for them. The variable launching distance is great and makes it versatile for all different owners and backyard sizes.The reason why this launcher is ranked below the Nerf Dog launcher is due to the quality. There are a couple of quality issues that can lower the lifespan of this particular launcher. Two of the main issues exist with the inner trigger mechanism being a little weak and the rubber bands being irreplaceable. However, these issues can be lessened or avoided entirely by storing the launcher indoors and not pulling the pull lever too far back.
- Very powerful launcher
- Hands-free pickup is easy
- Adjustable launch distance
- Some weaker, unfixable parts
our #1 rated
OUR TOP AUTOMATIC PICK
Too Interactive Ball Launcher
iFetch is one of the most popular names in the automatic ball launcher market, and this second iteration of their first launcher is kind of a bigger brother. Due to its larger size, this launcher utilizes standard-sized tennis balls and launches them up to 40 feet. Key features of this launcher include variable launch distances, a built-in rechargeable battery, and an easy-to-use design. Additionally, most 2.5″ balls can be used with this launcher, allowing you to use either durable or more interesting balls for your dog to fetch.When this launcher works, it works great. One owner even reported using the launcher almost daily for just under 2 years before an inner piece broke! The launching of the balls is pretty consistent with a short-distance setting allowing for easy indoor usage. In fact, a good portion of owners use this launcher indoors safely and their dogs love it.As stated before, all automatic dog ball launchers have a lot of moving parts, and this often results in some problems. So, this launcher is subject to some of those problems. The inner mechanisms can be affected by the slobber and grass that gets into it, and this can result in the machine breaking or balls not being launched very far. Additionally, the battery charge can drain quickly for some people, while other people don’t have a problem. Fortunately, the iFetch customer support team is receptive, and each machine comes with a 12 month warranty.
- Can use different kinds of balls
- Variable launch distances
- 1-year warranty included
- Included balls are bad quality
- Inner mechanisms can break
our #2 rated
Small Automatic Ball Launcher
If you’re going to invest in an automatic dog ball launcher for your pup, you’ll need to get them the best of the best to prevent problems or headaches. This automatic ball launcher by IDOGMATE is one of the best available. There are two main features that make this ball launcher alluring and a great choice for your pup. First of all, the opening on the top of the launcher is very large. This makes it easy for your dog to drop the balls into it and can even hold several balls at once. Additionally, it just works better than other launchers, boasting fewer problems and better consistency. The reason why this is rated below the iFetch Too even though it’s a better launcher is because it only works with small tennis balls – balls that are unsuitable for average-sized and large dogs.Owners of smaller dogs are very pleased with their purchase! The opening is very large and owners see no problems with their dogs accurately placing the ball into it. The mechanism is smooth and powerful, and even if it jams up, it’s an easy machine to fix up and thoroughly clean for maintenance.One downside to this launcher is the ball quality, as they’re very small and low quality. Fortunately the balls can be replaced with higher quality ones. Additionally, the battery life of the launcher is pretty short when not plugged in, so keeping it plugged in is essential if you want consistent, powerful launches.
- Large top opening is easy for dogs to find and use
- Consistent, variable launching distances
- Easy to maintain
- Tennis balls are small and the included ones are low quality
- Bad battery life
our #3 rated
Automatic Ball Launcher
If you have a larger breed, the iFetch Too is the best dog ball launcher for your pet. However, smaller dogs need smaller launchers, so this launcher by Playball is a nice alternative to the IDOGMATE. This small launcher has variable launching distances and can be used both indoors and outdoors with an included plug and (not included) batteries. The balls that it comes with are saliva-resistant which is a great feature as it helps the balls not get jammed while in the machine. Overall, the build of the launcher is arguably better than the other two automatic launchers above, it’s just smaller.Small dog owners also love this launcher, saying that it’s great for their small dogs. The variable launching distance is perfect for owners that let their dogs play both inside and outside. Balls rarely get stuck within the machine, and the consistency of its launches is impressive, which is definitely a plus.A huge downside to this launcher lies with the balls, as they’re extremely weak and chewable. Fortunately, this problem is fixed with the purchase of 1.5″ balls such as these Midlee X-Smell Dog Tennis Balls. Additionally, some units of the launcher simply arrived defective, but the Playball customer service is very responsive and helpful with issues.
- Consistent launcher
- Safe to use inside and outside
- Great power and size for small dogs
- Included balls are terrible
- Some quality issues
Playing fetch with your dog is one of the best ways to better both their lives and your life simultaneously! It’s an activity that keeps your dog active and strengthens the bond between you two. Although fetch is commonly done with just a ball and your arm, ball launchers are an excellent way to enhance your fetch experience. Manual dog ball launchers make throwing the ball a lot easier and more hands-off, while automatic dog ball launchers keep your dog entertained while you’re away!
Although there are many launchers available, we’ve researched all of them and determined which ones are the best for you and your pup. So, in terms of manual launchers, the best dog ball launcher is the Chuckit! Ultra Grip Dog Ball Launcher. The best automatic dog ball launcher is the iFetch Too Interactive Ball Launcher.
Using a launcher while playing fetch with your dog will make it easier for you and more engaging for your pet. Using the best dog ball launcher available will ensure that you can keep using the same launcher safely for years to come.