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Can Dogs Play With Laser Pointers? Vet-Approved Concerns & Alternatives

Kerry-Ann Kerr Profile Picture

By Kerry-Ann Kerr

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Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Laser pointers can be a source of fun and exercise for cats, which might have you wondering if they’re safe to use with your dog. Unfortunately, laser pointers ARE NOT suitable for all dogs. Some dogs may safely enjoy the stimulation of a laser chase, but for others, they can become a source for frustration, anxiety, and long term behavioral issues.Let’s look at why that is, and what you can use instead since laser pointers aren’t suitable.

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Problems With Laser Pointers

Your dog might fall into the category that enjoys playing with laser pointers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. There are other toys and activities that are much safer and equally fun. But first, let’s look at the potential risks of playing with laser pointers.

Doting dog owner comforts her Scotty while the vet gives it a shot
Image Credit: Lisa F. Young, Shutterstock

1. Eye Injuries

You’re probably familiar with the rule not to point laser pointers at people’s faces, and the same rule applies to your dog, or any animal. Not only could this highly concentrated beam of light potentially harm your pet’s vision, but it could also disorientate them. Even if you’re incredibly careful, dogs are fast, and you could accidentally shine the light in their eyes as they’re playing.

2. Frustration and Anxiety

Common behaviors like light chasing can be classified as compulsive, and dogs with herding, tracking, or hunting tendencies are susceptible to developing a light obsession. Playing with a laser pointer will stimulate their innate prey drive like a ball. However, there’s a chance they can catch a ball, but there’s no reward after chasing a light.

This can result in obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and dogs that obsess over lights can then react to other light sources, shadows, or reflections.

These effects have even been seen in cats 1, but to a lesser degree.

brown dog scared
Image Credit: Patrick H, Shutterstock

3. Destructive Behaviors

If your dog is particularly frustrated by the light disappearing, they might attack the last place it was before you turn it off. This could cause damage to walls, floors, or furniture. Your dog might even harm themselves in pursuit of that little dot of light.

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Alternatives to Laser Pointers

Some owners use laser pointers because they get their dogs moving and provide mental stimulation, but there are safer alternatives. Anything your dog can catch, chew, touch, feel, and smell is better than the red dot.

Toys like balls, squeaker toys, and ropes allow your dog to give into their natural behaviors, like chasing, catching, and chewing to their heart’s content. They also put you and your dog in a good mood, so they’re wonderful ways to bond with that special dog in your life. You can even branch out for puzzle toys, which will keep their mind active and will tire them out.

beagle puppy chewing spiky ball dog toy indoor
Image Credit: tetiana_u, Shutterstock

When you picture teaser toys (fishing pole style), you might think they’re only for cats, but you’d be wrong! Flirt poles and teaser wands are great for dogs too! They can give your dog a similar experience of the fast darting prey that a laser provides, but with a tangible target to chase and catch.

If weather, or other circumstances, have limited you to indoor activities, placing toys and treats around the home for your dog to find is a great way to get them moving and exploring. Don’t hide them or make them difficult to find however, as this may encourage your dog to dig and destroy objects to find more! Just placing a favorite toy or a treat on the other side of a sofa or in an upstairs room can be enough to give your dog a sense of exploration and enrichment.

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Final Thoughts

It might seem like fun playing with a laser pointer and watching your dog zoom around to catch that elusive red dot. But you might have been unwittingly causing your dog to feel frustrated and anxious, which is obviously the opposite of what you want when you’re playing. Laser pointers also have the potential to be dangerous and damage your dog’s eyes. Thankfully, there are much safer alternatives that are equally fun!

Featured Image Credit: TeamDAF, Shutterstock

Kerry-Ann Kerr Profile Picture

Authored by

Kerry-Ann lives in Scotland and wishes her garden was bigger so she could have her very own Highland cow but thinks her dogs probably wouldn’t like that idea very much. She has a La Chon called Harry who was poorly with a liver shunt when he was a puppy. It wasn't likely he would make it into adulthood, which was difficult to comprehend, but he beat the odds and is a healthy old man now. She also has a Pug called Maddie...Read more

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