A great dog ball launcher keeps your dog entertained while saving wear and tear on your arm and shoulder. We researched many models to find the best ball launchers for dogs, evaluating them on key features like range, ball capacity, and portability.
Our top pick, the PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher, features settings for nine distances and six angles. There’s a safety motion sensor to keep balls from hitting anyone and training sounds to announce a launch is happening. However, there are several other ball launchers that may fit you and your dog even better.
Here are the best dog ball launchers.
PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher
Setting for nine distances and six angles
Training sounds to announce launch is happening
Safety motion sensor
Sleep mode after 15 minutes
Automatic Rest Mode doesn't have a visible timer
There’s a lot of variability with this auto ball launcher as you choose how far the ball goes and how far it goes up in the air. You can set it for nine different distances and six different angles, which all affect where the ball is thrown. There are training sounds to let your pup know that a ball is about to be tossed so he can be ready to run. We especially like the motion sensor in the front that protects people or pets that are standing as far as 7 feet in front of the launch area.
The toy holds up to three balls at once (but comes with two) and fits most standard-sized tennis balls as well as some that are smaller. To keep your dog from overdoing it, a sleep mode kicks in about 15 minutes of continuous play. It rests for another 15 minutes before it will start throwing balls again. It’s a useful feature for dogs prone to overstimulating themselves (common with puppies), but we do wish the PetSafe Launcher had a better way to indicate when Rest Mode is occurring and when it will end—only a two-tone sound indicates the switch between active play and Rest Mode.
The launcher can be plugged into a wall outlet or uses batteries.
Price at time of publish: $170
Power: AC power or six D batteries | Range: 8-30 feet | Size: 12 x 13.5 x 13.5 inches, 8.96 pounds | Ball Capacity: Three
Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster
Can pick up dropped balls with the end of the blaster
Lightweight and portable
Any tennis ball fits in medium and large sizes
Less expensive than most
Comes in three sizes
Only holds one ball at at time
Makes loud popping noise
This manual blaster pops out one ball at a time with the flick of a trigger finger. The Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster has an advertised range of 50 feet, though anyone familiar with Nerf blaster toys knows that they rarely achieve their maximum range. It’s lightweight and easy to stash in a backpack or the trunk if you’re hitting the road. You don’t need a charger or batteries to keep it working.
When (hopefully) your pup returns the ball, just pick it up from the ground with the end of the blaster, avoiding slobbery messes. The toy only holds one ball at a time, so you either have to stash a few extra somewhere or pick it up after each throw. It comes in three sizes, so choose based on the size of your dog.
Price at time of publish: $20
Power: Manual | Range: Up to 50 feet | Size: 3.5 x 7.5 x 12 inches, 1.25 pounds (small); 4 x 9.25 x 17.72 inches, 2 pounds (medium), 20 x 10 x 5 inches, 1.5 pounds (large) | Ball Capacity: One
Hyper Pet GoDogGo Fetch Machine
Releases balls in arc pattern for safety
Three time settings
Uses AC adaptor or batteries
Sure, it’s about fun, but with an eager dog and powerful ricocheting balls, safety is a key priority, as well. The GoDogGo releases balls in an arc pattern so they aren’t shooting straight at your waiting pooch. Still, it’s a smart idea to train your dog (and people) to stand at least three feet away or off to the side.
The launcher comes with five balls, but it can hold up to 23, depending on size. And distance also varies from 10 to 60 feet, based on the size and condition of the balls being launched. In addition to setting different distances, you can alternate the ball launch intervals at 4, 7, and 15 seconds.
Price at time of publish: $150
Power: AC adaptor or six D batteries | Range: 10-60 feet, depending on ball size and condition | Size: 13.8 x 12.6 x 16.7 inches, 8.6 pounds | Ball Capacity: 17 2.5-inch dog tennis balls or 23 1.5-inch dog tennis balls.
iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher
Pet can load ball in launcher
Has "random" distance feature
Balls can get wet and stuck
If your pet cooperates, this interactive launcher really lets your pup entertain himself. Drop a ball in, off it goes, and then your dog can bring it back, plop it into the launcher and wait for it to be tossed again. You don’t have to play at all once your dog figures it out. You can set the distance (up to 30 or 40 feet, depending on the size launcher) or choose “random” to keep your dog guessing.
The launcher is available in two sizes: The small comes with three ping-pong-sized balls and the large with three tennis balls. The smaller version of the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher is perfect for indoor use, but should primarily be reserved for use by smaller breeds since the small balls could be a choking hazard for large dogs.
Price at time of publish (Small): $130
Power: AC adaptor or 2 AAA batteries (small), 1 A battery (large) | Range: 10-30 feet (small); 10-40 feet (large) | Size: 11.02 x 7.87 x 7.87 inches, 3 pounds (small), 14 x 13 x 12 inches, 12.35 pounds | Ball Capacity: One
Franklin Pet Supply Ready Set Fetch Automatic Tennis Ball Launcher Dog Toy
Fits standard tennis balls
Three angles to launch balls
Hopper for dog to return ball
Wet or dirty balls don't work as well
This launcher offers three angles and can catapult balls as far as 40 feet. There’s a hopper at the top so your dog can return the ball and wait for it to launch again. The large, open hopper makes this one a particularly good pick for dogs to be trained to load the launcher themselves.
While the Franklin Ready Set Fetch comes with one ball, it also fits standard tennis balls.
There’s a loud warning noise that scares some pets, but it can be turned off. However, the Franklin Ready Set Fetch operates noisily even without the indicator, so owners of skittish dogs may want to look elsewhere. Performance may also suffer a little with soiled or wet balls.
Price at time of publish: $107
Power: AC adaptor or eight D batteries | Range: up to 40 feet | Size: 15.05 x 14.7 x 9.3 inches, 5.85 pounds | Ball Capacity: One
Best for Small Dogs
Hyper Pet K9 Kannon Mini K2 Dog Toy
Can pick up balls without touching them
Full-size model fits regular tennis balls
Smaller size blaster for smaller dogs
Uses a rubber band that will wear out over time
This blaster works on manual power with a finger trigger. Load up a ball and pull back the lever to set the distance. The pull-back plunger can be ratcheted back a few notches, allowing you to change the distance a ball is fired. You can also pick up balls using the muzzle of the blaster so you don’t have to get your hands slimy with dog drool.
The Hyper Pet K9 Kannon Mini Launcher uses small balls that make it the perfect pick for smaller breed dog sizes. However, there’s also a larger version suitable for big dogs. It launches one ball at a time, but there’s storage for two more balls along the bottom of the toy.
Our one issue with the Hyper Pet K9 Kannon is its durability. Since this launcher uses a thick rubber band to fire its balls, the device will eventually wear down and become less usable.
Price at time of publish: $16
Power: Manual | Range: Variable | Size: 15.5 x 2.5 x 7.5 inches, 1.05 pounds (mini); 22.75 x 2.5 x 7.5 inches, 1.65 pounds (full) | Ball Capacity: One
IDOGMATE Automatic Pet Ball Launcher
Internal ball storage
Works with slobbery balls
Many programmable settings
Wide hopper for returning balls
Complicated remote control
Although there might be a bit of a learning curve to figure out the remote for this launcher, you can opt for the balls to be hurled one of four distances. To keep your pup guessing, choose the variable setting and you’ll both wonder where the ball goes. There’s also a rest feature to give your canine athlete a 15-minute break every hour.
The small version holds balls up to 1.75 inches in diameter and the large launches those up to 2.5 inches, which includes standard tennis balls. The toy has an arced mechanism inside to keep slobbery balls from getting stuck. It comes with three balls and you can store two in the machine.
Price at time of publish: $210
Power: AC adaptor or rechargeable batteries | Range: up to 40 feet | Size: 7.48 x 7.87 x 6.3 inches, 3.05 pounds (small); 11.81 x 10.83 x 8.78 inches, 6.06 pounds (large) | Ball Capacity: Three
Our overall favorite is the PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher which has settings for nine distances and six angles. We also like the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster, which is lightweight, portable, and very affordable.
What to Look for in an Automatic Dog Ball Launcher
Some launchers work like squirt guns with the flick of a finger trigger. Just press and launch. Others are more powerful and require more juice. They use either an AC adaptor or batteries. If you plan on using your launcher outside, the power source is key. Reviewers say batteries are convenient, for example, but they don’t give the same boost as when the launcher is plugged in.
Heading to the park or the beach? You may not want to lug around a launcher that weighs 8-10 pounds or more. Those bulky machines don’t fit easily into a backpack or might take up too much room in your trunk. Instead, you might opt for one of the manual blasters that are lighter and easier to carry.
Depending on your pup’s athleticism and the size of your playing area, you can choose a launcher that can catapult a ball as short as just a few feet or as far as maybe 50 or 60 feet. Reviewers caution, however, that few of these launchers consistently deliver the maximum distance, and often the condition of the ball (wet and dirty) can make it fly less far.
Most of the blasters only hold a ball or two, but if your pup is obsessed, you might want to consider one with a larger capacity. There are some that can be loaded up with almost two dozen balls for non-stop play.
How do I train my dog to use the ball launcher?
Work backwards, suggests Susie Aga, certified trainer and behaviorist and owner of Atlanta Dog Trainer. “It’s harder to teach a dog to drop a ball than to fetch one,” she says, “and sometimes they don’t bring it all the way back.” She suggests throwing a ball, and as they are running back to you, walk backwards. “Dogs follow what’s leaving them.”
As they get close, teach them to “drop it” and reward with a treat or praise. It’s easiest to use a clicker that marks the exact moment they do what you're asking. If you want to teach them to drop it in a launcher hopper, reward first as they get close to the launcher and then as they put it in.
If your dog isn’t sure about chasing a ball, start by throwing it against a wall and catching it. That can kick in your dog’s prey drive so they want to chase and catch it too. Throw it to them and let them catch it. Then throw it past and let them chase it, she says.
Why do dogs like to play fetch?
Sometimes it’s breed characteristics, what they’re bred for, or sometimes it’s prey drive or play drive, says Aga. “It’s very instinctual for some breeds to chase and follow. Retrievers were bred to do that,” she says. “In dock diving, we have to have dogs with high chase, play, and prey drive for them to jump off a dock to chase after a ball.” A lot of working breeds and retrieving breeds have that drive.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Mary Jo DiLonardo, who often reviews dog products for Spruce Pets. The proud mom of a rescue dog, she has fostered more than 50 dogs and puppies. She is always looking for the most durable and effective pet products. For more than 25 years, DiLonardo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place.