Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I’ll admit it: watching a dog happily chase a pinpoint of light can be hilarious. But it turns out laser pointer games have a dark side that can actually harm a dog’s mental wellbeing. It was a heart-stopping moment when I discovered this, having enjoyed just such a romping good time visiting a Pitbull pup we had rescued at his new home.
I was quick to let his new owner know the ramifications of his puppy’s favorite game and suggest some better ways to play with the laser pointer, if he wasn’t willing to completely stop using it as a toy.
Haywire Prey Instincts
The problem with letting a dog chase after a laser pointer beam is that it triggers their prey drive – what makes them hunt and chase after small things that move – without the satisfaction of ever catching the red dot. This may sound like a small thing, but it can actually cause an obsession in dogs to chase light. As in, it actually makes them a bit crazy. Many dogs will begin pouncing on any beam of light they see, just dying to finally catch it.
Before suggesting any laser pointer games to play that will satisfy your pet’s need to be a predator, I would like to emphasize that not playing with a laser pointer at all is really the safest option.
Also keep the beam out of their eyes, as it can cause blindness in dogs just as it does humans. Since a lot of dogs will bite at and pounce on the red dot, keep it off of other pets and people. Oh, and never point the beam at anything you don’t want to see broken.
Starting and Stopping Game
Start and stopping points can help your dog catch on to what the game is and produce a natural beginning and ending. Start with the same command and by pointing the beam in the same place when you begin, like your foot.
Turn the light off when they “catch” the dot. Reward them with a CANIDAE dog treat each time they catch the beam so they feel something was accomplished. Make sure to end the game with a command when you are done playing.
Hide and Seek Laser
indoor game or outdoor game to play with your furry friend. Hide some CANIDAE treats or favorite toys around the house or yard, with the idea that these will be the prey. Then, using the laser pointer, slowly lead your dog to discover the treats/prey.
If your dog susses out treats and toys as well as mine – I can’t even get in the door without them knowing and trying to investigate the bag – then you’ll want to start the game as soon as you let your pet into the room.
Click off the light when they find the toy or treat. Otherwise they are going to know they never “killed” it.
Does your dog love to chase laser pointers? What other games do they like?
Top photo by Slam Szapucki
Bottom photo by Sam Hames
Read more articles by Tamara McRill