Ditch the Laser! Correlations Show That Laser Pointer Use Can Lead to Laser Pointer Syndrome in Dogs
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
You can buy them on the shelves of your average pet store, and they're advertised as a "fun" way to exercise your pet. They're small, seemingly non-malicious, and extremely affordable. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, the recent correlations released by behaviorists, trainers, and veterinarians alike show a strong correlation of behavior issues in dogs who've had frequent exposure to laser pointers.
Why I Never Recommend Laser Use for Enrichment
Lasers can cause more frustration than good, as your dog can never "catch" the light beam. This is increasingly prevalent in high energy & working breeds.
Laser use can result in obsessive tendencies towards all lights, reflections, and shadows. Think: The reflection of your phone, the light reflecting off of a car passing by your front window, the shadow of your two year old walking by the coffee table.
Watchfulness for this red dot often becomes neurotic/obsessive; your dog is suddenly always on alert.
Repetitive use can result in Laser Pointer Syndrome.
What is Laser Pointer Syndrome?
Laser Pointer Syndrome (LPS) is a detrimental OCD type behavior that stems from the compulsive chasing of reflections, lights, and shadows. The AKC reveals that laser usage leads to this behaviour due to the dogs' frustration, anxiety and confusion at the unattainable red dot. Dog Psychology 101 coins the laser as "artificial stimulation", because your dog is able to see the dot but never catch it.
As a result, laser Pointer Syndrome forms from your dog's inability to "catch" the elusive red dot, as there is no touch, smell, or taste that the dog can obtain through play. Essentially, your dog's prey drive is triggered by the laser's movement, but there's never any true sense of relief from the chase. This lack of relief can lead to behavior problems or obsessive tendencies with visual stimulants like light, shadows, and reflections.
Kayla Fratt (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) states that in severe cases of light OCD, a dog may:
Chase lights/reflections for hours.
Be constantly on alert for lights or shadows to appear so that they can chase them.
Hurt themselves as a result of chasing reflections.
Ignores basic needs (i.e. food, water, play, or rest) in order to chase lights.
While some extreme cases have been noted by professionals, it's important to note that some dogs may act completely fine with laser pointers and not show these tendencies. However, with the correlation being so strong - why risk it?
If you're looking for some alternate games and activities in leu of a laser pointer, try swapping out the game for one of these alternatives:
Omega Paw "Tricky Treat Ball"
Outward Hound "Burrow Toys"
DIY Towel Puzzles
Want to learn more about how you can improve your pet's life through enrichment, without having to comb through content across platforms? Take a look at our new Enrichment Guide!
Sources & Other Reading:
Laser Pointer Syndrome in Dogs
Pointing Out the Dangers of Laser Pointers for Dogs
Laser Pointers: More Frustration Than Fun
Ask A Trainer: What's Up with Light Chasing in Dogs?
Laser Pointers: More Frustration Than Fun – American Kennel Club
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