Saturday, July 28, 2012

Can Lasers Make Your Dog Loopy?

Via Fox News - When a wiggly little bead of light catches a dog's eye, nothing in the world matters more than capturing it. Unfortunately, it is just an ungraspable bundle of massless photons. The lack of closure in laser-beam chasing could be messing with your dog's head.

Dogs instinctively chase these bright-red dots simply because the dots move, said Nicholas Dodman, a professor of animal behavior at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Movement automatically stimulates their innate prey drive, which explains why lower-on-the-food-chain animals such as rodents and rabbits often freeze in place as a survival strategy.

 A laser beam's incessant movement keys into this predatory system. "They can't help themselves; they are obliged to chase it," Dodman told Life's Little Mysteries.

But should you really be stimulating your dog's prey drive when it won't ever lead to triumph — the catching of light? It’s probably not such a good idea.

 "They can get so wound up and driven with prey drive that once they start chasing the light they can't stop. It becomes a behavior problem," Dodman said. "I've seen light chasing as a pathology where they will just constantly chase around a light or shadow and pounce upon it. They just spend their whole lives wishing and waiting. "

Never getting a reward for their vigilance "makes dogs loopy," he explained. Along the same lines, trainers of bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs have found that their dogs become psychologically disturbed if they never find bombs or drugs, so they must occasionally be taken on dummy missions.

If you insist on dancing a laser beam across the floor, one option is to hide treats in nooks and crannies around the room, and occasionally surprise your pet by landing the light upon them.

Written by Natalie Wolchover/Life’s Little Mysteries
Image via


  1. I never used a lazer with Gretel. She insists on chasing every bit of light she sees though....bouncing of the cell phone or camera, sunlight on the ground through moving trees, etc. I never knew about them getting frustrated that they can never fulfill their prey drive when they chase a light. Since the things they chase are inadvertent or natural things though I don't know how I could "hide treats" to help satisfy them.

  2. I saw someone tweet this and had to come have a read. Our first dog (a beagle) got addicted to the laser light when a stranger brought one to the park. His dog couldn't have cared less, but our dog went nuts! We had to get one so she'd leave him alone. She chased the laser 3 X/day every day of her life. It was great exercise, but I don't think we made her crazy with it. She understood when the game was over and she never chased other lights/reflections. Unfortunately, we tried it on our next pup, and I think we did make her a little nutty. She was crazy for all things reflective and shiny! You have no idea how many things in your kitchen cause a reflection on the ceiling until you have a crazy light chasing dog! Our latest pup has never seen a laser light - and hopefully she never will! I still have a tendency to hunch over my pots and pans while I cook, trying to keep reflections from bouncing off the ceiling - and then I remember, Oh yeah, Rita doesn't care!

    Interesting post!