iFetch Ball Launcher | We Put an Automatic Ball Thrower to the Test

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Our dog Pepper, an Australian Cattle Dog mix, loves a good game of fetch, and she’s got a lot of energy to burn. But beyond switching to a frisbee, I never really thought about how to add variety to our games. Enter the iFetch Too automatic ball launcher. Is there such a thing as leveling up your fetch game? We decided to find out.

Why Buy an Automatic Ball Launcher?

At the most basic level, a game of fetch satisfies a pup’s need to chase and pounce, helping a dog stay busy mentally and physically—and too tired to be bored or destructive. Regular games of fetch are a great way to exercise your dog and strengthen your bond.

Automatic ball launchers add a new dimension to an old game. They save human arms, of course, which can wear out long before a fetch-loving pup does. But a good one can also offer a surprising range of benefits for dogs—like the opportunity for interesting obedience training, unpredictable game variation, and even a path to occasional independent play.

The iFetch line (comprising three different automatic ball launchers) has garnered a lot of attention in the world of pup products. So with Pepper’s help, we decided to put the largest and most popular model, the iFetch Too, to the test and see what kind of benefits it really offers an enthusiastic fetcher.

This sleek little blue-and-white thrower looks a bit like a Star Wars droid. It comes with three tennis-sized balls, instructions, and a power cord. First step? Plug it in overnight before use to get it fully charged. In the meantime, I checked out instructions and gave Pepper the packing boxes to shred (making it a red-letter day for her already).

Dog looking up from shredding box in living room

The launcher is pretty intuitive, but it comes with clear instructions that feel like a real person wrote them. On the back, there’s a power button that you use to choose a mode: 10, 25, or 40 feet, or randomize (where it cycles through the distances as you drop balls in). Below the power switch, there’s a slider that can “lock” the launcher so it will only toss the ball 10 feet. Slide it up and its full capabilities are available.

Pepper’s Reaction to the iFetch Too Ball Launcher

Tennis balls are Pepper’s old familiar friends, so it took no time for her to notice the little package of bright blue balls and try to “help” me free them from their cardboard casing. I definitely had her attention. The iFetch launcher works both indoors and out, so we started in the basement—the nifty slider locked at 10 feet—and let ’em fly. (The company recommends trying it in a hallway—also a great idea!)

Pepper immediately knew what to do. We launched one ball, she brought it back, I dropped another one in the launcher, she ran for it…you get the idea.

Next, we took our party outside to put the toy through all of its paces. The launcher is relatively lightweight and has a handle notched into the front for easy carrying. We worked through each of the distances, but our favorite setting was randomize, which kept Pepper guessing at how far she’d have to run for it.

Pepper waiting for the iFetch launcher to shoot a ball

Pepper chases a blue ball

I mostly only kept one ball in play at a time and had Pepper bring it back before I dropped into another. I found that shooting all the balls out in quick succession just confused her: Which ball to bring back first? But your dog may vary!

The iFetch ball launcher instructions include some great fetch training tips. They note that teaching your dog not to stand in front of the launcher is important, since a ball to the body or especially the face can cause injury. As we tested things out, I made sure Pepper wasn’t ever in the line of fire, directing her to go off to the side and at a bit of distance. We’ve since worked on having her stand directly behind the launcher—great impulse-control training.

bringing the ball back to the iFetch ball launcher

Bringing the ball back to the launcher.

Ultimately, iFetch says that you can train your dog to drop the ball into the launcher—and we’re working on it! After a few days of play, Pepper alternates between dropping the ball next to the launcher, holding it over the opening before dropping it on the ground anyway, and actually dropping it into the iFetch. Knowing our dog, I think she likes the interaction with her humans and the ball launcher, so I doubt we’ll get a fully independent game going.

When we’re done, I put the balls and the iFetch Too away. The company recommends limiting your dog’s training time to three short sessions a day. This makes a ton of sense—based on Pepper’s immediate enthusiasm for this toy, I can see how it could be easy to overdo it.

Does the iFetch Really Work?

Does it ever! I came at this skeptical as I am with most throwing aids (particularly in a backyard): “Can’t I just, I dunno, throw the ball the same way the launcher would?”

But the iFetch Too ball launcher turns out to be a practical and efficient way for Pepper to get some solid exercise in about 10 to 15 minutes. The variability and the speed of the launched balls kept her running and jumping a little more vigorously than she does with my throws.

She also gets the mental work of anticipating the ball and working on tricks like putting the ball in herself. Overall, it kept Pepper much more consistently engaged in our regular fetch sessions.

How involved you have to be depends on your dog’s ability to return the ball to the launcher—but it’s worth noting that even a dog who can play this game independently will benefit and likely prefer human involvement, even if it’s just dropping slimy balls in the machine.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and weather resistant; It works indoors and out
  • Easy to use and move around
  • The iFetch Too uses standard-sized tennis balls
  • Long-lasting battery, though iFetch recommends plugging it in after various uses to keep it topped up

Cons:

  • Though it’s an excellent toy, the iFetch Too is pricey—it’s probably better for hardcore fetchers than lukewarm beginners
  • Safety training and supervision are important (though that’s the case for most dog toys, we’ve found)
  • It might become your dog’s obsession!

blue and white iFetch ball launcher

In addition to the iFetch Too, the company has the original, which launches mini balls (1.6 inches in diameter), as well as the Frenzy, which shoots mini balls out of one of three holes to really keep your dog guessing.

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