Are Laser Pointers Safe for Your Puppy Dog

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Are Laser Pointers Safe for Your Puppy Dog

by Aidan Bindoff



Are laser pointers safe to use with dogs for training or play? Some dogs have developed serious "obsessive-compulsive" type behaviors (known as a "stereotypie") when allowed to chase the dot from a laser pointer, yet others do not develop these behaviors. So how do we know if our dog is at risk of developing a stereotypie when exposed to a laser pointer, and is the light dangerous to our dog's eyes?

Some breeds seem to have a greater tendency to develop abnormal behavior when exposed to a laser pointer, but these breeds are also popular as Service Dogs and many have been trained to 'target' a laser dot in their work without developing abnormal behaviors. So, while some people say that certain breeds should not be allowed to play with laser dots, that does not mean that your particular dog of this breed will develop a stereotypie. Conversely, it does not mean that just because you don't have a dog of one of these breeds your dog is safe, either.

Some signs that a stereotypie may be developing are:

- pawing or scratching at the area/s where the dot was last seen for more than 1 minute after the dot has gone

- patrolling the area/s where the dot was last seen more than 1 minute earlier

- repeatedly returning to the area/s where the dot has been seen for no apparent reason other than to chase the dot again

- developing strong chasing behaviors for other light or shadow sources

If your dog displays any of the above signs then it is time to stop using the laser pointer as your dog is at risk of developing a serious behavioral problem. You should consult an experienced animal behaviorist if using a laser pointer is important to any of your training goals.

It is strongly recommended that you do not use the laser pointer to play games with your dog. Nearly every dog will enjoy chasing the laser dot, but it is not worth the risk. There are safer games to play, and dogs who enjoy chasing laser dots will probably be just as happy to chase a ball or play tug.

If you are training your dog to 'target' a laser dot, then approach training with the aim of minimising chasing behavior. Introduce movement slowly, and be mindful that you are teaching your dog to 'target' using some specific behavior that you have defined and trained. I suspect the risk of a stereotypie developing is minimised when training is approached in this manner.

Treatment for obsessive light or shadow chasing should be performed under the guidance of a veterinary behaviorist. Medications are available which may be effective. Do not under any circumstances attempt to punish obsessive light or shadow chasing.

Is the light from a laser pointer safe for a dog's eyes? Generally, the light emitted from a laser pointer is very weak and will probably only cause temporary dazzling if pointed directly into a dog's eye by accident. Prolonged or repeated exposure could be harmful and should be avoided.

Aidan Bindoff is Editor of http://www.PositivePetzine.com, a free ezine for people training their own dogs. Each edition has easy to use training advice based on positive reinforcement methods. Subscribers have access to a large archive of back-issues they can consult for just about any behavior or behavior problem.

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