We all know how cats love laser pointers, but they’re also popular with dogs. Many owners like them because it’s an easy game to play, just point the laser around the room and watch your dog go crazy chasing it. While it is entertaining to watch, it can make your dog stressed if you’re not careful. So why do dogs like lasers and how can you use them safely? Let’s take a look.
Why do dogs like chasing lasers?
Dogs like to chase lasers because they move so quickly, they trigger your dog’s prey drive. However, because it’s not something that can be caught, like a ball or a frisbee, it can become frustrating and lead to bigger problems if it’s not done with great care.
Are lasers good for dogs?
Playing with a laser can be good exercise and can provide good mental stimulation IF you do it right (more on that in a minute). Mentally stimulating play is essential for dogs’ happiness, expending excess energy, relieving stress, and preventing boredom and anxiety.
This is especially important for bright breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds, as they get bored easily, which can lead to destructive behaviors. However, these breeds can also be intense and obsessive, and lasers specifically can trigger this.
Are lasers bad for dogs?
Due to the never-ending chase, lasers can frustrate dogs if you take it too far. Because your dog can’t actually catch the laser, there is no closure to the game and this can cause frustration. If you play with the laser regularly without structure or reward, this frustration can build up and turn into something more.
It can easily create obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as continuing to look for the beam of light long after the game has stopped, staring at the wall or floor where the laser was pointed, and becoming reactive to lights, shadows, and reflections. This is incredibly anxiety-inducing and distressing for dogs.
Lasers can also cause physical damage to your dog’s eyes if you accidentally shine them directly into your dog’s eyes. Their eyes have more light-receptive rods than humans, so they’re more sensitive to bright lights. In fact, they can easily – and permanently – damage your dog’s vision over time.
What is laser point syndrome?
Laser point syndrome is another name given to light OCD in dogs, specifically when it has been caused by playing with lasers. Symptoms of laser point syndrome include:
- Looking for and chasing lights, shadows, or reflections for excessive amounts of time
- Being on high alert
- Ignoring their basic needs such as eating, sleeping, and drinking
- Injuries from chasing lights because they are too consumed to notice their surroundings
- Other general signs of anxiety; destructive behaviors, drooling, self-mutilation, excessive barking, etc
If your dog suffers from any type of behavioral issue, you must speak to your vet about it. Light OCD or any canine anxiety disorder can be treated by removing or neutralizing triggers with redirection and positive association training.
You should also make sure that your pup has all of their physical and mental energy used up through exercise, play, and social interaction so that there is none left to use being anxious.
There are also anti-anxiety pet products that use natural ingredients to soothe anxieties in pets, such as plug-in diffusers and treats to help them through their difficulties.
Are some breeds more at risk than others?
Intense and anxiety-prone dog breeds such as Border Collies, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and Jack Russell Terriers are more at risk for developing light OCD than others, but any dog can develop OCD.
Laser eye damage
As mentioned above, shining a laser light directly into your dog’s eyes can cause damage to their vision, which takes a lot of adaptation and can impact their quality of life. Signs of vision loss include increased clumsiness, having trouble finding things and navigating the home, and avoiding stairs and dark rooms.
How to use lasers with your dog
If you’re going to play with lasers with your dog, make sure you buy a low powered pet laser and don’t shine it in their eyes. Use clear commands to give the game start and end points to stop your dog from getting obsessed and use markers to let your dog know they’ve caught the laser.
For example, always point the laser where they can reach it and when they pounce on it, turn it off, praise them, and/or give them a treat so that they feel they are achieving something before starting again.
Types of lasers
Lasers are broken down into classes. Class 1 lasers are low powered and considered safe from potential hazards, such as the lights on remote controls. Class 2 lasers are also low powered but strong enough to cause damage to a person’s eyes, these are the types that are typically used for pet play.
Class 3 are lasers with intermediate power, some with continuous waves, and class 4 are high powered, industrial lasers. Both class 3 and class 4 lasers are hazardous to the eyes.
Is chasing healthy for dogs?
Yes! Chasing is a perfectly natural, healthy desire for dogs to have, so long as they have a safe outlet for it. For example, dogs with high prey drives should be discouraged from chasing animals in unsafe spaces like unfenced parks that are exposed to roads and playing uncontrolled, unending games of chase that can cause psychological issues such as with lasers.
Alternatives to lasers for dogs
There are plenty of safe, fun alternatives to playing with lasers that will keep your dog entertained.
The key to keeping your dog entertained when it comes to toys is variety. Every type of toy has a different function and pups should have at least two or three of each kind.
Active toys like balls and frisbees encourage exercise, cooperative toys like tug-of-war ropes, plush toys for comfort, chew toys for relieving stress, and boredom-busting toys like puzzles, light-up toys, noisy toys, and treat dispensers.
As mentioned above, dogs love to chase. Exercise this instinct in a game of chase that doesn’t involve lasers by playing fetch with something that can actually be caught, chasing your dog around your home, or getting them to chase you.
Some extra fun mentally stimulating games for dogs include hide and seek and the cup game. To play hide and seek with your dog, ask them to sit and stay while you hide somewhere in the house and then call them to find you. To switch it up, you can also play this game by hiding your dog’s favorite toy or some treats instead.
The cup game is another popular choice, especially for brainy breeds. To play, get your dog to sit down and make sure they’re paying attention. Place two empty cups upside-down on the floor in front of them and put a treat underneath one of the cups. Ask your dog to find the treat and if they get the hang of it, try switching the cups around for an extra challenge.
Check out the video below to see how to play it:
You could even set up an obstacle course around the home or in your backyard, or try teaching them a new trick or the names of their toys. This is seriously tiring and will leave your dog too tired out for anxious thoughts.
Here’s a great video showing how to make a DIY backyard dog agility course on a budget:
Dogs like lasers because they allow them to exercise their natural desire to chase. However, it’s not necessarily the healthiest outlet for this instinct and can lead to behavioral issues if you’re not careful.
Does your dog like playing with laser pointers? Share your thoughts and experiences below!