All dogs need playtime and one of their favorite pastimes is playing fetch with their human masters. Playing fetch with your favorite pet provides a host of benefits to your beloved hound. Not only does it promote greater health through exercise, it also helps strengthen that bond that you have with your pet. But there are instances when you really cannot play with your dog because of other commitments. Your dog’s playtime need not suffer because of these important activities of yours. You can get for them one of these best automatic fetch machines that we have researched just for you.
A Quick Overview of Our Favorites
|Editor's Picks||Product Name||Price||Rating|
|Best Overall||iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs||Buy on Amazon||3.8|
|Top Safety||PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy||Buy on Amazon||2.6|
|Best for Mental Stimulation||iFetch Frenzy Fetch Machine for Dogs||Buy on Amazon||3.5|
|Best Rechargeable||iDogmate Smart Automatic Dog Ball Launcher||Buy on Amazon||3.0|
|Best Indoor||AFP Interactives Maxi Hyper Fetch Machine||Buy on Amazon||3.9|
|Best for Large Dogs||iFetch Too Automatic Ball Launcher||Buy on Amazon||3.7|
The 6 Top-Rated Automatic Fetch Machines
1 Best Overall: IFetch Interactive Ball Launchers For Dogs
- Launch-O-Matic fully adjustable throwing distance settings at 10, 20, and 30 feet
- Uses mini tennis balls sized 1.6 inches in diameter
- 1-year worry-free warranty
The iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher for Dogs is designed specifically for smaller breeds of dogs because of its utilization of smaller-sized tennis balls measuring just 1.6 inches in diameter. This should always be factored in your buying decision as these mini tennis balls can be choking hazards for larger breeds. The iFetch is a great tool to keep your dog fully entertained with its favorite game of fetch whether you have something else to do or you simply want to watch your pet have fun.
There’s an issue with the durability of the iFetch’s power unit, though, with some pet parents saying it dies out after several months of use. At least, you get to use its 12-month worry-free warranty.
Read here our detailed iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers Review.
- Mini tennis balls are perfect for smaller breeds of dogs
- Adjust the throwing distance at a touch of a button
- Uses ordinary C batteries or can be easily plugged into an electric outlet
- Can be used either indoors or outdoors
- Some issues with durability as the power unit is believed to substantially drain in the long run
- Ball trajectory cannot be adjusted; reported incidences of ball hitting dogs
- The size of the ball may be a choking hazard to some dog breeds
2 Top Safety: PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher Dog Toy
- Built-in motion, ball detection, and safety sensors
- 9 fully adjustable throwing distance settings from 8 to 30 feet
- 6 fully adjustable angle of throw settings
- Accepts both standard-sized tennis balls and mini tennis balls
- Audible alert tones for impending ball launch
- 12-month warranty
If you’re looking for a safer device that automatically launches balls for your pet hound, then PetSafe’s Automatic Dog Ball Launcher Tennis Ball Throwing Machine for Dogs is always a good choice. While there are issues about the unusually loud ‘bang’ of its launcher, its advanced safety features are what makes the PetSafe quite appealing. Its motion sensors prevent balls from getting launched if there are objects up to 7 feet in front of the device.
It has sensors in the chambers, too so it won’t activate the launcher without any ball to toss. Speaking of tossing balls, there are 9 distance settings and 6 angles of toss so you can really keep your hound super-busy both in and outside your home.
- Safety sensors mean the ball will not launch if it detects people or even dogs in the trajectory of the ball
- Adjustable throwing distance and angle of toss allow for optimum versatility
- Versatility in the use of standard- and mini- sized tennis balls
- Audible notification increases safety as it gives warning of an impending ball release
- Reasonably-priced for its features
- Quite bulky and heavy at 8 pounds
- Ball-launching mechanism can be quite loud
- Ball-like design makes it easy to tip over
- Some issues with reliability
3 Best For Mental Stimulation: IFetch Frenzy Fetch Machine For Dogs
- Three mini tennis balls and launcher included
- Ball storage compartment at the bottom
- Fast-paced game
If you are looking to give an intellectual challenge to your dog, this is a great toy which allows you to do so. You or your pooch simply need to drop in the top and then it will be released from one of the three chutes at the bottom where they can fetch it. Three mini tennis balls are already included, as well as a compartment at the bottom where they can be kept.
Unlike other brain puzzles which rely on treats, this one uses balls instead. The durable design is made to stand the test of time, and there are no batteries required either. A one-year warranty is included in case anything does go wrong in this timeframe.
- No treats required
- Encourages independent or group play
- Tennis balls easy to lose or damage
- Some dogs don’t understand the game
4 Best Rechargeable: IDogmate Smart Automatic Dog Ball Launcher Toy
- Designed for smaller dog breeds
- Comes with three balls
- Remote control
Suitable for both puppies and small dogs alike, the balls included in this set are non-abrasive, so they won’t damage your pooch’s teeth. You can choose the distance that the balls will be launched depending on the energy levels of your dog and how much room you have to work with. You can either use the AC adaptor or the rechargeable battery. When fully charged, it should offer 250 launches.
When you are not using the device, there is an automatic power saving mode to ensure that the battery won’t run down too quickly. The hopper is large, so you can easily throw the balls inside – or else teach your dog to do it and take away any effort yourself! The nice thing is that you can allow your dog to play independently or enjoy playtime together. Both indoor and outdoor play is suitable, so you have a lot of flexibility here too.
- Suitable for indoor or outdoor usage
- Four distance settings offer flexibility
- Large hopper for easy reloading
- Reports of poor-quality balls
5 Best Indoor: AFP Automatic Dog Ball Launcher
- Automatic tennis ball 10-second scanner
- Variable throwing distance adjustment: 10-, 20-, and 30- feet
- Comes with 3 2.5-inch diameter tennis balls
- Money-back guarantee
The Hyperfecth Ultimate Throwing Interactive Ball Launcher for Dogs is a neat-looking automatic fetch machine that comes with 3 selectable settings for throwing distances. Requiring only about 170 square inches of surface area, the Hyperfetch is a great option for those who may have several tubes of worn-out tennis balls in their closet. It comes with an automatic scanner which makes sure that the chamber has a ball before activating its throwing mechanism. The downside is that there have been issues on the Hyperfetch’s reliability especially in terms of its battery and throwing capabilities.
- Fully adjustable throwing distance allow for greater variability
- Uses standard-sized tennis balls so you can easily buy additional balls to use
- Rechargeable battery lasts for about 3-4 hours
- Can be used both indoors and outdoors
- Issues with reliability especially with battery
- Some complaints about throwing distance as being insufficient
- Doesn’t come with safety features
- Quite expensive for its features
6 Best For Large Dogs: iFetch Too Automatic Ball Launcher
- Launch-O-Matic fully adjustable throwing distances: 10, 25, and 40 feet
- Uses standard-sized tennis balls
- Uses rechargeable batteries
iFetch Too is actually the bigger brother of the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher. Because of its larger size it can accommodate standard-sized tennis balls as well as toss the ball up to 40 feet whereas the little iFetch can only manage 30 feet tops. It doesn’t rely on alkaline batteries, too since the iFetch Too already comes with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The problem is that the auto-shutoff feature has a very short window, only 60 seconds. This prevents dogs from really having fun with their ball launcher since the device already turns itself off by the time dogs have a chance to put the ball back into the hopper.
- 10 feet throwing distance can be locked for safety
- Adjust the throwing distance at a touch of a button
- Can be used either indoors or outdoors
- Great for larger dogs
- 60-second auto-shutoff feature doesn’t allow for independent play
- Some issues with consistency of ball toss distances
- Ball trajectory cannot be adjusted
- Issues with overall product reliability
Best Automatic Fetch Machine: Buying Guide
Why Do Dogs Love Playing Fetch?
It is a well-known fact that dogs love to play fetch. But why are our four-legged friends so obsessed with this game?
Experts agree that this instinct to chase and fetch is already within the very nature of dogs even before they were first domesticated. There are several explanations offered by leading animal behaviorists as to why dogs behave as such.
First, it is ingrained in their predatory instincts. In the wild, anything that moves is considered prey. Anything that can stimulate their other senses, such as hearing and smell, can also be interpreted as the presence of prey. As such, whenever dogs hear or smell something, they automatically orient their heads in the direction of the potential source of this stimulus. When the finally ‘see’ it, they’d instantly run after it.
Second, dogs generally feel good about themselves whenever they do these things. It is a self-reinforcing behavior. They don’t necessarily need a pat on the back, a reward, or even a treat for being able to run after the ‘prey’ and bring it back to their human masters. They just enjoy doing it.
Third, every time they receive attention from their human friend, they also feel good. This reinforces the natural instinct to chase and to bring back that item to man. It should be remembered that dogs are highly social animals and that they thrive on positive reinforcements.
These are handed down through generations, with each generation passing invaluable tips and tricks of the trade that make the succeeding generations more adept at fetching. And this is the reason why dogs simply love a game of fetch.
What Makes a Good Automatic Fetch Machine?
The traditional way of playing fetch involves throwing a ball, a stick, or any other object for your dog to chase, put it into its mouth, and ‘mouth’ it over to you. Of course, there will always be instances when you simply don’t have the time to play with your dog. This is where an automatic ball thrower and an automatic fetching machine can be really handy. But what makes a good automatic fetch machine anyway? Let’s look at the features of a really good machine.
- Interactive potential
You want a gadget that your dog can easily be trained to use or operate by itself. The reason why you’re getting an interactive device such as this is that you really don’t have the time to play fetch with your pet. If the device will require you to put balls into it every time, then it will be better to just play with your dog. Automatic fetch machines should have ports that are low and wide enough for your pet to drop the ball with its mouth. Once the ball is in, the machine will wait several seconds before launching it into the air and your dog will be running after it again. This is how automatic fetch machines should work. It allows for independent playtime for your dog. You’ve got to train your dog, of course.
- Adjustable throwing distances
Most fetch machines come with highly variable throwing distances with some reaching up to 50 feet, although most will max out at 30 feet. It is important to choose a device that allows for fully adjustable throwing distances so you can choose the correct settings depending on your surroundings. For instance, if you’re indoors, you don’t expect the machine to toss balls up to 30 feet unless you’ve got a mansion to begin with.
- Versatile play
Canine playtime should not be restricted only to the outdoors. If it is raining or snowing outside, then your dog will be gloomy, bored, and sad for not being able to play. That’s why it is best to look for a machine that can be used both indoors and outdoors so your dog can entertain itself in various settings.
- Accepts a great variety of toy balls
There are machines that only accept a certain type and size of a ball. You will have a much better option if you go for machines that accept a variety of balls from mini balls to tennis balls and even foam and rope balls.
Read here our ultimate guide on the Best Dog Balls.
- Great value for features
Based on the features of the automatic fetch machine, you will need to check if the price tag is well worth it. The problem with some products is that the features and the overall design and construction do not do justice to the price tag.
How to Teach a Dog to Use an Automatic Fetch Machine
It is one thing to buy a really good ball fetch machine and an entirely different matter to train your dog on how to use it properly, safely, and independently. As we have already mentioned above, an automatic fetch machine should foster independent play for dogs. But before they can do this, you’d have to train them. Here’s how.
- Get ready with your automatic fetch machine. Be ready with your training clicker and plenty of treats, too.
- Acclimatize your dog to the presence of the machine. Don’t operate the machine yet. Just leave it standing on the floor or even in your backyard for your pet to ‘inspect’ it. If it does click and give your pet its favorite treat. Don’t forget lavish praises. The thing you want here is for your pet to associate the machine to positive and pleasant experiences.
- Once your pet is comfortable with the machine, you can start training your pet to become more familiar with the noise of the ball fetch gadget. Place the machine in such a way that it is some considerable distance from your dog. The ideal distance should be that the noise created by the machine will be audible for your dog, but not startle it in such a way that it will scare your hound. Now turn the machine on and get ready. Once it beeps or emits a warning tone, clicks, and immediately give your dog its treat. At the same time, say ‘yes!’ or some other trigger word. Repeat this several times until your pet is comfortable with the noise or the sound from the device.
Additional Tips to Train Your Dog to Use an Automatic Fetch Machine
- The next step is for you to train your dog in retrieving the ball and bringing it to you while the machine is running. Start with the machine fully running and command your dog to come near the machine. If it does, click. Now load the ball and allow it to be tossed by the machine. Let your pet retrieve the ball. Your dog should be able to bring the ball back to you. When it does, click and present the treat. This will make your pet to drop the ball to take the treat. As soon as your dog releases the ball, give the command ‘drop it’. Do this several times until your pet has mastered the skill of bringing and dropping the ball on cue.
- The last phase of the training is having your hand just above the port where the ball can be dropped into the machine. Present your open hand with the treat so your dog knows that the treat is there. Your dog should be able to drop the ball directly into the launcher’s bucket as it attempts to take the treat from your hand. Give the command ‘drop it’ as soon as it drops the ball. Click and give the treat.
You need to go slow with each step of the process. Over time, you will no longer need the clicker and the treat as your dog already has associated fetching the ball with many positive things.
Read here our detailed guide on Dog Treats.
Benefits of an Automatic Fetch Machine
Fetching a ball may seem like a very tedious game for dogs. However, this actually provides a host of benefits especially if you’re using an automatic fetch machine. Here are some of them.
- Enhances your pet’s cognitive abilities
Training your pet how to use an automatic fetch machine not only helps it feel good about itself, but also helps improve its cognition especially problem-solving skills. These machines also help sharpen your dog’s alertness as they begin to learn that the visual and auditory cues emanating from the machine means a ball will be launching any time soon. This can also help prevent canine boredom.
- Serves as physical exercise
Instead of leading a sedentary lifestyle, dogs will be more than motivated to keep on playing something that they are inherently designed by nature to do. Running after a ball and dropping it into the launcher’s bucket requires strong muscles and stamina to run back and forth. You don’t even need a gym or a park anymore to get your pet in tiptop shape.
- Fosters independent play
Automatic fetch machines also help foster independent play. If you trained your dog properly it will no longer rely on you for a game of fetch as it can do this on its own. However, we still do recommend playing fetch with your dog from time to time because the human-dog interaction can never be replicated by a machine.
Check out our article on Dog Toy Boxes.
Automatic fetch machines may be considered by some as a pet parent’s lame excuse for not tending to the playtime needs of his or her dog on a more personal basis. That is why, as handy as invaluable these gadgets are, we still strongly recommend spending time with your pet so that they can still benefit from the warmth of that human interaction they need. For those really busy times, then any of these best automatic fetch machines should come in handy.