Getting your dog enough exercise can be tough, especially for people with mobility challenges. Using a laser pointer can seem like an easy solution, allowing your dog to burn off energy with minimal effort from you. While most dogs chase laser pointers, the laser pointers are not recommended for canine play due to potential long-term behavioral concerns.
In this article, we’ll discuss what drives dogs to chase laser pointers, safety tips, behavioral considerations for this toy, and alternative play objects to try instead.
Why Do Dogs Chase Laser Pointers?
Dogs may not have the best eyesight, but they are very good at spotting movement. In fact, fast movements, such as a laser dot speeding across the floor, sparks your dog’s natural prey drive. Our canine friends are simply hardwired to chase things that move.
Driven by instinct, most dogs can’t resist chasing the laser pointer. However, unlike prey in the wild, your dog can never actually catch the laser dot. This failure may eventually cause problems, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
It’s All About Closure: The Trouble with Laser Pointers
While your dog may enjoy chasing laser pointers, they will most likely become frustrated after repeatedly failing to “catch” the dot. Some dogs continue to try to find the dot after you turn off the laser pointer and become confused that it just disappears. This frustration and confusion can manifest into more serious behavioral problems in the long term.
Like musicians writing songs to process heartbreak, your dog just wants closure. Even trained search-and-rescue or detection dogs get depressed and frustrated if they constantly fail to find the person or object they’re tracking. To keep them motivated, their handlers must routinely stage a “rescue” or “find” for these dogs.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the most frequently asked questions about canines playing with laser pointers.
What Are the Consequences of Dogs Playing With Lasers?
Constantly chasing a laser dot they never catch can lead your dog down a path of deeper behavioral issues. Some dogs may become obsessed with looking for their “lost” prey and chase after other types of light, such as reflections. Others may become fixated on staring at where the laser dot disappeared or become frantic hunting after it.
Some dogs may turn their obsession with the laser dot into other obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Common examples of compulsive behaviors in dogs include tail chasing, circling, licking or chewing themselves, and licking the air.
A study conducted with cat owners found a potential connection between the frequent use of a laser pointer and the development of compulsive behaviors in cats. Canine behavioral experts have noted similar connections.
Which Alternatives Can Also Provide Exercise?
Physical activities such as jogging, hiking, swimming, or playing at the dog park are all excellent ways to exercise your dog. If you can’t exercise your dog yourself, consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to help you. Responsible, dog-loving neighborhood kids or teenagers may also be happy to spend time with your pet.
You can also teach your dog to play fetch so you can sit on the porch and toss balls with minimal effort. Another option is a flirt pole, which is basically the canine version of a teaser wand for cats. You can buy the toys ready-made or construct your own.
Dogs benefit from a wide variety of enrichment, including chew toys, puzzle games, and mental stimulation in the form of training. Not only do these activities keep your dog physically fit, but they prevent boredom, which can also lead to destructive and compulsive behaviors.
Dogs love to chase practically anything that moves, but they become frustrated when they cannot catch the laser dot moving around the floor and walls. Even if your dog enjoys chasing a laser pointer, veterinary behaviorists warn that the long-term impacts, including increased compulsive behavior, are not worth the risk. It’s best to avoid using a laser pointer around your dog and use it with caution when playing with cats. If you use a laser pointer with your cat or dog, never point it directly at their eyes.
Featured Image Credit: Cucu Andrei Adrian, Shutterstock