I am sure that, just like millions of other Internet users around the world, you have also come across videos of owners playing chasing games with their dogs using laser pointers. This game looks fun and stimulating for dogs, and is absolutely entertaining to watch! However, the reality is that laser pointers are amongst the worst and most dangerous toys to play with your dog or any pet for that matter. We know this sounds a little dramatic, but hear us out.
1. Laser pointers are bad for the psychological wellbeing of your dog
Most dogs love to chase. Whether they are chasing balls, birds or a Frisbee, chasing games are extremely stimulating and good exercise for your dog. Chasing is also a healthy way to boost your dog's confidence and ego, because they (and you) are extremely proud when they have caught the ball, and even more so if they have retrieved it. Chasing is a natural way for dogs to release energy and it stimulates their prey drive.
The main difference with using a laser pointer as a chase toy, is that your dog will never reach its goal of catching it. This means that the reward always stays in the chasing of the laser pointer, but your dog cannot ever catch it. This can lead to serious confusion for your dog. The main issue is, that physiologically your dog never really finds closure by reaching its goal, which can lead to unhealthy obsessions and behavioral problems. Some dogs can become so obsessed with the moving of the red pointer, that they start chasing anything that moves, like any shadows, any reflective lights or glare from the swimming pool or a tablet screen.
A laser light easily catches the attention of your dog and sets his prey drive in motion immediately. Remember that your dog cannot rationalize like we humans can. Nor do they understand the concept of what a laser is. Most dogs simply don't understand where the "prey" went and would keep staring at the last place they saw it, just to try and make sense of it. In the example below posted by a Reddit user, this is exactly what happened to his dog.
In this user's comment, he states that
“I feel horrible. I've got two dogs. German Shepherds. One 8 months and one 3 years. I got a laser pen and decided to have some fun. The dogs went crazy chasing it about, having a great time. That was two days ago. It has confused the older one. For two days now she's been refusing to leave the room and hasn't stopped looking for that red dot. Just staring blankly at the floor, ceiling, and walls. Taking her out on walks snaps her out of it until she gets back home. I feel so bad. She's even refusing her favorite treats.”
This shows you how quickly you can mess with your dog's head. I have seen dogs become unhealthily obsessed with chasing anything that moves, so much so that it consumes their entire day. These dogs had to go through vigorous behavioral adjustment training and rehabilitation. It is advised to stay away from laser pointing games in general to avoid your dog developing unhealthy mental behaviors.
2. Laser pointers can hurt your dog's eyes
Not only can lasers cause serious mental damage to your dog, but physical damage as well. Dogs have more rods in their eyes than humans. Rods are the receptors in our eyes responsible for detecting light and dark, and therefore dogs can see in the dark much better than humans can. Because they have more rods, it also means that they can see light better. This is why it is more dangerous to shine a laser pointer into a dog's eyes, whether on purpose or while playing a chasing game. This can result in permanent damage or loss of vision in your dog's eyes.
Also keep in mind that when you play with a laser, it is quite easy to make your dog so excited to chase it, that he could potentially knock over tables, chairs, glasses, TV's or anything the laser light touches. This could be a dangerous game to play in your home because your dog can seriously injure himself or small children in the house.
In closing, there are so many different alternatives to use for chasing games with your dog. Soft toys, balls, and Frisbee do the trick just fine. If you absolutely HAVE to play a laser game with your dog, make sure it can reach a goal, like leading it with the pointer to a treat, and then turning the laser off. This way, the laser is not the reward, but the treat at the end of the laser is. Ensure that the laser is kept far away from your dog's eyes while playing this game, to avoid causing any damage. However, it is advised to not use a laser at all, because it can trigger immediate obsession in some dogs and it is simply not worth the risk.