Get to the Point of Laser toys

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THERE IT IS!… Where did it go? Oh, it’s there! NO. I need to get it. I can’t get to the laser light!

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Trainer and Cynologist (revised from original 8-1-2012)

Does this sound frustrating? You worry or stress over what is not in your control. There can be many ‘particular somethings’ in humans’ lives that cause us to overstress. That particular something that seems to be permanently out of reach can cause desperation to set in. Many of us have coping mechanisms such as talking to our friends or exercising. Perhaps one way of coping with a stressful situation would be maintaining a routine. This routine could be helpful, but what if that person couldn’t function without this routine?

There is a label for a person that has that type of disorder. For humans, we call it Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Believe it or not, there is a disorder in dogs that is very similar called Canine Compulsive Disorder. Dogs with CCD are overly stressed and can also create a routine to cope with that stress. Activities that could be connected to CCD are spinning, tail chasing/biting, excessive licking, excessive chewing on toenails, or excessive obsession with lights or shadows. Let’s focus on the obsession with lights or shadows.

Dogs with high prey drive may be prone to becoming hyper-focused

Dogs with a high prey drive may be prone to becoming hyper-focused on lights or shadows. This could include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, or German Shepherds. However, this affliction certainly is not limited to these breeds. Some of this obsession could be pre-determined through particular genes but can be excelled by environmental factors. Using flashlights or laser pointers for entertainment or exercise for your dog can excel a dog with high prey drive into possibly developing CCD. Before you say, not my dog! Would you even risk playing with the laser pointer or flashlight if you thought it could cause permanent damage? According to Sam the Dog Trainer, endless anxiety and inability to relax could be possible. Dogs run in circles, frantically trying to find the light, and when the light leaves, it is the ultimate letdown. Dogs continue to try to find the light even after the “game” has ceased. Many dogs then refocus their attention to any light or shadow within the house. This can become destructive with the dogs digging at the carpet, walls or chewing through couches to find this small, elusive dot. Is there any relief?

 Provide a strong foundation of obedience

Prevention is the best way to avoid light/shadow obsession. Providing a solid foundation of obedience, using a balanced training method, followed by using commands to desensitize the dog to the laser, can successfully reduce a dog’s compulsions. Behavioral medicine frequently used by humans, such as Prozac, can help treat this disorder with great success. Refocusing your dog’s attention can also help minimize the disorder. Using basic obedience commands in an unpredictable progression can help keep your dog on his toes and refocus his attention back to you. Purchasing multiple toys with different shapes, functions, and textures will help diversify your dog’s interest.

Most trainers will advise never to use laser pointers or flashlights with your dog. It may seem like fun, or it may seem like an easy way to exercise your dog, but it isn’t worth the psychological damage it causes in most dogs. I recently posted this issue on a couple of reputable dog trainer forums that I frequent online. There was story after story of laser pointer-induced Canine Compulsive Disorder, So what’s the point?

Do not use laser pointers!

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