Play fetch with these handy dog ball launchers

Worried about straining your arm repeatedly throwing a ball? Save yourself the hassle with these automatic ball launchers.

dog leaping for tennis ball

by Natalie Corner |

There will be no aching arms in sight with a handy dog ball launcher. Endless fun for your pet and injury-free playtime for you.

Dog ball launchers are the new way to play fetch with your pooch and require minimal effort to keep them entertained potentially for hours, well, until they get tired that is. Bliss!

The gadgets could even be hailed as life-changing for some dog owners, especially with an automatic ball launcher that you can set a timer, load with balls, sit back and watch your dog run. However, if you're looking for a budget option, a Nerf Gun for dogs or a handheld launcher will do the job just as well - but requires a little more interaction on your part.

How does a dog ball launcher work?

Simply put a dog ball launcher launches balls, usually tennis balls, into the air and far into the distance for a dog to chase and fetch.

The dog ball launchers can travel a distance of between 10 and 30 feet, which all depends on the product itself, and are a clever way to exercise your canine companion.

There are two versions of dog ball launcher you can consider buying, depending on your budget. An automatic dog ball thrower shoots out a ball to a set distance for your dog to collect rather than you having to throw one yourself. And if you’ve trained your dog to successfully return it back to you, then it’s a great new way to play fetch.

A manual dog launcher (hand-held) means you can scoop up the ball into the slot and then swing back your arm and flick, launching the ball further than a simple hand throw.

Main features to consider

Similar to buying dog leads, there are a few factors to keep in mind when sourcing the perfect dog ball launcher.

Indoor or outdoor: Where will your daily fetch game take place? If you have a small space, go for a product that has a short shooting range.

Size of your dog: If you have a medium-large dog breed, go for a large dog ball launcher. If you have a small dog, consider getting a smaller ball launcher model.

Distance settings: Do you want a dog ball launcher with multiple distance settings to vary the exercise? Perhaps you are satisfied with just one distance feature?

Budget: How much are you willing to pay? Is it worth going for a more expensive automatic dog ball launcher or will a manual option (cheaper) be adequate?

Best automatic dog ball launchers

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PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy

Best dog launcher for outdoors
PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy

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The interactive throwing machine has nine distance settings and six ball angle settings; with the launcher throwing between 2.5 - 9m. It also has motion sensors to detect and protect people and pets standing in front of the launch area (although some dogs may be sensitive to this noise). There is also an automatic rest mode (15 minutes) for safe play time and training features (audio tones).

Pros: Safety mechanism, designed for outdoors, adjustable distance

Cons: Loud mechanism, requires training, timeout mode after 15mins

Review: "Collie LOVES THIS! Picked it up really quickly. Only stalls a bit when he stands in front as the motion sensor has a safety mechanism to stop it smacking him on the nose!"

iFetch Too Ball Launcher Dog Toy

Best for indoor and outdoor use
iFetch Too Automatic Ball Launcher for Larger Dogs

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A bit pricier than the other models, the iFethc is well worth the investment. Especially as it has three distance settings (15ft, 30ft, 40ft) which means it could be used inside as well as outdoors. You charge the launcher, select a distance and then see it launch and your dog go wild!

Pros: Adjustable settings, indoor and outdoor use

Cons: Poor quality supplied balls, no motion detection

Review: "It works perfectly and it's very easy to use. The only warning would be that if your dog likes to wait for the ball to catch it, it will be very difficult to train them to drop the ball themselves as there's no time delay from the ball being dropped and launched.

"I have read that tennis balls work as well but I didn't find that to be the case. They do launch but only a few feet. Instead, buy Kong balls and those work perfectly. Overall great toy, it's sturdy and keeps my dog entertained."

iDogmate Small Automatic Ball Launcher

Best ball launcher for small dogs
iDogmate Small Automatic Ball Launcher

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This small automatic ball launcher is perfect for puppies and small dogs. It's a great gadget that comes with three customised 1.65-inch diameter mini rubber balls and can launch a variety of distances (10, 20, 25, 35ft). Better yet, you can launch balls via a remote controller, making the distance adjustment function perfect for indoor and outdoor use. The large funnel on the top makes the ball launcher easy for the dogs to use, without always needing your assistance.

Pros: Large funnel, remote control, no assistance needed, adjustable distances, accepts regular tennis balls

Cons: Supplied balls too small and low quality

Review: "No problems here with ours it's working without issue and it used daily. just bought some better balls as the one's supplied are not the best so if you looking for better quality balls they buy the KONG - Squeakair Balls in X-Small size as these fit the machine and are much better quality."

Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Interactive Fetch Toy

Pet Prime Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Interactive Fetch Toy

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This Pet Prime Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Interactive Fetch Toy is the best budget ball launcher for smaller dogs. It trains your pet's behaviour and keeps your pet energetic, indoors and outdoors. The ball launcher has three different distance ranges (10, 20, 30ft). Being super-high quality, the machine is made of ABS plastic and operates with 2-inch tennis balls (three are included). All the gadget needs are six C batteries or an AC adapter (neither included). The balls also need to be dry, otherwise it may affect the shooting distance.

Pros: Good value, adjustable distance, tennis balls suitable

Cons: Balls need to be dry, requires training, doesn't include batteries

Review: "Arrived today (next day from ordering Prime). Set up straight out of box with included mains adaptor very easily and using 3 balls supplied Archie was chasing and fetching straightaway!! He hasn't worked out how to drop the balls in yet but he knows as soon as it makes a noise the ball will fly out....used only inside so far but 10 feet setting sees ball fly 10 feet and 20 feet means 20 feet!!...30 feet setting hasn't been used yet for fear of knocking something over!!! Genuinely a brilliant product where the ball is thrown not rolled and works great every time for half the price of some others!!! Only concern is that the balls are smaller than standard size so may be a little difficult to replace in time but our Schnoodle is fairly light with balls so not a problem for a while to come!!"

Best manual dog ball launchers

Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster Toy

Most fun manual dog launcher
Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster Toy (version 2018)

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The Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster Toy is the best manual dog ball launcher for anyone looking for a snazzier design. Coming in a variety of styles, this dog toy is ideal for the ultimate outdoor game of fetch. One of its features is hands-free pick up, so you don't need to bend down and pick up the ball each time.

Pros: Fits tennis balls, good quality toy, good value, ejects 10-15m, hands free pick up

Cons: Stiff mechanism, can be loud

Tried and Tested by Deputy Commercial Content Editor Natalie Corner: "My dog cannot get enough of this ball launcher. And I can't load the ball fast enough because he brings the ball back so quickly. As a small cocker spaniel, he has endless amounts of energy so this Nerf gun brings a lot of excitement. The lever can be a little stiff and you have to remember to pull it back first before you put the ball in otherwise the mechanism doesn't work. It's simple enough once you get going and gives my arm a rest!"

Nerf Dog Deluxe Air Strike Thrower

Best for handsfree pick up
Nerf Dog Deluxe Air Strike Thrower, Large

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The Nerf Dog Deluxe Air Strike Thrower is another popular manual dog ball launcher. You have the choice of medium or large, and it with a tennis ball. With over 800 ratings, it easily scoops up the ball, so you don't need to pick it up with your hands.

Pros: Includes tennis ball, handsfree pick up, medium or large, ergonomic handle design

Cons: Need the larger size for handsfree pick up

Review: "This chucker is the best I have ever used. The handle is very well made and is comfortable to use. The stem is profiled, never seen that before. It is very well made. The length is perfect and allows a good throw with little effort. The holder takes a regular sized tennis ball. This item is very good value for money. I defy anyone to find a better one at any cost. I have tried them all."

ChuckIt! Sport Dog Ball Launcher

Best overall manual ball launcher
ChuckIt! Sport Dog Ball Launcher u2013 Small Ball

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With thousands of nearly five-star Amazon ratings, this product comes in a variety of sizes depending on the size of your dog and your preferences. This 36cm small multi-coloured option is extremely effective, helping you to throw further and faster. Never will you need to bend down and pick up a slimy ball again. It's super comfortable with an ergonomic rubber handle, and is durable as it's made from flexible plastic.

Pros: Comes with ball, tennis balls fit,

Cons: Need larger size for handsfree pick up

Review: "Finally a foolproof ball thrower! I am the worst at throwing balls - like I will aim forwards and it will end up behind me. I have bought literally five ball launchers before this one - none of which worked very well. This one is fab, it releases any standard-sized tennis ball instantly, and even I can send it a fair distance. The orange ball that comes with it is great if like me you have a poodle who likes to abandon his ball in long grass. It is so bright you can't miss It!"

How can you teach your dog to use an automatic ball launcher?

Similar to any routine puppy training, introducing an automatic ball launcher may require some getting used to. Some dogs can get it in the first go, others need a bit of practice. Here are some tips to successfully launch it with your dog:

  1. Be patient
  1. Warm your dog up to the machine for ten minutes a day, three times a day (your dog getting bored is the last thing you want – make them beg for it!)
  1. Reinforce the full process with your dog (throw-and-fetch) to get your dog comfortable with walking back to the machine after collecting a ball.
  1. Once you've mastered this, you can train your dog to become fully self-reliant on the automatic ball launcher. This requires you to teach your dog to drop the ball back into the launcher – using a reward system – so that eventually your dog can play with the ball launcher without your help.

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