Is anything more fun than a game of fetch with your four-legged best friend? Fetch provides healthy activity, allows your dog to burn off excess energy, and helps increase bonding.
Unfortunately, fetch has downsides, too – mainly for us humans! Even if you’re in great shape, it usually doesn’t take long for your arm to grow tired and sore. Plus, every time you pick up the ball, your hand gets covered in dog slobber!
A ball launcher is an awesome alternative. With a launcher, you can launch a ball up to three times as far compared to a hand throw. Even better, you don’t have to touch the ball. The launcher picks up the ball for you.
While a ball launcher is simple to use, finding the best one for your pup isn’t always so easy. You need to consider the launcher type, it’s features, your dog’s breed and traits, and much more. Fortunately, even if you don’t know much about ball throwing toys, we’re here to help.
Check out the complete guide below with everything you need to know about the best ball launchers for 2021. Plus, we rounded up our seven favorites, including four launchers for adult dogs and three suitable for puppies.
Save your arm and increase the fun with a dog ball launcher. Let’s check it out!
- What is the Best Dog Ball Launcher?
- What to Look for in a Good Ball Throwing Toy?
- Overall Best Dog Ball Launcher
- Overall Best Dog Ball Launchers for Puppies
- Tips for Playing with Your Dog Ball Launcher
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Dog Ball Launcher?
Are you and your dog in a hurry to head outside and play? Here’s a quick look at our seven favorite launchers:
For adult dogs:
- Chuckit! Classic Launcher
- Nerf Tennis Ball Blaster Dog Toy
- PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy
- Nerf Dog Air Strike Launcher Dog Toy
A good choice for puppies:
What to Look for in a Good Ball Throwing Toy?
All ball throwing toys will launch a ball. But beyond that basic quality, you’ll find a host of different features based on brand. Here’s an in-depth look at the main features you’ll want to consider when selecting the perfect ball launcher for your pup:
Buy a launcher that suits your dog’s size, breed, and age. Is your dog a large-breed, such as a German Shepherd, that can cover large distances quickly? Or is your pup a smaller breed that needs far less space to play?
Check the maximum throw distance for the launcher. For a large, active breed, you’ll find the geography of the play space matters more than the max launch distance (for example, the size of the park or yard). However, with smaller dogs, you don’t want a launcher where the minimum distance is more than your dog can run.
Electric or Handheld
You have two options. An electric ball launcher launches the ball’s automatically. You adjust settings on a control panel to set the distance, speed, arc, and other factors. Some types hold a reservoir of tennis balls, allowing for automatic operation. They typically run on either disposable or rechargeable batteries.
A handheld launcher has a long handle with an end C-shaped contraption that holds the ball. You flick your arm/wrist to throw the ball. The unique end piece lets you pick up the ball without touching it with your hands or bending over. Many types use a trigger or lever for ball control.
Variable Launch Distance
Regardless of your dog’s size and breed, you want a launcher that allows for variable launch distances. Some handheld launchers have settings, although the distance the ball goes is mainly controlled by how you throw.
You want to throw the ball a variety of distances during every play session. With a handheld launcher, that simply means changing up how you throw. However, if you’re interested in an automatic launcher, make sure it has distance settings. Dogs get bored chasing a ball that goes roughly the same distance each time, so changing things up helps keep the game fun.
Most ball launchers use standard tennis balls. That’s best for medium to large breeds. However, a standard tennis ball can accidentally injure a small breed. Instead, you’ll want a launcher that uses mini tennis balls.
Most launchers are designed for outdoor use. However, you can find a few indoor launchers. They’re typically made for small breeds.
Never use outdoor launchers indoors. The ball will bounce around unpredictably, potentially resulting in damage to your house or your pet.
Overall Best Dog Ball Launcher
|Our 2021 Picks: Best Dog Ball Launcher|
Ready to select a ball launcher? Start by checking out our top four recommendations for adults plus three launchers well-suited for puppies:
You’ll find plenty of fancier launchers elsewhere on our list, but our top recommendation overall is this classic launcher from Chuckit!. Although it’s not packed with fancy features, it’s easy-to-use, effective, and loads of fun.
It’s made for quick and hand-free ball pickup. Flick your wrist and send the ball sailing up to three times the distance of an average hand throw. It’s made from durable, flexible plastic and has a comfortable, ergonomic handle.
The Chuckit! Launcher holds any 2.5-inch ball, so it does work with standard tennis balls. One Chuckit! ball is included.
No launcher is quite like this one from Nerf. It’s a Blaster that fires standard tennis balls up to 50 feet. It’s simple to use, even for kids and contains no external moving parts. Plus, it has hands-free loading.
The Blaster includes three colorful Nerf tennis balls. It also works with any standard-sized tennis balls.
Keep in mind the Blaster does launch the balls fairly fast, so you want to avoid aiming it near your pet. It’s best for use by large-breed, athletic dogs in flat, open spaces.
If you’re looking for an automatic ball launcher, this option from PetSafe has a lot to like. It’s easy-to-use, well-made, and includes a variety of safety features.
Three sensors prevent the launcher from firing a ball if any person or animal is too close to the launch pocket. Additionally, it automatically shuts off after 15 minutes to help prevent overexertion.
Six angle options and nine distance settings mean you can create a wide range of throwing patterns based on your dog’s abilities and the available play space. It works by plugging it into an outlet or with six D batteries. Two standard-sized tennis balls are included.
Another option from Nerf, this classic launcher is durable, lightweight, and easy to use. Although they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel here, the overall top-quality construction and unique design touches elevate this toy above much of the competition.
It has a curved, ergonomic design that allows you to throw the ball with minimal effort on your part. Plus, the end cup picks up the tennis ball from right off the ground. Another feature we like is the ball carrier built right into the handle.
It fits any standard-sized tennis ball, but not be surprised if he prefers the included Nerf ball, which has a built-in squeaker.
Overall Best Dog Ball Launchers for Puppies
Puppies don’t have the strength or speed to chase after balls thrown from a standard-sized launcher. Instead, you’ll need a smaller launcher built for a puppy’s small stature and mouth size. Here are the three we recommend:
ChuckIt! ’s Junior Ball Launcher is a mini version of their Classic model. At 19-inches long, it throws the ball a relatively short distance, making it ideal for puppies and other dogs who can’t run especially far or fast.
Although it’s smaller, it’s still made with the same quality you’d expect from the ChuckIt! brand. It’s made from durable, lightweight plastic that won’t tire out your arm. Also, as with all the other launchers, this one allows for hands-free ball pickup.
The K9 Kannon Mini form Hyper Pet is a unique ball launcher that’s specifically designed for safe use by toy and small breeds. It fires soft mini-balls up to 75 feet, making it a great choice for puppies with boundless energy.
It’s a hand-free launcher, too. Press the barrel onto the ball to load it, and you’re ready for instant action. Plus, the mini balls are made from Grade A rubber, so they’re safe on tiny teeth.
The launcher includes two specialty 1.88-inch mini balls, with additional balls sold separately.
Multipet’s dog toy slinger doesn’t launch tennis balls. Instead, it launches stuffed toys. Puppies often have an easier time gripping a pliable stuffed toy, making this an excellent option for little dogs who aren’t quite big enough to fetch a full-sized tennis ball.
The Slinger has a long neck and an easy-grip handle. Squeeze the trigger to send the toy soaring through the air. Aside from the popular pink pig, other color options are also available.
Tips for Playing with Your Dog Ball Launcher
Surprisingly, not every dog naturally understands how to play fetch. Additionally, many owners need some practice using a launcher before they can do it well. If you and your dog don’t immediately get the hang of playing with a ball launcher, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect.
Learning to use an automatic ball launcher is often more complicated than using the traditional type. After all, your dog has likely never seen a machine quite like this before. Here are some helpful tips for teaching your dog how to use an automatic launcher:
- Start with short play sessions. Each game of fetch should last about 10 minutes. Also, limit play sessions to one or two each day. You want fetch to feel like a game, not a chore the dog must endure.
- If you have an especially high-energy dog, you can extend the length of each play session, but keep them limited to no more than two per day.
- Introduce your dog to the launcher. Let him sniff it and check it out. Turn the machine on so he can become familiar with how it sounds.
- When he seems comfortable with the machine, you’re ready to launch a ball. Some dogs will chase a ball fired from a launcher right away. If your dog seems hesitant, try standing near the machine and throwing a ball by hand. Then alternate between machine and hand throws.
- Once your dog is actively retrieving launcher-fired balls, you can start teaching him how to return the ball and place it in the launcher. Only use positive reinforcement. Provide praise and a treat when he drops the ball into the machine’s reservoir.
- Above all, let your dog learn at his own pace. You want him to always associate the launcher with fun and play. Reward him when he does well, but don’t chastise him when he makes a mistake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to the most common questions about dog ball launchers.
What are the Different Types of Dog Ball Launchers?
They’re either automatic or handheld. Automatic launchers are electrical powered. They have a control panel that allows you to adjust the distance, position, and speed of the ball.
Handheld launchers work off old-fashioned elbow grease. They consist of a long stick with a C-shaped end piece that allows you to throw the ball without touching it.
Why is a Ball Launcher Better than Throwing By Hand?
With a launcher, you can throw the ball further and more accurately than by hand. It’s easier on your arm, too.
Also, with a manual launcher, you don’t have to touch the ball by hand. That’s right – you can play fetch with your dog without getting dog slobber all over your hands! For hands-free use with an automatic launcher, your dog will have to learn how to place balls into the machine’s reservoir.
Which Launcher is Best for My Breed of Dog?
If you have an active, athletic breed, choose a launcher that fires full-size tennis balls a far distance. If you have a smaller breed, get a launcher that uses mini tennis balls.
Also, consider your dog’s trainability. If he’s a breed that learns new behaviors quickly, you might want an automatic ball launcher, so you can train him to load the launcher himself for self-play. But keep in mind that’s often a fairly complicated trick to teach, making it difficult for breeds that aren’t well-suited for training.
Are Dog Ball Launchers Safe?
Only play with a launcher in a safe location. Choose a wide-open space away from traffic and other hazards.
If you’re playing fetch in a public location, make sure your dog is trained enough to return to you when called. Also, always follow all local leash laws.
Finally, make sure the ball isn’t too big for the dog. Use mini tennis balls for small and toy breeds. All it takes is one erratic bounce for a standard sized tennis ball to accidentally injure a small dog’s mouth or face.
All of the products on our list are highly rated, easy-to-use, and an overall good value. In many ways, the best ball launcher of the bunch depends on the size and breed of dog you have, plus whether you prefer an automatic or handheld launcher.
Whichever type you choose, you and your dog should have no problems learning how to use it. Spare your arm, keep your hands free from dog slobber, and take the game of fetch to a whole new level with a dog ball launcher.