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PetSafe® Automatic Ball Launcher for Dogs – Review

Your dog will have a great time playing fetch with the new PetSafe® Automatic Ball Launcher. This launcher is great for both outdoor and indoor interactive play. It also comes with two standard-sized tennis balls and a universal power cord / AC adaptor.

HOW DOES THE AUTOMATIC BALL LAUNCHER WORK?



Simply place a tennis ball in the hopper (it can hold up to 3 at a time), then send your dog to fetch when the ball is launched. In time, you should be able to teach your dog to return the ball directly into the hopper to play again.

You can choose from 9 distance settings - the launcher shoots tennis balls between 2.5 to 9 metres  and 6 angle settings -up to a 45 degree angle. This allows for both outdoor and safe indoor play on a rainy day - you don't want to break your collectables!

To adjust the launch range, simply use the "Tennis Ball Knob": pull and turn left to increase the distance (the default setting is at the lowest range of 2.5m). To increase the angle, simply pull and turn the "Paw Knob" to the left.

Multiple built-in safety sensors keep pets and people safe while playing fetch and the automatic rest mode (15 minutes of play will be followed by a 15-minute rest) will ensure your dog does not get overworked. 


Remember to always turn the power off and even if the unit is water-resistant, always store it inside when not in use.

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH YOUR DOG?

First impressions: what is this new contraption mum?

With the unit turned off, we first allowed our dogs to approach the unit at their own pace, letting them sniff and explore until they were comfortable. We practiced a few basic commands starting a couple of metres away then gradually moved closer to the unit, rewarding them with treats throughout.

Once they all appeared relaxed next to the launcher (it may take a few minutes or a few sessions depending on your dog), it was time to get used to the (loud) sound the unit makes when it launches the ball. 

Again we started at a few meters' distance, watching their reaction when the machine first beeped then launched the ball. Only when your dog appears relaxed and unconcerned about the noises should you move closer to the launcher so that it is always a positive experience! If your dogs are completely unphased by the sounds and are ready to fetch the ball straight away, just let them do so!

Because of the in-built safety sensor feature, you need to ensure that both yourself and your dog stand either to the side or at least 2 metres away from the front of the unit when the launcher is turned on otherwise you will be forever waiting! 
This is when treats come in handy to teach your dogs which position you’d like them to start in. Once the ball launches, you can encourage them to begin the chase. 

You can train your dog to return the ball directly to the launcher and drop it in by trading a tasty treat each time he drops the ball into your hand. Progressively start placing your hand above the hopper and reward with a treat every time he drops the ball, progressively phase out the use of the treats.

You can connect your unit to an outdoor power point (using the Power Adaptor) or if you don't want to trip over cords, there's the option to use 
6 D-alkaline batteries. The launcher features a handy ergonomic handle to help carry the unit with ease.

MAIN FEATURES

• Holds up to 3 standard-sized tennis balls (2 tennis balls included) 

• Plays a warning beep before each ball is launched 

• 9 distance settings (between 2.5 and 9 metres) 

• 6 ball angle settings 
(up to 45 degrees)
• Motion detection sensor on the front plus safety sensor in the launch pocket.
• Automatic rest mode after 15 mn of play
• Comfortable handle to carry the unit
• Suitable for both outdoor/indoor use. For best use indoors select the lowest angle and distance setting.
• 2 years warranty
Dimensions: approx. 35cm x 35cm x 35cm
Weight: just over 4 Kg


Here's a great video showing the main features and dogs of all shapes and sizes using this launcher in various environments.



WHAT WE LIKE

We do expect naysayers comment but “why do you need a robot to throw a ball for your dogs, can't you do it yourself?". First, we’re not suggesting to leave it with your dogs alone all day: the Petsafe automatic ball launcher is not a replacement for their daily walks and other physical or mental enrichment activities. All balls can be considered as a choking hazard and a heavy chewer may decide to taste the actual launcher as well! W
e'd never recommend leaving your dogs with the launcher unsupervised as it is not a dog sitter!

With 41% of Australian dogs being overweight, any incentive to get dogs (and their owners) moving gets our tick of approval. If you're unable to walk your dogs one day or there's no offleash park in your area, you could do a lot worse than providing them with 10-15 mn of brisk fetch but please always consider if this activity is appropriate for your dog's age and physical shape.

OUR VERDICT

In our experience there’s a palpable sense of excitement when we bring the automatic ball launcher down into the yard : our dogs clearly know what’s coming and for whatever reason it gets them really interested… Our two rescue Malinois clearly did not learn to play during the puppy stage and at 9 month-old Porthos had no idea what fetching a ball was all about. He still shows little interest in the concept however this way he gets more engaged and he's happy to chase the tennis ball!

Our three dogs tend to get a bit competitive and they take turns being the first one to catch the ball  - even if delivering it back when asked is still very much hit and miss!

Because our dogs did not come with a "pause" button, we found the automatic rest mode was a great feature. It's all too easy for us to lose track of time when we play with our dogs. 
Our oldest furkid, Conner, is now officially a senior  - though nobody told him  - and if we're not careful he can over-exercise when it comes to fetching balls...


The features allowing to control the distance and angle settings means this unit can be used safely both indoors and outdoors by dogs of all shapes and sizes (over 4.5kg and 28cm).

PRICE & WHERE TO BUY


RRP: $249.99 from 
http://store.intl.petsafe.net/en-au/automatic-ball-launcher

Disclaimer: Product gifted by PetSafe Australia for editorial consideration.
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