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Ever seen someone use a laser pointer to play with their dog? Many owners think it’s funny to watch their dog chase that little red dot of light, and they think it’s a bonus to burn off some of their dog’s energy.

Unfortunately, a game of laser pointer chase can be very dispiriting for a dog and can lead to behavioral problems.

Why Laser Pointers Are Frustrating for Dogs

The movement of a laser pointer triggers a dog’s prey drive, which means they want to chase it. It’s an unending game with no closure for the dog since they can’t ever catch that beam of light, like they can when chasing a toy or food.

Many dogs continue looking for the light beam after the laser pointer has been put away; this is confusing for your dog because the prey has simply disappeared. This can create obsessive compulsive behaviors like frantically looking around for the light, staring at the last location they saw the light, and becoming reactive to flashes of light (such as your watch face catching the sunlight and reflecting on the wall, or the glare of your tablet screen on the floor). Dogs that exhibit these behavioral issues are often frustrated, confused, and anxious.

Beagle puppy in a woman's lap.
©Pixel-Shot -

Other Activities to Try

If your dog loves to chase but you don’t always have the energy to run around with a toy, try a flirt pole. A flirt pole is like a fishing rod and has a rigid stick section with a string or rope attached to the end. Commercially-made flirt poles are sold at pet supply stores, but horse lunge whips also work well.

You can tie a toy to the end of the rope. Then, drag it around for your dog to chase and tug with, once they’ve caught it. The advantage of the rigid section is that you can fling the toy around without having to move much yourself. You can even sit in your recliner!

If your dog loves to chase a toy on a flirt pole, then give your dog the ultimate chance to exercise their prey drive at a Coursing Ability Test (CAT). This sport involves dogs chasing a “lure” – usually a white trash bag – attached to line set up around a field.  This line is controlled by a pulley system that moves the bag around the field. Dogs give chase and have a great time.

Related article: Tips for Getting Started in Dog Agility
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