Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Laser Pointer Games that are Safe for Dogs

By Tamara McRill

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.

Safety Precautions

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

This can be a rewarding 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


  1. I am so glad you put this out there. I have been hesitant to let Finn chase a laser pointer. And I like the idea of giving the treat at the end!

  2. Wow, we did not know any of this. We don't have a laser pointer, but now we know Mom won't be getting one. Thanks for the info.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  3. We have never done the laser point with the dogs. I have done it with the cats and it does wear them out. But I didn't notice any great change in them. They really enjoyed it but they are cats.

  4. Every once in awhile I like to pull out the old laser pointer and play with my kitty. But I haven't recently only because its low on power and have to get new batteries.

    He is always totally fascinated with it and goes to town when I shine it every where. I'm always careful though to shine it away from his eyes when he comes in contact with it, facing it.

    I don't believe in not allowing access to a "fun time" but as with every thing, play has to be supervised and sometimes in moderation. I don't believe in keeping kids and fur kids in a rubber room all covered in foam. Its not reality. After all just living can be dangerous. Living is taking risks.


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