An Ace Up My Sleeve - iFetch Dog Toys - Automatic Dog Ball Launcher Skip to main content

Hello world! My name is Grant Hamill, and it was my idea to create the iFetch. Not everyone gets to hear the whole story, but those who do always love it. So we are launching the iFetch blog with this story to share how a simple idea at the kitchen table became a huge family venture that brought us even closer together. And we are posting it today, on Father’s Day, because ultimately the iFetch story is a tribute to my grandpa.

Prancer

Prancer

But it all starts with our dog, Prancer. Like many of your dogs, he likes to play fetch all day long.

One morning while doing homework before school, after maybe 15 minutes of Prancer’s continuous barking to get me to throw the ball, I said to my mom: “Why don’t we make something  for him that will shoot the ball when we don’t have time?” Making this a reality is extremely hard to pull off. But I had an ace up my sleeve.

My Grandpa, Denny Hamill, had the perfect combination of engineering know how (a PhD in physics no less), international business experience (as technical director and international marketing director at 3M), and ingenuity (with multiple patents to his name) to make this happen. As a fellow at IC2 (The University of Texas “Think and Do” tank for entrepreneurship), my grandpa is a highly respected advisor to local and international start-ups.

So we put his amazing experience, and Prancer’s insatiable appetite for fetch to work. We found a few videos on YouTube of some ball launchers that people had made for their dogs, so we knew the concept would work.

Denny and Grant

Denny and Grant Develop the iFetch

These homemade versions of what we now call the iFetch were far too large and complicated, so my grandpa, Denny, and I brainstormed a few ideas about how we could make a more elegant solution.

We imagined a miniature pitching machine tossing the ball over and over again for the dog. We also figured if you could teach a dog to drop a ball in your hand, that you could surely teach a dog to drop a ball into a bowl or funnel. My grandpa and I took apart a couple Hot-Wheels sets and co-opted the motor from each one. With those two motors, a plastic bowl, and one piece of the Hot-Wheels track, we had our first prototype for the iFetch.

It took many more months of working with lawyers, local engineering and design companies, and international manufacturers before we were able to bring the iFetch to market. But finally, we did it! And I’m so glad we did.

It works!

It works!

We’ve met so many fun and supportive people along the way, and we are proud of what we have accomplished. My grandpa has always been the one I go to when I have a question about the way something works. He seems to have an answer for everything, whether it is a homework problem or just a crazy question about the universe. It has been a privilege for me to work along side him and we have had so much fun. We have appeared on TV, attended trade shows, and even done some traveling all because of iFetch, but the most fun thing might just be seeing him everyday at work! Together, we look forward to getting to know all of you and continuing to bring fun products like the iFetch to market.

Grant Hamill

About Grant Hamill

Grant Hamill is one of the inventors of the iFetch, and is also responsible for social media at iFetch.

87 Comments

  • Tracy Adams says:

    Great story Grant! I have not been able to teach my Dachshund Hamlet how to drop the ball into the shoot yet, so I’m hoping this new blog helps me help him.

  • What an awesome story, and THANK YOU for making this device Our dog Ellie (a Jack Russell Terrier) LOVES putting the BALL IN THE HOLE! She’s addicted to it and has gone through several machines already! You guys ROCK!!! 🙂

  • Peggy Ann says:

    We have a minature Labadoodle about 23 pounds – she has not gotten the knack of dropping it in the hole, but if you keep 2 balls going she will drop one by the machine while we insert another one. We do this exercise about twice a day for 10 minutes. Can you please tell me when the balls go on sale – she has the yellow lab strong teeth and goes through the balls p[retty quick.

  • Livia says:

    Grant, I have an incessant ball catcher Molly. You have a wonderfully talented, and motivated grandpa! Happy Father’s Day!!

    We will need to consider your, what appears to be, a wonderful idea! Congratulations and only the very BEST!! Livia

  • WandaLou says:

    Hey Grant. We saw this item a year ago and truly wanted one for our throw-me-the-ball-german-shepherd. We put in on our watch for list in that your pages here stated one for larger dogs would be ready soon. Ok… so today we are watching “I want that!” and your ifetch is shown. Back to your website and still – not one for a larger 90 lb dog. The 1.5″ balls would be way too small for our Shebe Nosey. Any news on exactly when the larger size unit will be out? thanks, WandaLou

  • Jo-Anne says:

    I’m so proud to be a supporter of the IFetch2 and can’t wait for the roll out date. My “Ipo” will LOVE using it… So much so that I’ll have to put time limits on it… 🙂

  • Sheila says:

    great is easy! My dog, Lila, would love this!

  • Jill Whatley says:

    We love Ifetch! Our miniature dachshund, Stella loves to fetch, constantly, so we were excited when we found Ifetch. We got hers on Christmas of 2014 and she plays with it every day. We have to replace the balls on a regular basis, lol. Thanks Grant, from Stella and Jill

  • Mary Hobert says:

    GRANT! What a great story! I’ve never heard the whole spiel so it was lots of fun to learn your step-by-step process. This project was NOT for the faint of heart!! So, Congratulations to you and Grandpa Denny for your imagination, creativity, faith and persistence in getting ‘er done! We’ll look forward to what’s next “up your sleeve”

  • drderbyshire@telkomsa.net says:

    I sent an email a few days ago and having now read your beautiful I truly feel inspired and great to know that grandpa is so qualified and that he has such a protege in you. I am also a grandpa but and hold a Th.D. and minister of a church. I would truly like to become involved with your wonderful iFetch. My son Lance has also written to you. We hope that grandpa can also help us to set up in South Africa. God Bless! Dr Deric Derbyshire.

  • Dianne says:

    Terrific introduction, Grant! Thank you not only for your insightful invention, but for sharing your story. Very inspirational — it’s so nice to hear “home grown” success stories. I wish you and your family continued growth and success as you revolutionize “fetch” and change the lives of dogs worldwide! D

  • Carol says:

    This sounds like so much fun. It couldn’t be used without supervision however, as I would worry about our dog chewing the electrical cord. I am looking for something she can use to amuse herself when we have to leave her alone.

    • Carol, the iFetch also runs on batteries! On our FAQ page, we have the question “How long does the iFetch run on batteries?” and the answer is:
      A long time! We’ve done extensive testing of iFetch and we have found that it will keep throwing balls for approximately 30 hours on a fully charged set of 6 c-cell batteries. If your dog can play fetch continuously for that long, then you may want to enter your dog into the Guinness World Records.

  • Malynka says:

    I have an Australian Kelpie, super energetic, totally ball focussed. When will the bigger version be available?

  • Susan says:

    Where do I purchase fetch. Love the idea. Congrats to you.

  • Janet says:

    This is a wonderful toy! I have three dogs: NikNia bishon frise, Heidi a teacup poodle who was a rescue, and Cheyenne who was a product of inbreeding and has a damaged front paw. We love them all very much and think your ball thrower would be great for all of us since I’ve just been diagnoised with rheumatoid arthritis. We live in Canada Winnipeg Manitoba, so where can I get your toy for my pack?
    Thanks
    Janet

  • renae says:

    My doxie , who loves to chase balls, will not drop the ball in the machine without treats and lots of interaction between he and his playmate. He is an “interaction dog” meaning he wants a human to be part of his team. Any ideas on how to get him to play by himself?

  • Dianne says:

    where do we buy one??

  • harry zemon says:

    saw this on a late nite infomercial. would be great for my daughter’s “beast” who never gets tired how much is it? shipping? give me all the particulars

  • Deb says:

    I came here looking for information to give to a friend and ended up reading your blog. I love your story! How about telling folks some of the places the iFetch has taken you and your grandpa?

  • Sherry Johnson says:

    Such a cool invention.. and story! Thanks for sharing.

  • Deborah says:

    Excellent! Your gramps sounds just like my daddy! He knew how to make anything as well. Enjoy and treasure this time together
    On another note-I will be trying this with my 7 month Maltese-kinda nervous,about the ball size as someone mentioned getting stuck in their throat. But anxious to entertain her with this!! Keep wprking on ideas! And good luck!!

  • Jessy says:

    How can I buy an ifetch?

  • Albie Redman says:

    this device is amazing. I need one for my dog as well pleeeeease!!!

    I am living in South Africa how can I buy one, is there a online shop or something?

    Please let me know

    Thx a mil.

    Regards
    Albie

  • Rho Bailey says:

    I commend and oh so appeciate what you have done and are doing. I am a herding dog fan and long time owner having had Australian Shepherds, an Old English Sheepdog, a Rottweiler and now Border Collie/McNabs over my many years of life. I also foster Border Collies, SO, ball time a big thing for these active breeds when there is no livestock to work, they need a job to be happy. Going for walks, playing ball and being loved is their passion. My dog Bailie a BCXMcNab is so ball obscessive that she has trained and will train every visitor, delivery person, anyone, myself included. The iFetch is a much needed addition to our “chuckits”, and many toys. I am dying to order and try an iFetchToo as soon as they become available and would have invested, what I could, if I had known. Please keep me posted when available.

  • Ann says:

    Cool! Congrats!

  • Angelina Fonzales says:

    I have a dachshund, and his name is Tobi. He is almost 5 years old and he loves his ball. He even sleeps with it and carries it everywhere he goes. When we are at home he will bring his ball and push it against our feet legs or anywhere against our body to get our attention. When we dont have time for him and his ball, we will place the boll on top of the tv or book case and he will sut there looking up at it. He will get excited when you walk by, thinking you’re going to take it fown for him. I would love ine of these for him, where do we dind one? Please please let me know.

  • Karen says:

    we are a family with two two cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs (ages 11 and 10). They love to play fetch faster than we can catch up with. Your invention is amazing and we are interested in knowing the price and and how we may purchase one. Thank you for your ingenuity and hard work to make this. Please get back to if this possible. Thank you for your consideration. Richmond, Va.

  • Cheryl Neroni says:

    Great story. Where can we get one and how much? We live in Brisbane Queensland Australia.
    Our Jack cannot wait..
    Regards Cheryl Neroni

  • Annette nichols says:

    Hello.I would love to purchase one of these.I live in New Zealand.could you send me some details please.thanks

  • Melissa Viles says:

    I think I Fetch is a wonderful idea for playful dogs. We have three doxies and I know one would definitely enjoy this item. It is too pricey for us as we are two retired people. I will keep searching in case someone wants to sell one after their dog no longer plays with it.

    Good luck with your business!

    Melissa

  • Chantal Maillard says:

    It’s a very good idea but it’s more expansive for me
    May be next year if it’s cheaper, because I think my dog “Fly” will love it so much!!!
    Excuse my bad english, I don’t speak very well!
    Bye!

  • Jamie says:

    This is wonderful! – You and your Grandfather working side by side to bring this fabulous idea to fruition! Congratulations!
    My question is: How big is the ball? I have an 80 lb beautiful girl Moxi (black lab) and my daughter has a 75lb Chocolate lab Remi…. They would love this but my worry is this is made for smaller dogs not our big girls. They need a ball that can’t be destroyed in an instant ( no foam) or possibly swallowed in their excitement. Golf ball size probably wouldn’t be good.
    I didn’t see size or material….(?)
    Thanks so much! PS where can we purchase – we will certainly share with our friends with smaller dogs even if we find it won’t work for us:)
    Jamie

    • Hi Jamie! It sounds like your girls will do best with our upcoming iFetch Too for bigger dogs. Here’s a link to the Kickstarter we just had. We’ll have a firm release date for the iFetch Too very soon!

      The iFetch ships with tennis balls (miniature in the case of the original iFetch, standard size in the case of the iFetch Too), although other balls of a similar size will work as well.

  • Janet Hardy says:

    Will there be an iFetch for larger dogs soon? Please?

  • Daisy Jane dance says:

    please can you advise me where I can purchase this fantastic equipment and how much is it please . Thank you

  • Cynthia Thomas says:

    Great idea. Great design. I know 2 people who want one for their energetic dogs

  • L says:

    looking for a larger version. My dogs would choke on the little balls. Any idea as to when it will be released? thanks

  • Beverly says:

    Wish they had one for bigger dogs

  • Sandra says:

    hi where can I buy one of these please? We are in the u.k.

  • Frank Susswein says:

    I just ordered one for Ritchi, my nearly five years old French Bulldog. It will be delivered today or tomorrow.

  • Ronnie says:

    Can you find a way to make these tiny balls rubber instead of the tennis balls with the felt outside. Because she plays with it all the time, the balls get worn out quickly and costly to replace. Chuck it has both the regular tennis balls and the rubber ones. Of course not that small. I am going to ask them to make them smaller for ifetch which will give them the market or you can. Either way, they’re needed. Also, can you give me additional tips for getting my dog to drop the ball into the unit. She just loves it, but I can’t sit there for hours. 🙂

  • Ronnie says:

    Peggy Ann. I have a Golden Doodle and she does exactly the same thing. Can’t get her to drop that ball. Maybe it’s a doodle thing. Grant, please help us figure out how to get these dogs to drop those balls in the ifetch. She just loves it. I have to hide it when its not being used.

  • Julie says:

    My dachshund, Duke Nukem loves the ifetch. I bet he has loaded the ball over 250 times already this morning! I Love your product, but I have a question about the balls. He destroys the balls, in less than a day, then they are frayed and get stuck. Do you have a recommendation for more secure types, or rubber balls? Something he can’t destroy in a day? Thanks!

  • Tammy Howard says:

    Is the balls just like the small tennis balls that squeak… That’s the only balls my terrier will play with… We get them for her at dog specialty stores in Lexington Kentucky… We get her about 10 every year at Christmas time… She plays with them until the squeakers no longer squeak… ? Don’t know if she would like the balls if they didn’t squeak ?

  • Holly Vatter says:

    HI Grant – what an awesome story and what incredible memories you will have working with your grandpa. I signed up on the funding round through KickStarter for the IFetch 2. I can’t wait till my labradoodle Cali has hers. Actually I am more excited that I might have a reprieve from throwing balls. I signed up on Mother’s day this year. I have the feeling it will be the best present I ever received. Your dedication and hard work are heart warming. Best of luck!

  • Nancy burrington says:

    Need to know how to remove the cover to clean the wheels. Lots of dog hair and slobber making the wheels grind. So I need to clean them. They grind when it starts to wind up to throw the ball. Its very loud now and throws slow. It needs cleaning and i can snap off the blue rings but can’t figure out how to get the bottom off to remove the white sides so I can clean the wheels of hair and dried slobber from the balls. I have replaced balls many times. Waiting for your reply before I break it apart to get to the wheels. Thanks Nancy Burrington. Go4cut@hotmail.com. we show cutting horses and my bordercollie cannot live without this machine urs an addiction to her.

    • Sorry for the delayed response! Before taking it apart try taking a damp rag and run it in the top of the iFetch and out the bottom (where the ball shoots out). You can even press the button to have the ball launch with the damp rag still in there so the wheels will turn and clean themselves. If that doesn’t work, you cam pluck off the feet on the bottom of the iFetch and remove the bottom and clean it. Let us know if you have further questions by emailing us at support@goifetch.com

  • Beckett Lappas says:

    This is such a great idea, and I found out about it in email. My question is this…why are they being manufactured in China? Why not here in the

    • Hi Beckett. Great question. We originally intended to manufacture in the US, but once we looked into it, we realized it was impossible to do so completely. Even if we manufactured here, we would have to get screws and parts from other countries. We also would have had to mark up the price a lot higher. We have visited the manufacturer in China in person, and can assure you that the workers are treated well, the facility is clean, and it is our very best option. We are doing our very best as the small, family-owned company that we are, so we hope you can understand that. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  • joe ellison says:

    Id prefer one that throws in different directions and can be left in the rain

  • Terri Williams says:

    Thank u for sharing your story

  • Susan says:

    My son sent us a if etch. I have a Doberman. I think he will like it but balls are so small…

  • Margarete says:

    Hi. I would love to have this for my puppy, but the price is very high. Im on limited income. Why so high? Anything pet related is always expensive.

    • Hi Margarate. We have priced our products according to their quality, features and specifications. This is an interactive, electronic dog toy and we have worked very hard to create a high-end dog toy to please our customers. Keep in mind that we are a small, family-owned company. Please email us at support@goifetch.com and we may be able to help you out!

  • Jan Saunders says:

    My dog was not just ball obsessed, he was a pain in the butt because he loved to drop his ball in the most inconvenient places, an open can of paint, a buckets of wet cement, the toilet, a hole dug for planting – you get the idea? This toy satisfies both his need to fetch and his penchant for putting his ball into something. Could not suit him more. I might suggest that supplying squash balls, instead of the min-tennis balls would be an improvement, they are not just sturdier, but they also dry out quicker from the dogs wet mouth.

  • Melanie Muller says:

    Absolutely NOWHERE in South Africa is there ANYTHING to be found like your amazing iFetch for our four-legged friends!

    My Cocker Spaniels & the rest of South Africa’s dogs are sorely missing out!

    Is there any way possible that I can be your South African distributor for the iFetch?

  • Brenda says:

    While I love this idea and was going to order it until I seen the price! I love the looks of this toy but really believe it is way over priced! You would have done better lowering the price and getting this into more house holds. $60-$75 is much more reasonable. So I’m on the fence right now on whether to buy this toy for my little Yorkie. I only see positive comments so I hope you leave this comment up and actually would like a response. Thank you

    • Hi Brenda! Thanks for your feedback. The iFetch and iFetch Too are considered high-end dog toys. Toys these days are priced according to their specifications and quality. Our product is interactive, electronic and of very good quality, so it is priced accordingly. There is also a lot that goes in to the design, development, manufacturing and delivery for each of our products, so we are left to price it in a way that allows us to remain in business (as a small, family business) while still delivering a quality product to our customers. We completely understand your concern, and hope you will consider purchasing one of our products! Please let us know if you have any further questions and send us an email at support@goifetch.com (quickest way to get a response).

  • Hi Marie!

    Sorry for the delay. The front of the iFetch Too is around 10″ high and the back is around 12″ high. We have seen dachshunds use the iFetch Too. If Sasha is able to use regular sized tennis balls, I would definitely recommend the iFetch Too 🙂

Leave a Reply