Why You Need to Stop Playing Laser Games with Your Dog

dog games

If you’ve ever used a laser pointer to play with your dog, you may think you’ve discovered a new, fun game. It helps your dog burn energy and gives her a source of entertainment, right? In fact, all dog games that use lasers are a bad idea. This is because what starts out as a simple game can quickly turn into an obsession, leading your dog to become stressed and anxious.

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The Prey Drive

The prey drive in dogs means that when your pet sees something moving, she is compelled to run after it. This is why dogs love to chase squirrels, cats, balls, and other dogs. The problem with a laser game is that the dog never catches the laser nor does the laser visibly retreat. As the dog cannot see where the laser disappears to, there is no closure to the game. Therefore, when you put the laser away, your dog feels unsatisfied and wants to continue.

Why Do Cats Enjoy Laser Games?

dog games

The prey drive in cats is different to that in dogs. In the wild, a cat will stalk his prey for just a few minutes before giving up. Dogs, on the other hand, have far longer attention spans.

When this is applied to playing with a laser, most cats will stop when they see that they are unable to catch the light. This is not to say that all cats should play laser games. Some can become obsessed just the same as dogs and are susceptible to the same risks.

Dangers of Laser Games

Even the occasional laser game can put your dog at risk for some serious physical and behavioral damage.

Obsessive Behaviors

As dogs don’t understand that a laser is a beam of light, it makes no sense to them that their “prey” has suddenly disappeared. In the dog’s mind, the laser beam must still be around — it must just be hiding somewhere. After you put the laser away, your dog may be unwilling to give up the chase. This can lead first to frustration and later to an obsession with catching the laser.

In the case playing with a laser does evolve into an obsession, your dog may start reacting to flashes of light that resemble the laser, including car headlights, reflections off shiny objects, and even shadows. If you continue to play laser games with your dog, these obsessions will only become exacerbated, ultimately leading to an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Destructive Habits

Another way frustration may manifest itself is in destructive behaviors. Your dog will likely target places where she last saw the laser before it disappeared. You may come home to destroyed furniture, ripped carpet, and broken belongings. Worse, your dog may harm herself, even intentionally, if she decides that this is the only way to capture her prey. For instance, some dogs slam themselves into walls to get at the laser.

Damage to the Eyes

dog games

In addition to these behavioral problems, there is the simple risk of laser damage to the eyes. You know should never point a laser directly into your pet’s face. The problem is, it is impossible to guarantee that you won’t when your dog is running and jumping. The laser beam can cause permanent damage to the rods in the eyes — the parts of the eyes that detect light. Dogs have more rods in their eyes than humans for better sight in low levels of light. If you damage these rods, your dog will struggle to see in the dark.

Other Injuries

Even if you are somehow able to avoid hitting your dog’s eyes with the laser beam, there is a risk that she may injure herself. When playing with lasers, dogs become so focused on their target that they can become clumsy, banging into furniture or whatever is around them. They may even knock into other pets or small children.

Alternative Dog Games

Fetch

There’s a reason why fetch is a classic: dogs love this game. To you, it may seem simple (and even a bit tedious); you may prefer to mix things up. However, for your dog, there is no greater pleasure than running after a ball and bringing it back. She achieves her objective (of catching the prey) and she gets to bond with you.

Flirt Pole

If you were considering playing a laser game because you want your dog to exercise, but you get rest, a great alternative is a flirt pole. You can purchase a flirt pole from your local pet store or you can make your own. All you need is a stick and a piece of rope to attach to the end.

Drag the pole across the floor and have your dog chase the rope. You can even fling the pole around easily without needing to move much. End the game by allowing your dog to catch the rope and tug it. Your dog will be happiest if you let her win the tug of war!

New Tricks

Teaching your dog new tricks will stimulate her mind in a positive way. Start with something simple and don’t expect her to perform the full trick straight away. Instead, reward her for small movements in the right direction. Build it up from there, making the tricks more complex. This is a great way to improve communication between the two of you.

Puzzle Toys

dog games

Intelligent, active, and frustrated dogs need games to keep them distracted while you’re out of the house. Research the wide variety of puzzles available to find one that matches your dog’s current skill level and that will keep her entertained for long periods.

Here’s one we use with our 3 dogs. This one works pretty well and can keep your dog busy for a while. You can adjust the “flow” of kibble with a slide of the toggle opening near the bottom of the toy. This is the large one because we have golden retrievers. Be sure to select the right size for your dog.

Check out our A-Z list of safe dog games you can play with your dog!

What to Do If Your Dog Has Developed an Obsession

If you’ve already been playing laser games and your dog has developed an obsession with lights or turned to destructive behavior, you can take steps to reverse the damage.

The main thing you need to do is distract your dog. Encourage her to move away from where she is looking for the laser by directing her attention to another activity. What you don’t want to do is draw attention to her behavior, neither with threats nor treats. It is critical that your dog stops seeing her obsession as a big deal.

If laser play over the long term has developed into a major obsession with light, you need to talk to a professional. A dog trainer can give you specific advice on how to correct your pet’s behavior. It may also be necessary for your dog to receive medication, such as an antidepressant. This is worthwhile discussing with your vet.

With no shortage of dog games to try, there’s no need to resort to lasers, no matter your dog’s energy level or need for mental stimulation. Make up safe games to play indoors, take your pet for long walks whenever possible, and reward her for good behavior — with treats, cuddles, or verbal encouragement, whatever works best. Like this, you’ll have a healthy, happy, relaxed dog.

Sources

https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/10/02/pet-laser-toys.aspx

https://dogtime.com/dog-health/54511-dog-vision-can-dogs-see-color-dark

https://paws4udogs.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/the-dangers-of-playing-with-laser-lights/

Check out our A-Z list of safe dog games you can play with your dog!

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