The eco-conscious ball chucker throws its own balls nicely, but fumbles regular balls

By John Korpics
Updated May 06, 2011 12:00 PM

My dog is not a fetcher. He’s more of a … sitter. Or a farter maybe, on certain days. So for the sake of this experiment, I borrowed my neighbor’s German short-haired pointer, Ruby, who may be the best ball retriever in the world, or at least on my street. I took Ruby to the local elementary school field to test Planet Dog’s new Wood Chuck ball chucker.

The Wood Chuck ($24.95) is a handsome piece of bent bamboo, with a four-pronged ball grip at one end and a cork handle at the other. It looks kind of like an armrest from a mid-century Thonet chair, which is to say, it’s a snazzy little piece of design. It’s made to work with Planet Dog’s wide variety of squishy Orbee-Tuff RecycleBALLs, and it does that quite nicely.

The problem is, it turns out Ruby goes through Orbee-Tuff RecycleBALLs like Donald Trump goes through apprentices, and after just one day, I had already lost two of the three balls I was given for this experiment. So I had to switch to tennis balls, which is my (and probably your) default dog fetching ball, and the Wood Chuck’s gripper wasn’t really designed to pick up tennis balls. So even though they clearly say it’s best if used with their custom-made balls, I felt like it would be more useful if it could also pick up a tennis ball, too, which it isn’t so good at. I also found the eco-friendly reused cork scraps handle a little slippery, especially when you added in some eco-friendly morning dew.

Planet Dog’s mission and message is to “Think Globally and Act Doggedly,” which means they use recycled and recyclable material in many of their products. I believe it’s important to support companies that strive to improve our planet as part of their business model, so I’m always happy to overlook a few minor inconveniences for the greater good of mankind, and I give them points for trying in this case. But I’m also a realist, and the fact is, when I run out of eco-friendly Orbee-Tuff RecycleBALLs, I’m going to want a chucker that can pick up my not-so-tuff slobber covered Wilson’s.

Check out a video of the Wood Chuck in action!