Few things are as entertaining as watching dogs frantically chase after a laser toys. If you need proof, just watch this video.
However, as fun as it is for us to see them go nuts for that elusive red dot, it could be messing with their head.
THE LASER TOYS STORY
Animal Behaviorist and Tufts Professor Dr. Nicholas Dodman believes that laser toys play on our dogs’ natural instinct to chase, without giving them the reward of catching it. “They can’t help themselves. They are obliged to chase it,” said Dodman to the Huffington Post.
Anything that darts around (such as a laser light) triggers our dogs’ inherent need to chase prey — which, as it happens, is why so many prey animals stop dead in their tracks when they suspect they have been spotted. Dogs are, by nature, highly tuned motion sensors. And when something triggers that impulse, they respond the only way they know how — by chasing.
But unlike a rabbit or a tennis ball, a beam of light is not something that can be caught, making a game of “chase-the-laser” one devoid of any possibility for winning. This inability to actually catch the laser can end up wearing on a dog’s psyche. If a dog is constantly chasing after something they can’t catch, it is bound to stress them out. In fact, it may even drive them a little bit crazy.
“I’ve seen light chasing as a pathology where they will just constantly chase around a light or shadow and pounce upon it. They spend their whole lives wishing and waiting,” says Dodman.
A SUITABLE SUBSTITUTION
Instead of teasing your dog with a laser toy, if you want to work out your dog’s prey instinct, why not simply play a game of fetch? Rolling a ball across the floor gives them everything they need out of a game — the anticipation, the chase, and the reward.
However, if you simply cannot give up the laser, at least find a way to incorporate treats into the laser experience. Perhaps you leave a treat on the floor and lure them over to it with the dot. Get creative with it. Just don’t let your dog go unrewarded, or they may develop a complex.
WHAT ABOUT MY KITTY?
Laser it up!
Cat’s, Dr. Dodman observed, are less likely to become obsessive and develop behavioral conditions as a consequence of not being rewarded. This is because they generally have a much shorter attention span than their canine counterparts, meaning that they are likely to lose interest in the beam rather than get all worked up over not being able to catch it.
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However, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you notice your cat starting to show signs of obsession, stop playing with the laser. But until then, feel free to shine on, you crazy diamond.
Will you stop using the laser with your dog? Leave a comment and let us know, and sign up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.
Huffington Post – Why Laser Toys Can Be Bad News for Your Pet