On May 31st 2020, a small puppy dumped at our front gate played his way into our hearts—and has played nonstop ever since. From the beginning, Shadow-Pup adored games of fetch and chase, and (like many dogs) wants nonstop playtime. While we love him beyond measure, his play-demands exhaust us.
Interactive games with dogs go beyond brain candy for your dog. Playing works as a bonding tool for you both. Play keeps you both healthy by exercising together. Appropriate play prevents doggy boredom and problem behaviors by giving dogs a healthy and legal outlet for their high energy. But many dogs have no off-switch, and frankly, pet parents may need a break! Hey, I have to work to pay for all the treats…
So when Uahpet reached out offering to send us the iRetriever Ball Launcher to test and review, Shadow couldn’t wait to try it out. I got a surprise when Karma-Kat wanted in on the fun!
What is a Dog Ball Launcher?
Automatic dog ball throwers launch balls through the air for the pet to chase and fetch. Typically, they use a tennis ball or similar, and eject the toy 10 to 30+ feet. In most cases, dog ball launchers work best outside where your pet has lots of room to run, and the thrown ball won’t crash your fine breakables. Some pet ball launchers can adjust to use indoors, too, for shorter distances with smaller pets—some cats also enjoy games of fetch!
Automatic dog ball throwers ball launcher models vary based on how they’re powered, from batteries to electric cords. Unless you have an open field, the automatic dog ball thrower may hit obstacles, though, and frustrate your dog. Also, eager dogs can get too close and risk getting hit with the ball.
Some dogs learn quickly how to “re-load” the ball into the opening, so the game continues without needing your helping hand. That can offer you a respite from their tireless demands to continue to play fetch. But even if your dog cannot grasp the finer points of reloading for self-play with auto ball launchers, many dogs delight in having favorite balls thrown over and over farther than most humans can fling them. That saves your arm. And your time.
iRetriever Ball Launcher features
- Battery powered: Wireless for play anytime and anywhere. It takes about three hours to fully charge. The charge lasts up to 8 hours when used nonstop.
- Safety first! Curious pets WON’T get smacked with the launched ball; it won’t launch until the pet stands clear.
- Random fun: Three launch angles to keep pets engaged
- Throwing range: Adjust the launch distance from 10 feet (great for indoor play) to 30, 50, even 80 feet.
- Balls: Comes with two (2) soft (squeezable) tennis balls. Compatible with other similar sized balls. A set of four (4) additional balls available for purchase ($40)
- Cleaning: WIpe with damp cloth. Do not submerge or use harsh cleansers.
How to use the iRetriever Dog Ball Launcher
- Unbox. My unit came in a wooden shipping container, with the launcher inside a cardboard box, with a bundle of four (4) balls. I set up to charge in an area where Shadow and Karma could examine this new toy. Uncover the DC rubber gasket, and attach the charging device. A green “charged” light comes on when ready to go.
- Detach the charging cord. Place the iRetriever in a location for launch. Find a ten-foot pathway like a long hall if indoors, or on a patio to “shoot” out into the lawn for outside fun.
- Press and hold the ON/OFF button to engage. Press again to adjust the distance from 10 to 30 feet. Or, press the “80ft” button for longest launch. A light comes on when each engages.
- If outside, press the RANDOM button so the launch angle continuously changes. If indoors, you’ll probably want to forgo that, and set up a pathway that avoids breakables.
- Drop one ball into the top. Only add one ball at a time. It nests inside, and you hear the iRetriever “rev up” to prepare for launch. Once thrown, drop in the next ball, and so on.
How we tested it
Before I got the iRetriever, Shadow-Pup demanded interactive play daily. He often pesters nonstop, especially when my husband and I finally sat down to relax in the evening. At a little under 50 pounds, Shadow’s favorite games include tug, chase the flirt-toy (sort of a big-dog-size cat fishing pole lure), and fetch (more accurately “keep away.”) We have an open floor plan in our house, and a fenced backyard. The yard, though, has many trees, making it a challenge to find a clear pathway for automatic dog ball throwers. I decided to test the iRetriever indoors for now, or the balls would get lost during testing.
First, I set up the product and let Shadow explore the launcher and the individual balls. I wanted to introduce him to the concept first, and make the balls irresistible fun. Of course, Karma had to get in on the act. The balls, squeezable soft, must feel great in his mouth and he eagerly stole the first one for a game of keep away. Chasing the bouncing ball proved more fun than retrieving it.
We have hardwood floors and an open floor plan, so had several options for situating the launcher. I positioned it in the entryway by the front door, turned it on, and both Shadow and Karma listened with interest at the low hum as it powered up. I set it for 10 feet and dropped the first ball into the top. The scoop design makes it easy for a pet to bring the ball, and drop into the launcher, so they can run the launcher on their own.
The launch surprised both pets. And their reaction surprised me even more! Shadow initially didn’t like the ball BOOFING out of the launcher, and bouncing off the far wall across the room. But Karma-Kat not only loved watching the arc of the ball, he ran after it as it bounced along the floor, picked up the ball, and dashed away. Holy wow, he’s occasionally stolen one of the smaller dog ball toys, but these bigger tennis-ball-size toys are soft enough even my cat can grip them. Karma figured it out immediately and ran to stick his head right in front of the launcher, and YES it refused to launch until he finally moved. That’s a WIN for safety, I love that!
A Chewing/Choking Caution: For chewers (some cats chew, too) the soft balls may pose swallow-able risk if chewed up. Always supervise even if your pet learns to reload/launch on their own. After expressing concern about chewing risks, Uahpet sent me video documentation of side-by-side testing the brand’s ball compared to a regular tennis ball. ETPU, a new type of polymer, is odorless, light, highly elastic, and durable, and therefore more resistent to puncture and chewing than many other types. With dogs, though, “never say never” and ensure safe supervision.
We’ve only had the Uapet iRetriever Ball Launcher a week. Shadow has already decided he wants all the balls, and hasn’t yet figured out the “retrieve, relaunch” aspect. And Karma-Kat comes running anytime he hears the launcher run. I suspect that once we have more space cleared and can use the launcher outside, Shadow will better understand the concept. Dogs that already “get it” and adore games of ball fetch probably would adopt this toy even more quickly.
- Easy to use (dummy proof!)
- Use inside or outside
- Flexible launch options
- Runs for hours without recharging
- Compatible with simlar sized balls (but non-brand bals may impact distance thrown)
- “Slobber” doesn’t impact launch
- Pets can entertain themselves
- Beautiful design
- Unique safety features
- Chew-resistant balls
- Not inexpensive
- Balls easy to lose
- Currently, only available through IndieGoGo (but with a launch discount)
Securely packed, well made, and designed to suit a wide range of doggy needs, I’m a fan of the Uahpet iRetriever Ball Launcher. But really, I don’t count as much as the pets’ opinions. For ball-focused dogs who love fetch games, I highly recommend this product. And for cats that also enjoy games of chase and pounce and fetch, it could offer kitties an additional enrichment tool.
Where to get the Uahpet iRetriever (for a limited time discount!)
- 48-Hour Early Bird Price(Before Crowdfunding Campaign start): $170 USD
- Price 48 Hours After Crowdfunding: $190 USD
- Pre-Registration Price (After leaving your email on the pre-launch page): $150 USD
- Pre-ordering option includes a total of four (4) balls
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!