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Warning: Don’t use Laser Pointers!

January 3, 2012

Using Laser pointers or flash-lights as a chase game for dogs (and some cats), can ‘literally’ drive them crazy, with lifelong consequences. Please don’t use them.

Sure, to us it looks like fun, like the dog is having a good time chasing the light, but just after only a few times exposed to this game, they can easily develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder to light or any shade or flicker of light. Trust me, you don’t want your dog, in every waking moment,  constantly staring, drooling and/or lunging at some flicker of light, reflection or shadow on the ground or wall. I’ve seen dogs like this and it’s very-very sad.

Dogs need to periodically “get paid” when they chase things, physically touching something with their body or mouth. If they don’t, they can become hypersensitive or obsessed over it. (like how they are with mail carriers or people walking on the other side of a fence) This is why this game is so damaging, no physical touch to light, along with a dogs natural ‘prey drive’ to chase moving things.

Some dogs are more susceptible to develop this disorder than others, but you don’t want to test your dog to find out. Having the light come across some treat or toy is not a good idea either because you’re still encouraging them to chase the light.

There is ‘light’ (excuse the pun) at the end of the tunnel for dogs with this obsession. Consult a reward/science based trainer to learn the counter-conditioning techniques.

Do you have a dog with this obsession?

Comments

19 Responses to “Warning: Don’t use Laser Pointers!”

  1. Mike Jr on August 29th, 2009 2:23 pm

    Hello Robert,
    I would like to start off saying I really enjoy reading your site, the Youtube videos are awsome and I am jealous…lol
    I have a new pup that I recently got from a lady that had twins and could not keep him, He was kind of housebroken she says, but he had a few accidents at first and since learning to use the doggie door he has been great with going outside. No accidents in his crate at night. She called him Twilight but he did not respond to that name.
    I started working with him immediately, using treats he love ,we broke them into small bits so they would go a long way. First we worked with him on a new name, Nitro now responds to his new name when called he looks at you, the following day we started calling his name and using the command “sit” Nitro caught on to the trick very quickly and well throughout the day. The following day Nitro learned a new command ” Down” which he also learned very quickly thoughout the day. After a week Nitro now knows his name, sit, down and off.

    I am having trouble with a few things with nitro that maybe you can me with:

    1. Nitro pulls when taken outside to walk or train…curious of everything and wont pay attention to me at all.

    2. Nitro gets into things ( Chews ) we caught him with pens, plastic bags, paper eating them ( luckily we caught him and got it out of his mouth) But, He runs from us when we try to get it from him.

    3. Nitro runs from us when he gets outside without permission.

    4. Nitro humps his stuffed animals, towels, blankets….

    5. He loves to play tug-o-war and fetches… but doesnt know how to release the ball, instead he plays tug-o-war with the ball when he returns.

    Nitro is a Lab / jack russle mix, neutered, he was born 1/15/09, neutered on 5/27/09
    I hope I added all the info that would help you problem solve these issues.
    Thank you for any information on these issues,

    Sincerely,
    Mike Jr.

    *note*
    ** Nitro had colored, sponge looking stools at first from eating tennis ball covers as well as whole tennis balls and whatever else we dont know of when we first got him from the original owner, he is normal now and on a regular diet since**

  2. Robert on August 31st, 2009 9:15 am

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the comments and questions.You have given me more twitter and blog topics.

    Although I like to give free training tips through my blog, It would be extremely time consuming to answer every question people have. I can help you with one, and In time, I’m sure I will cover all of your problems and how to stop them. Nitro being part J.R. (read “10 breeds to avoid”) and at the height of the rambunctious and destructive stage (8-9 months) (read “10 reasons why dogs chew”). You will have more trouble getting his attention. Also read my blog “it’s whats under their paws” & “Trainings magic pill”. Practice short training sessions starting in the house and work your way outside. use regular leash at least 6 feet (no retractable and no harnesses) On walks always have the leash loose. become unpredictable in which way you walk, starting around the house and even at the front door, your dog should always sit at the door and wait for the release command before going out. Practice going in and out- changing direction, just become unpredictable, when you go the other way, Nitro will get to the end of the leash, he will receive a tug and realize he wasn’t watching you, when he runs to you or follows you , give reward. Keep repeating the turns, being unpredictable and rewarding. You also need to make following you more fun and more rewarding than the distractions around. also dont forget to teach him the release command, he needs to listen and wait for the release command before he can go play. One of these days I will upload a video I call “who’s walking who” and of course many others vids that will show in detail what I’m talking about. Starting soon, I will be giving 1 on 1 lessons on Skype, not for free but not the $150 and hour I used to charge. It will be $30.00 for 30 minutes then $20.00 every 30 minutes after that. Keep me updated with your progress and keep checking back for new training info and videos. If you subscribe you will be notified when I post something new. Good Luck

  3. LaShonda on March 9th, 2011 12:39 pm

    Do you know if the pointers have the same effect on cats?

  4. Robert on March 11th, 2011 10:16 pm

    Hi LaShonda,

    To my knowledge, it doesn’t have the same effect. One way to find out, watch the cats behavior when the laser is off. Are they constantly looking for a light or chasing other flickers of light? if so, then it’s a problem.

    Thanks for the question

  5. Dick on September 23rd, 2013 8:09 pm

    Please confer with Ur local SPCA They are professionals when it comes to cruelity and animals. See Them picket when Circus comes to Town.

  6. Ashley on April 1st, 2014 12:30 am

    I know this article is old but I just came across it in a Google search. My husband’s friend recently came over and happened to have a laser pointer with him, he used it and my dog went wild. We were all entertained by it and my dog seemed to get a great deal of enjoyment (and exercise). We had no idea the consequences to our dog’s mental health. We only played using a laser pointer two or three times over a couple day period. At first she would look for the laser for 10-15 minutes after we stopped playing, but now it’s been several days without it (after we realized the affects on her we stopped, thinking she would forget after a day or so) but she seems to be restless most of the evenings looking for this laser. It’s breaking my heart to see her look around at the walls and floors searching for something that I never want her to see again and my husband and I feel a tremendous amount of guilt over this obsession we have created in her. We have been trying to spend more time in the evenings with her playing or training her on new tricks and rewarding her in hopes to keep her mind off of the laser but once she settles down it seems she is up and staring at the walls again. Since we had only done it a few times, is there hope that she will get back to normal if we just continue on what we are doing? Is there something else we can do to help her forget? I just don’t know how long, if ever, it will take to help her get back to normal. I appreciate your time and any answers or suggestions you have are greatly welcomed. Thank you.

  7. Robert on May 8th, 2014 6:29 am

    I will take time, try clicker training, and try to constantly redirect the moment she starts to look around. I’ll keep getting the word out.

  8. Michelle Thompson on November 7th, 2014 3:04 pm

    Just want to add in – it ABSOLUTELY has the same effect on cats. We live in an apartment with our cat, and when we first got her we used the laser pen ALL the time. Until we started noticing it.. She spends all day of everyday staring at the walls. She will hear a car pull up to the parking lot and she’ll get to the wall as soon as she can to watch the lights. Our new TV has the same effect on her.. She hears the TV turn on and runs to the walls.

    It’s terrible. She’s only three.. I’m hoping when we move into a house next year it will help because there won’t be cars pulling in and out 24 hours a day.

    Ever since the vet told us she has severe OCD after seeing the videos of her and everything.. I shun everybody who uses a laser pen on their pets. It’s not something you’d think about until you can’t fix the problem.

  9. Dustin Rose on November 18th, 2014 9:49 pm

    I have a female boxer, she is 1 year old and we didn’t know the laser light was so harmful. Is there a safe way to break her of this habbit?

  10. Robert on December 29th, 2014 11:46 pm

    just a lot of re-direction techniques. no videos on that so maybe contact a local behaviourist

  11. Robert on December 29th, 2014 11:57 pm

    Sorry that’s happened, Thanks for the heads-up as I will notify cat people as well.

  12. Billi Haug on January 12th, 2015 2:44 pm

    I just rescued a beautiful 4 year old German shepherd who unfortunately had laser games played with her. It is SO sad to see her frantic in the yard; digging, ripping and jumping trying to ‘catch’ bird shadows. Indoors what has helped is to give her a stuffed, long narrow toy that she can carry around (works like a pacifier). I then make her go to her ‘place’ , pet her and tell her she is a good girl. After two weeks she is much calmer in the house. I’m still working on the outside thing.

  13. Cody Farrell on January 16th, 2015 10:57 pm

    I bought a laser pointer today and teased my brothers dog with it, so I searched why dogs chase lasers and came across this article that was saying it could permanently change the dogs behavior. So I’m like freaking out because I don’t want to change his behavior, he’s 7 months old. Is there anything I could do to keep his mind off the laser?

  14. Robert on January 22nd, 2015 7:55 pm

    Keep working on it, timing is everything AND “patting” reinforces what your dog is thinking/feeling, using toys/play and treats reinforce mostly what your dog is doing or physically did. Distraction/redirection is the best way to desensitise your dog or the old obsession.

  15. Robert on January 22nd, 2015 7:58 pm

    Timing is everything. “patting” reinforces what your dog is thinking/feeling, using toys/play and treats reinforce mostly what your dog is doing or physically did. Distraction/redirection is the best way to desensitise your dog of the old obsession. the value of your distractions have to superseed the value of looking for the laser has/had. RAW meat or high value toys will help redirect the attention away from the laser

  16. Katie Caldwell on June 26th, 2015 6:32 am

    Cats are the same, I thought it would be a great way for my kitty to get some exercise cause he’s sooo lazy. lol. He LOVED IT and would meow for it… but then I noticed he was non stop searching for something… (more than he usually does. cats always are on their toes like that but… this was different) After I noticed I STOPPED using it right away because IT’S INSANE IT HAD BEEN THREE DAYS AND HE WAS STILL SEARCHING AND OBSESSED?!?!?!?
    I FOUND A SOLUTION THOUGH… I turned on the laser for a second… let him chase it for a few seconds, then opened my front door, and made it look as if the later was leaving the house… he tried to chase after it, i grabbed him, shut the door, and he has been good ever sense! Pretty random but it worked, TRY THAT!

  17. Toby on September 5th, 2015 9:13 pm

    How can i cure my dog from this laser point obsession

  18. Robert on September 24th, 2015 9:31 am

    HI, I don’t have any tutorials sorry. use lots of redirection to things your dog can actually put in his mouth, toys and food using lots of play to distract, practice several times a day and keep keeping his attention on the toys and food.

  19. Perry Oxide on December 13th, 2015 1:10 am

    Katie, that sounds like an excellent approach to extinguishing the obsession. I’ve heard of a very similar technique used on humans, too. Thanks for posting it.

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