Laser Pointers and Dogs – Why You Should Avoid This Game.


Playing with a laser pointer with your pet dog, (or cat come to that!) might seem like loads of fun, but are there any reasons not to? Some experts claim, playing with laser pens with your pet, could lead to obsessive behaviour in some dogs. The aim of using up a dog’s energy in a fun-for-all-the-family way, might seem like a good idea. However, it can  cause mayhem in more ways than one. Holidays4Dogs finds out more about laser pointers and dogs.

What are laser pointers/pens and why do dogs (and cats) like them?

These devices are hand-held and used to highlight a point of interest, or object. They are typically used as teaching, or training tools, in the classroom, office, or board-room.

However, they are also marketed as ‘toys’ for pets – namely cats and dogs

Much to the amusement of some families, many dogs (and cats) are fascinated by chasing laser pointers. The reason for this attraction, is down to their predatory instincts.

The rapid movement of the light triggers the dog’s instinct to chase and catch prey.

Are laser pen games with your dog a bad idea?

However, unlike games with toys or a ball, playing with a laser pen means the dog never gets to ‘catch’ his prey. This can lead to frustration, confusion and obsessive compulsive behaviour. In addition, if the dog is over aroused playing with a laser pointer over a slippery floor, for example, injuries can easily occur – especially in puppies.

This concern is nothing new. Indeed, experts who train sniffer dogs know this and, therefore, dogs are not subjected to fruitless searches which can cause exhaustion and mental anxiety.

In situations where a sniffer dog is unable to locate an item, (usually because it does not exist), handlers will hide a ‘dummy’ for the dog to find and, therefore, be rewarded.

Playing too much with laser pens in pet dogs can sometimes have the same frustrating effect. Dogs may also turn their attention to other light sources, such as shadows or reflections.

Alternatively, they may simply find it difficult to switch off, constantly pacing, searching or becoming hyper vigilant in their surroundings.

Not all dogs will suffer ill effects from playing with a laser pen, but highly excitable dogs, or those with a high chase/prey drive can end up becoming obsessive. Some dogs can persistently look for the little red dot and become agitated and over-excited because they are unable to ‘catch’ it.

Alternatives to laser games with dogs.

There are other ways to entertain your dog in ways that stimulate his instincts, but without causing mental stress. Flirt poles, for example, are an excellent tool to entertain your dog and are just as much fun for you to use too!

flirt pole is a stick with a long piece of cord attached. Attached to the end of the cord is a toy, or a bunch of rags. The person operating the stick can flick and fling it around, while the dog chases. (Please note: this game may not be suitable for dogs with possessive behaviours).

However, in this game, the dog is able to pounce and catch his reward. You can buy flirt poles, but they are also very easy to make with objects readily available around the home.

Playing scent games with your dog is another excellent way to provide enrichment, exercise and entertainment. Dogs love to find things using their nose and the great thing about scent games is – they get to find a ‘prize’ at the end. You can read more about how to play these games with your dog here.

There also plenty of games you can play while on a walk with your dog. To get some ideas take a look at our other article here.

Final thoughts.

Interactive games are great for your dog and important for his mental well-being. Unfortunately, laser pens can be a too one-sided with the dog never really getting to ‘win’ the game. Try other activities instead to keep your dog on his toes and engaged, without making him frustrated, anxious, or hyper.