Are Laser Pointers Bad for Dogs? Plus, Alternative Toys for Dogs | Pupford
October 28th, 2022
Filed under Pet Parenting
In theory, laser pointers would be the ultimate tool for your dog. Watching them intensely chase a little red dot is quite amusing, plus they’re burning off energy like crazy.
But in reality, laser pointers can actually do more harm than good for our dogs.
This post is NOT to shame anyone who has used a laser pointer with their dog, because so many of us have. It’s just to educate – and help you make better choices for your dog going forward.
We’ll be explaining why we advise against it and provide safe alternatives that are just as engaging and exhausting (in a good way) for your dog.
ARE LASER POINTERS BAD FOR DOGS?
The short answer, yes. Want to find out why? Keep on reading.
WHY LASER POINTERS ARE BAD FOR DOGS
“If laser pointers are so bad, then why does my dog love them?”
This is a common rebuttal, but also a common misconception.
Dogs don’t necessarily love laser pointers. Rather, laser pointers trigger a dog’s strong prey drive, causing them to stalk, chase, and try to catch the light.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with engaging your dog’s (in fact it’s a good idea to USE a dog’s prey drive), laser pointers in particular can be problematic.
Here are some reasons why laser pointers are bad for dogs:
1. POTENTIAL EYE DAMAGE
We warn people not to shine laser pointers and flashlights in people’s eyes, but do we think about our dogs too?
The concentrated light of a laser pointer can possibly harm your dog’s vision. It could also disorient them, causing them to injure themselves.
Even if you try to be mindful of your dog’s face when pointing the laser, their quick movements during their play can cause them to catch the light directly in their eyes.
You know that feeling when you’ve been tracking a fly in your house so you can get it back outside, and suddenly it disappears out of sight when you were SO CLOSE? It’s frustrating.
That’s how your dog feels when they’re chasing the laser pointer light, and it gets turned off. They are confused as to where the light went and frustrated that they were not able to “catch” it.
And without the satisfaction of having captured the light, their prey drive is still triggered with no resolution. That will cause them to seek resolution elsewhere – like on your favorite pair of shoes.
Dogs who are “teased” with a laser pointer may have higher rates of destructive behaviors, simply because they need to follow their impulses that were triggered.
3. OBSESSIVE BEHAVIORS
Aside from getting frustrated, your dog can also start to obsess over catching the light. “Where did it go? I must find it! Here it is! Can I catch it?!”
This can cause them to become obsessed with any and all forms of light, like sunbeams, television flashes, reflections, etc.
When their behavior becomes obsessive, it can really impact the quality of their life – and yours. They can develop severe stress and anxiety issues that affect all aspects of their lives.
ALTERNATIVES FOR LASER POINTERS FOR DOGS
So what can you do to engage your dog as much as a laser pointer would, without any of the harmful side effects?
The answer lies in stimulating that prey drive, but in a productive way that doesn’t pose safety or behavioral risks.
That could look a little different for each dog, but here are some suggestions:
1. FLIRT POLES
For those who are not familiar, look similar to fishing poles, with a toy attached to the end.
You can control the movement of the toy with the extendable pole, giving your dog the perfect opportunity to chase a moving and unpredictable target.
What makes flirt poles a better choice than laser pointers is that they do eventually get the satisfaction of catching the toy. But with the ability to attach different toys and change up the movement pattern, it doesn’t get old – win-win!
Flirt poles are also an excellent way to exercise your dog when the weather isn’t great. Get your hands on one before the cold winter months set in. !
2. TOYS ON A STRING
Another alternative, that’s similar to a flirt pole, is simply tying a string to one of your dog’s favorite toys.
You can make the string however long you want to customize the movement any way your dog likes. Then, once your dog has caught the toy, you can engage in some tugging to further stimulate their prey drive.
Not only is this another great option for bad weather, it’s great for when a person has a physical limitation preventing them from otherwise playing with the dog – you can play while sitting on the couch!
3. TUG TOYS
Tugging is another great way to play into a dog’s prey drive. You can read more about why dogs like to tug and the benefits of tugging play in .
While there is less of the chasing aspect involved here than with other laser pointer alternatives, dogs become really engaged with tugging and are often both physically and mentally satisfied afterwards.
Just make sure that the tug toy you select is durable yet safe for your dog’s mouth, like this .
4. PUZZLE TOYS
While this doesn’t involve as much physical activity as the other alternatives, puzzle toys are a great way to get your dog engaged by using their nose and brains.
Fill these toys with treats, peanut butter, yogurt, or any other goodie and watch your dog focus on trying to get every last bit out of the toy. They get the best of both worlds: moving the toy around (physical work) to find the reward and using their noses (mental work) to get treats.
You can make puzzle toys yourself using towels, cardboard, and other household materials. Not into DIY? You can also purchase them – we like this set of .
These activities are great to work into your dog’s routine, even if they have never been exposed to a laser pointer. That way you can work on keeping your dog’s prey drive sharp in a productive, safe way that will leave them physically and mentally stimulated.
What other games does your dog like to play? Tell us in the comments!