Automatic Dog Ball Thrower

My Mum has given me the fab task of researching automatic dog ball throwers for my Dad’s Christmas present.  Their dog Smokey is ball-mad, energetic and super clever.  She’s a working Bearded Collie and my parent’s slow-ISH pace of life is far too slow for her; she’s wiggles non-stop and persistently drops balls into the laps of anyone who happens to be sitting close by.  So an automatic ball thrower is perfect for her, and my Dad will just love seeing her happy so it’s perfect for him too plus it will give him a break from throwing balls.

I would love to get a ball launcher for Tiffin but our garden and house is too small whereas my parent’s garden is enviably big; perfect for an automatic dog ball thrower.  I would love to be able to live somewhere where Tiffin had the space to explore but I’m sure she would get into mischief.  The bonus of a small garden without any flower beds and with artificial grass is that I can easily keep my eye on her and there’s nothing for her to dig up… Last time I stayed at my parent’s she dug out some freshly planted bulbs (ooops).

Back to the review…

Although this review is thorough (I love researching and comparing) it is based on internet research only because I haven’t seen or tried any of the automatic ball launchers…Despite this I hope it saves you a bit of time in your research.  I’ll update this blog post with my Dad’s and Smokey’s feedback after Christmas 2016 and also once I’ve seen any of the automatic dog ball throwers in action. 

What Is An Automatic Dog Ball Thrower?

Automatic dog ball throwers allow non-stop fetching for ball-mad dogs.  Dogs are trained to drop the ball into the bucket or funnel; the gadget then launches the ball automatically for the dog to fetch and drop back into the bucket or funnel…and repeat.  It means that owners get a break from throwing balls and dogs get to entertain themselves until they’ve worn themselves out.  

The Automatic Dog Ball Throwers

I’m only reviewing the main ball throwers that are on the market today (December 2016): PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher, GoDogGo Fetch Machines (G4 & JR) andiFetch & iFetch Too.

Petsafe

PetSafe is one of the newer automatic dog ball throwers on the market.  Here are the pros and cons that I can see:

Pros:

  • Height wise, it should suit most sizes of dogs
  • It takes tennis balls so as long as your dog can fit a tennis ball in her mouth it should be ok
  • If you have a small garden or house, this might be the best machine for you as it launches balls the shortest distance

Cons:

  • It stops working after 15 minutes to give your dog a rest, which might be exactly what you want but there are plenty of dogs that can keep going for much longer
  • It has a very sensitive motion and safety sensor – when it detects motion it will stop working until the dog or person is out of the way and then it will wait another 5 seconds before launching the ball so it can seem quite slow
  • Noise wise, it makes a loud click when the ball is launched

GoDogGo G4 & JR

There are two versions of this ball launcher – one for big dogs: the G4 and one for smaller dogs: the JR or Junior.  Here are the pros and cons that I can see:

Pros:

  • I think the JR would be suitable for all sizes of dog as it takes tennis balls and smaller balls.
  • The G4 isn’t suitable for indoor use as its trajectory means that a ball can travel as high as 12 feet but the JR can be set so the trajectory is much lower and so it can be used indoors and outdoors.
  • Both versions have a sensor safety switch so if your dog is really close it will stop so that the ball doesn’t launch into her face.
  • The remote control allows you to change the settings from a distance and you can control when the ball shoots out or your can set it to ‘independent dog play’.
  • The bucket takes 15+ balls so if you didn’t train your dog to put the balls back into the bucket you could simply fill the bucket with balls and leave your dog to chase and catch the balls until the bucket empties.

Cons:

  • They’re noisy.   I think that’s the nature of ball launchers but I don’t how the noise of these machines compare to the iFetch and PetSafe machines?  The noise may be a problem for your dog, it’ll depend on how sensitive she is.  There will be ways to get your dog used to it but it’s your call.

iFetch and iFetch Too

The iFetch is for tiny or small dogs – the balls are extremely small so this wouldn’t suit bigger dogs and even some small breeds might find the balls too small.  The iFetch Too takes tennis balls so would suit most breeds of dogs.  Here are the considerations split into pros and cons that I can see:

Pros:

  • Both models are suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • These machines are the most compact on the market so if storage is a big concern, the iFetch or iFetch Too might be your best option.
  • These machines have power saving auto-off mode which means after each launch it switches off and automatically switches on when a new ball is placed into the funnel.
  • According to doggiefetch.co.uk the iFetch Too isn’t as noisy as the iFetch so if your dog is noise sensitive then the iFetch Too might suit your dog well.

Cons:

  • The iFetch in particular is very light so it might not be very stable if it’s windy outside.
  • Both machines only shoot out straight so your dog may get hit with the ball but you can train her to stand away from the machine.
  • I don’t think there’s a safety sensor on either machine.

My Recommended Automatic Dog Ball Thrower For Smokey

I’m really keen on the GoDogGo G4 for Smokey because:

  • It seems the most suitable machine for an active medium sized dog
  • My parents are house proud so they only want a machine that works outdoors
  • Their garden is big and the G4 launches balls the furthest
  • It looks very sturdy
  • It can be remotely controlled
  • The balls launch at a trajectory rather than straight (like the iFetch) so she’s unlikely to get hit by a ball plus she loves jumping up and catching balls
  • There is a safety sensor but it doesn’t delay play (like the PetSafe)
  • Smokey can be taught to drop balls into the bucket or my parents can drop 15 or so balls into the bucket and let her chase and catch them or they can do both: two games in one
  • The battery power is excellent
  • I don’t know if noise is an issue for Smokey but every machine makes a certain amount of noise and I’m sure she’ll get used to it.  If not, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.

Has This Review Helped You?

I know that this review can only help you to a certain extent because I haven’t seen any of the ball launchers in action but hopefully my comparison will be useful.  If you’ve tested any of the machines and can help out other readers, please comment below.  Each machine comes with a warranty and a money back guarantee so you may wish to try a couple before settling on one or returning all of them if they don’t impress your pooch.

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