If you’ve ever used a laser pointer with your dog, stop doing it right away.
Unfortunately, using a laser pointer leads to our dogs developing OCD. And taking a page from us humans, living with OCD is a struggle.
And as pet parents, we don’t want our dogs to feel the same way.
So what if you’ve already used a laser pointer before?
Let’s talk about what you can do and what we know so far about laser pointer syndrome.
Hopefully, this helps you understand why your dog has been chasing their shadow from time to time.
Is it OK to play with a dog with a laser pointer?
No, it’s not. Vets and dog trainers prohibit dog owners to use laser pointers with their dogs.
We know that it seems to be a good way to get your dog some exercise (and be entertained yourself), but it doesn’t lead to healthy outcomes.
For one thing, your dog will end up being frustrated at catching the red dot because they never seem to catch it.
And when playing with a laser pointer becomes a habit, it might lead to serious behavioral problems with your dog.
But what if you only play with it once?
This can still lead to behavioral problems like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Unfortunately, even just one exposure to the floating red dot can make them very frustrated.
Of course, this isn’t always the case for all dogs. However, as a caring pet owner, you wouldn’t want to take the risk of developing behavioral problems in your pets.
Can laser pointers cause OCD in dogs?
Aside from creating frustration, laser pointers can also lead to OCD in dogs.
OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs shows in different ways. Some dogs tend to lick their paws all the time, some end up having rhythmic barking, and some chase their tails.
But symptoms linked to laser pointers often show as the following:
- Running in circles, chasing their tails
- Chasing a shadow
- Chasing light or any type of reflection
These behaviors show because your dog’s frustration with catching that red dot is translated to other things that resemble the red dot.
There’s also a theory that the red dots they can’t catch trigger something in their brains that make them want to catch it at all costs.
For example, your dog sees the reflection that bounces off the glass.
Since the reflections create color, your dog would think it’s the same red dot that they weren’t able to catch. Besides, how are they supposed to know that those types of light are different?
Why do dogs develop laser pointer syndrome and cats don’t?
There are many differences between cats’ and dogs’ behaviors and responses to stimuli.
One is their response to laser pointers.
If cats can just forget about the laser pointer once they don’t see the small red dot floating around, dogs don’t.
Instead, dogs become frustrated because they weren’t able to catch it. They will try their very best until they become successful in catching that red light (or any kind of light).
This frustration tends to stick (unlike in cats) and develops into OCD.
However, keep in mind that even dogs have very different responses to the frustration with the small red dot.
Sure, they will all be attracted to it, but not all dogs will end up having OCD.
High-energy dogs, for example, have a higher tendency of developing OCD as opposed to those dogs that are “lazy.”
But dogs of the same high-energy breeds don’t also have the same responses.
And in all honesty, it’s hard to find out which dogs will end up being frustrated as there is not enough research on how dogs respond to the laser pointers.
So to be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid using the laser pointer with your dogs. If you have cats that enjoy it, don’t flash it when your dog is around.
How to fix laser pointer syndrome in dogs?
As of today, there is no cure yet for laser pointer syndrome in dogs.
What vets will suggest is that you try to correct the behavior once you see your dog chasing their tail, shadow, or light.
You could do this by raising your voice once they start following their tail. And when they stop, make sure to give them treats.
The treats will help the dog identify what they did right (which is a lot similar to how we do positive reinforcement on humans).
Take note, though, that the reinforcement should come right after they do the action you want to do. In this case, when they stop chasing their tails or the reflection on the floor or walls.
However, we want to warn you that there is no proof that giving positive reinforcement is helpful for dogs with OCD. There is no document or research evidence of its success.
Nonetheless, we urge you to consult with a veterinarian or a dog trainer to find other ways that can help reduce the symptoms.
This is a must, especially when you notice that your dog’s behavior is starting to become unhealthy – if they keep chasing their tails and forget about their surroundings.
If you want to put some exercise into your dog’s routine, it would be healthy for them and for you to take a walk or run outside.
You can spend 15-30 minutes a day outdoors where your dogs can move freely. You can also let them play with other dogs in your area.
If they have a lot of energy, you can also consult with a dog trainer on how to best manage your dog’s energy levels.
Unlike cats, dogs tend to develop OCD after playing with the small red dot from a laser pointer.
There’s not a lot of research about a cure for laser pointer syndrome in dogs, so prevention is still the best way to go.
However, if your dog already has this syndrome, you can try changing their behavior. But based on vets and dog trainers, these efforts are almost always futile.