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Laser Pointers Could Be Bad for your Dog


When your dog sees that little wiggly bead of light from a laser pointer, nothing matters to him more than catching it. Unfortunately, there’s nothing there to ‘catch’, since it’s just an ungraspable bundle of light. And, it turns out, the lack of closure your dog experiences from endlessly trying to catch it may actually be screwing with this head.

Dogs instinctively chase those bright red laser dots simply because they’re moving; stimulating their natural prey drive. The laser beam’s incessant moving taps into this prey drive and the dog can’t help himself – he has to chase it, according to Nicholas Dodman, a professor of animal behavior at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

But, according to Fox News:

…should you really be stimulating your dog’s prey drive when it won’t ever lead to triumph — the catching of light? Probably not such a good idea. “They can get so wound up and driven with prey drive that once they start chasing the light they can’t stop. It becomes a behavior problem,” Dodman said. “I’ve seen light chasing as a pathology where they will just constantly chase around a light or shadow and pounce upon it. They just spend their whole lives wishing and waiting.”

Never getting a reward for their vigilance “makes dogs loopy,” he explained. Along the same lines, trainers of bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs have found that their dogs become psychologically disturbed if they never find bombs or drugs, so they must occasionally be taken on dummy missions.

If your dog loves to chase, Dodman recommends using more tangible toys that he can actually catch. Or if you must use a laser toy, one solution is to hide treats around the room and occasionally land the laser light on the treat to surprise your pup.


28 Responses to Laser Pointers Could Be Bad for your Dog
  1. Angela Poling
    April 10, 2014 | 11:59 pm

    My dog has been staring at me and the floor for two days since we played with the laser.,, I’m worried. She seems demanding. What do I do!? She just stares at me all serious, it’s creeping me out

  2. Lizzy
    February 27, 2014 | 7:31 am

    My dog LOVES playing with laser and I don’t believe that can harm her much. Of course I use another toys to entertain her, IE balls, bones etc. I’m even thinking of purchasing petcube (a pet toy controlled from a phone with web-camera and a laser). You just have to use it all moderately, I guess that’s the main rule.

  3. June Dixon
    February 20, 2014 | 7:50 pm

    My dog was a trained Search & Rescue dog. Even tho she was great with people, sometimes when going through an airport or large crowd, she would get a little anxious. All we had to do is point the laser light a few inched in front of her and she would never even notice all the people she was so focused on the red dot. It was her favorite toy/reward, but she was smart enough to know it was a game. Once the game was over and I said done, it was over until next time. Believe me, my girl was not loopy, deranged or neurotic.

  4. Sharon
    February 20, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    Messing with a dogs mind?
    Does a dog catch every rabbit he chases?
    Every seagull he chases?
    Every cat he chases?

    • jamieb
      February 20, 2014 | 5:31 pm

      You are almost there sharon. They can catch those things. they can never catch a ‘ll aser. Also they are not in the home. My brother made my dog slightly neurotic about reflecting light off watch’s, Tv, tablets etc. He never did as t before being teased with a laser.

      If your dog likes playing with other toys, I suggest staying with toys with no down side.

      The neurotic behavior even extended to hard laughing, as people were gut busting laughing at him trying to catch the laser. For about a year, if you watched tv and laughed really hard he would come charging into the room, chest puffed out, ready to do battle with the laser monster. The word was only said a few yimes. You cant say lazer around him or he starts pacing and looking for it.

      No joke.

  5. Linz
    February 20, 2014 | 12:42 pm

    i have used one of these with my dog who has a high prey drive it started as a way of distracting her from chasing the cat, she isn’t loopy or deranged her and the cat are best of friends now it’s never been over used if the red dot lands on a person or on an animal she will NOT go for it and will sit and wait for the light to move back on to the floor, not saying that my way is correct all dog’s are different and will react differently to different things

  6. Amy J. Long
    February 20, 2014 | 10:31 am

    I taught my Zoey to pick up things, including picking up things that I point to with a laser pointer. Have the dog pick up it’s toys by pointing to them with the laser pointer. They bring the toy to you and you put it into the toy bin :)

  7. Carryn
    December 24, 2013 | 3:45 pm

    My dogs do chase a laser pointer and know where the light is coming from. they know the click of the light and when we click it off and say that’s enough they know the game is over.

    My Collador actually got upset that my husband stopped moving the light during one session that she jumped up a stole the flashlight and started shaking it wildly at him and proceeded to try and chase as she was holding it.

    I love the idea of the treats and have to give it a try, but I can guess that they will be more interested in the light than the treat. Thank you so much for the thought and idea.

  8. Virginia Wilson
    December 24, 2013 | 11:34 am

    Does your dog chase the laser pointer? How do you end each session to be sure the game doesn’t drive him crazy?

    He does not play with the laser but loves his tail. He loves playing fetch with just about anything you give him.

  9. Mary
    December 24, 2013 | 10:24 am

    Some dogs become really obsessed with any light after they’ve played with laser pointers, but it really depends on the dog I guess.

  10. Debbie
    December 23, 2013 | 10:13 pm

    My dog will actually bring me the laser pointer, then he turns and starts to hunt for it. At the end of the game of “tag” I hide a few treats and lead him with the laser to the area where they are hidden. He loves to play with the laser.

  11. Meg Stutts
    December 23, 2013 | 6:22 pm

    I’ve never used them with my three dogs because I always thought they were just for cats.My son love to throw balls for his dog to run and bring him back and my little chihuahua girls favorite toy is her stuffed energizer bunny and our other chihuahua prefers anything edible.

  12. Christine
    December 23, 2013 | 6:12 pm

    I’ve been saying this for years. The laser game always seemed mean to me, teasing a dog like that. It’s like a dog that loves to play fetch and you pretend to throw something. It’s got to be frustrating as hell for them. Dogs love to play games and they love to please their person. When they are prevented from catching an object, whether it be a laser or a ball that was never thrown, they have nothing to return. It’s confusing and frustrating for them. The treat might be appreciated but they have to be thinking “What did I do? What is this reward for?” Dogs learn to associate treats as a reward for good behavior. Kind of a mixed message there, don’t you think?

  13. Theresa
    December 23, 2013 | 5:26 pm

    The laser pointer is really a game for our cat so i make sure to use it in another room where the dog is not however if he catches me even at the age of 14 my dog will push the cat out of the way to chase the pointer at that point its game over.

  14. Susan Ritzert
    December 23, 2013 | 5:22 pm

    No Lasers for my girls. If you adopt a friend for your dog then they have a playmate which is much better for them then any old laser. They get plenty of exercise running,chasing and wrestling with each other and are fun to watch and when tired out they come to me to snuggle.

  15. Tammy
    December 23, 2013 | 5:16 pm

    My dogs love the laser pointer and then they get bored and it’s a game of tug-a-war or they’re off and running with a squeeky toy! :)

  16. […] By Brooke Arnold […]

  17. joe
    August 18, 2013 | 1:24 pm

    This is known from all the years of dog psychology, All problems come from abandonment issues involving their mothers and laser pointers. It’s a good thing we have people who speak dog to figure these things out for us. Otherwise we would go around believing they were just acting like animals.

  18. Katie
    August 17, 2013 | 12:35 pm

    Sorry, my dog looks fine. He sleeps good, eats good, plays and barks. And the little laser light is only occasionally interesting. The cats like it more and they get rewarded with a different toy they can actually catch. Also since the cat cares not for how my head is messed with when he comes and digs his claws into me at 3AM, I’m not really too concerned about his head being messed with. All he does is look cross-eyed at me, then roll over and go to sleep.

  19. Dawn
    August 17, 2013 | 12:19 pm

    I end the game by putting a treat in my hand, then moving the light into my hand and onto the treat. My dog finally ‘catches’ the prey and understands the game is over.

  20. Sharon
    January 21, 2013 | 9:21 pm

    I just bought a laser pointer for my pup. I don’t use it for long periods of time. And wondered about the psychological part of it. Then I thought, she chases squirels and doesn’t catch them either. But I will still limit our time with it.

  21. Jin
    January 15, 2013 | 5:24 pm

    I played only two games with my 5 months old puppy and she went very unsettled for a long time, and I could see that she was feeling nervous instead of enjoying it. She was scared of going to certain part of the room, and started guarding her other toys, and very slow obeying any commands from me for the rest of the day, and constantly looking around. I should have done a bit more research before started on this game. The hiding treats with the laser beam idea makes sense to me though, because I think the real problem is the lack of closure at the end of the chase of the light dot.

  22. Jennifer
    January 1, 2013 | 6:24 pm

    I use them on both my cats and dogs, then they play together and I always end with them finding their hidden treat so I don’t think I am harming them. I think I’m encouraging them to learn to share toys.

  23. Amber
    January 1, 2013 | 2:42 pm

    My deaf dog don’t like laser game. But she enjoy watching the cat play chase laser. Lol

  24. [...] drive him crazy. Decide for yourself if you want your dog to play with a laser pointer after you read this article. 2. Running up and down the stairs. Stand atop the stairs and toss a toy down to Fido. When he [...]

  25. Lily
    August 7, 2012 | 8:44 am

    My dog, Thor, has never chased one of those lasers… But now i know if anyone in my family gets one of those i will tell them first to hide treats and then shine the light on it!

  26. Michelle
    August 6, 2012 | 5:32 pm

    My dog chases anything that shines…. what do I do then?

  27. susan hinzman
    August 6, 2012 | 4:19 pm

    I did not have a clue I was messing with my dogs mind. I will change how we play from now on.

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