Are laser pointers bad for dogs?

It’s a fairly common practice, to use a laser pointer to play with your pets at home. Whilst it seems harmless, there is the possibility that you could be unknowingly teasing your dog too much. Are laser pointers really bad for dogs, or are they a safe toy to use?

People are always looking for things to enjoy with their dog. It’s up to you whether you consider a laser pointer as a good toy to use with your dog; it completely depends on your own perspective on things.

Let’s have a look at what you should consider if you’re thinking about using a laser pointer with your canine companion.

Are laser pointers bad for dogs?

The answer is that yes, laser pointers can be bad for your dog. Research has linked overuse of laser pointers to behavioural issues in dogs, as well as the risk of injuring your dog by accidentally shining a laser in their eye.

Behavioural Issues

Although it may not seem like it sometimes, your dog is a natural predator. It wants to chase and hunt. The end result in this for a dog is to catch whatever it is chasing – it’s prey.

If you throw a tennis ball for your dog, it will chase the tennis ball and ultimately catch it. If you tease a dog with a chew toy, then it will grip onto something physical and it’s reward will be to get the chew toy after pulling it away from you.

The issue with a laser pointer is that your dog doesn’t get a physical reward for it’s chasing. If you’re teasing your dog for several minutes with a laser, then the dog will feel inclined to follow the intriguing laser – this isn’t through choice, it is your dogs instinct.

But as the laser isn’t physically there, your dog gets no real prize for it’s work. Dogs work very much on a IFTTT basis – If This, Then That.

If you sit, then you’ll get a pat on the head. If you let me wash you, you’ll get a treat. If you chase then tennis ball, you’ll get it. If you follow this laser, you’ll get.. nothing. This is where the real issue with using a laser pointer with your dog lies.

Increased Anxiety

The idea of never getting a reward for all their hard work is particularly hard for a dog and can lead to anxiety.

It’s not like with a human, where you have a choice whether you’re going to participate in something or not. It’s your dogs natural instinct to chase the laser, and with no reward this can increase the level of anxiety in your dog.

If you don’t give your dog a reward at the end of their hard work, then this is what may give your dog issues.

The resolution?

Use the laser to guide them to treats as their reward.

By doing this, you’re giving your dog the prize that they desperately crave. If a wild dog goes hunting for rabbits and comes back empty handed, they feel bad right? Well if you give your dog a treat at the expedition, you can ensure that they feel justified for their search.

Take Care of your Dogs Eyes

Another issue that you will have to consider if you’re using a laser pointer with your dog is their eyes. A dogs eyes have far more receptors than us, and whilst that doesn’t necessarily make more susceptible to damage, it undoubtedly makes a difference.

This is something else that you have to consider if you’re going to play with a laser pointer with your dog. Make sure that you’re not going to leave your young children to use the laser pointer with your dog, as they may knowingly cause your dog harm by shining light into their eyes for an extended period of time.

It’s not all bad

Yes, you definitely need to be careful when playing with your dog, and there are precautions that you need to take. But it’s not all bad.

There are positives that you can get from playing laser pointer games with dog. Here’s a few of the benefits.

  • Physically demanding – Everyone knows that when you get a dog, you’re signing yourself up for years and years of ‘walkies’. You dog needs physically exercise, the majority of them daily. Using a laser pointer is a good way to give your dog some exercise, especially for smaller dogs. It allows them to relieve some frustration – after all, dogs are domesticated from the wild.
  • Not just physical, but mental exercise too – Does the life of a dog seem boring to you? Laze around all day eating and sleeping? Okay, that sounds pretty good to some of us actually. But anyway, you dog needs some form of mental exercise as well as physical. They need to learn to figure things out and decipher stuff, and playing with a laser can be a good form of this.
  • Build the bond between you – Any time that you get to spend with your dog is good for their brain and wellbeing. It’s proven that the more time you can spend with your dog, the more affectionate they become. Building a bond between the two of you is a good way to ensure you do is happy.

Conclusion

A laser pointer can be a fun toy to use with your dog, and cats, in your household. Make sure to gauge your dogs reactions to using the laser and see how they are after you have used it. It is normal for your dog to continuously search for the laser for a few minutes after you stop playing, but no longer than that.

If your dog is still searching for the laser 10 minutes or more after you have stopped playing, you should cease all further laser play with your dog.

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