Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

#149 The Perils and Training of Laser Point Syndrome in Dogs: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

February 23, 2024 Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of Season 5 Episode 148
#149 The Perils and Training of Laser Point Syndrome in Dogs: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
#149 The Perils and Training of Laser Point Syndrome in Dogs: Dog Training Today with Will Bangura
Feb 23, 2024 Season 5 Episode 148
Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of

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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura. Have you ever witnessed the intense focus your furry friend has when chasing the beam of a laser pointer? It may seem innocuous at first, but as your guide Will Van Gura, I'm here to illuminate the dark side of this seemingly playful activity. Our latest episode confronts the reality of laser point syndrome in dogs, a condition where the line between fun and fixation blurs, leading to potential obsessive-compulsive disorders. Through a thoughtfully curated discussion, we navigate the steps to alleviate this condition, from eradicating triggers to implementing a strategic behavior modification plan. We delve into the subtleties of desensitizing your pup to the allure of laser lights, and the critical role of maintaining a serene environment throughout this process.

As we progress, our conversation turns to the art of laser pointer training, a technique that requires the utmost patience and positive reinforcement. By gradually increasing the brightness and introducing movement, we teach you how to help your dog associate the laser light with tranquility rather than an irresistible chase. Observing your dog's reactions and tuning the training to their needs is the key to success. For those dealing with more advanced stages of this syndrome, the chapter underscores when it's time to consult with a professional or a veterinary behaviorist. Whether you're a long-time dog owner or new to the canine world, this episode offers invaluable advice to ensure your dog's mental well-being, reminding us all that consistency is the bedrock of effective training. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura. Have you ever witnessed the intense focus your furry friend has when chasing the beam of a laser pointer? It may seem innocuous at first, but as your guide Will Van Gura, I'm here to illuminate the dark side of this seemingly playful activity. Our latest episode confronts the reality of laser point syndrome in dogs, a condition where the line between fun and fixation blurs, leading to potential obsessive-compulsive disorders. Through a thoughtfully curated discussion, we navigate the steps to alleviate this condition, from eradicating triggers to implementing a strategic behavior modification plan. We delve into the subtleties of desensitizing your pup to the allure of laser lights, and the critical role of maintaining a serene environment throughout this process.

As we progress, our conversation turns to the art of laser pointer training, a technique that requires the utmost patience and positive reinforcement. By gradually increasing the brightness and introducing movement, we teach you how to help your dog associate the laser light with tranquility rather than an irresistible chase. Observing your dog's reactions and tuning the training to their needs is the key to success. For those dealing with more advanced stages of this syndrome, the chapter underscores when it's time to consult with a professional or a veterinary behaviorist. Whether you're a long-time dog owner or new to the canine world, this episode offers invaluable advice to ensure your dog's mental well-being, reminding us all that consistency is the bedrock of effective training. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

Have you ever played with your dog using a laser pointer? Now, I'm not telling you to do that. I want you to avoid that at all costs. But you know what? Some people made the mistake of using a laser pointer with their dog. Or maybe they rescued or adopted a dog that has what we call laser point syndrome or laser point obsessive, compulsive behavior in dogs, because using a laser with your dog can drive them absolutely neurotic, absolutely insane. Don't go anywhere. We're going to be talking about how do you teach a dog to be relaxed and calm and no longer have an obsessive, compulsive behavior with laser lights, shadows and other reflections? Don't go anywhere. All of that in 60 seconds. Your expert will Van Gura.

Speaker 1:

Would you like to go on? Good day dog lovers. Hey, thanks for joining me. I'm Will Van Gura. You're joining me for another episode of dog training today. Hey, if you're not familiar with the dog training today podcast, make sure that you subscribe. Wherever you're listening to this podcast, and if you love what we do, please give us a five star review.

Speaker 1:

As I was talking in the opener, today's podcast is going to be discussing a problem that many folks have had with their dogs and that is laser point obsessive, compulsive behavior or syndrome. A laser pointer can drive a dog absolutely crazy and it can have lingering effects where, for a long period of time and in some cases forever, after you've spent a little time playing with your dog with a laser pointer Now they can never relax. Anytime they see a light, anytime they see a shadow, anytime they see a reflection, they start going crazy. They might start panting, they might start pacing, they might start lining or barking, they may become frantic, they could do other vocalization, they can even be aggressive. They can be trying to snap at, go after shadows, other reflections from other light from a chandelier, from a light reflecting on your watch and it can be a danger to the dog. They could run into objects and get hurt. They could run out the door and get hurt. It could also be dangerous for any person that's near the dog. When the dog is in that frantic state, if you try to intervene and stop it, the dog could have redirected aggression towards you. You see, because the problem with this is, despite tens of thousands of years of domestication and evolution with the domesticated dog, dogs still have this incredible prey drive and drive that relates to hunting, and for them to see something small moving quickly elicits that prey drive, that hunt drive elicits that chasing instinct. The problem is with this game there's no closure, there's no resolution. No matter how hard the dog tries, it can never get the dot. There's no way to capture it.

Speaker 1:

So let's talk about how we go about helping a dog that's absolutely obsessed absolutely obsessed with chasing shadows, reflections of light, a laser pointer and anything that is similar to that. The first thing that we need to do is, once we start the process and we say, hey, I'm committed to working on this, we need to stop what's working against us. We want to work really hard, but we need to work smart also. Imagine that you contacted me and the problem was not a dog that's obsessed with lasers or shadows or other reflections, but you had a broken water pipe. The first thing that I'm going to tell you to do is turn off the main water valve because there's nothing we can do. We can't begin the process of starting to fix the problem if everything's leaking out all over the place.

Speaker 1:

When it comes to your dog, when it comes to its obsessive, compulsive behavior with shadows, reflections, the laser. Turning off the water is avoiding all triggers such as reflections, shadows, other lights, lasers, so that your dog is not engaging in this behavior, that your dog is not continuing to rehearse this behavior, making it more and more ingrained, adding more and more to your dog's frustration and its obsessive, compulsive behavior. Now, that might mean we got to keep it dark in the house. We may have to close shades, drapes. If we've got reflections coming off of our cell phones or our watch, we may have to be mindful of that and adjust what we're doing so those things aren't projected out for the dog to become obsessive, compulsive about. What we need to do to fix the problem is now avoid all these triggers and set up a behavior modification training plan that is very controlled so that when these triggers occur, when they appear, we're controlling them in a way that we can manage this behavior, because the whole goal is exposure and desensitization. Get your dog to not care about it. Get your dog to have a calm, relaxed response when it does see these triggers.

Speaker 1:

Now there's a concept in training called trigger stacking. We need to take a second to talk about it. A trigger is anything that causes anxiety or stress to your dog. Imagine that you had a dog that had a fear of strangers. Anytime somebody, a guest, somebody new comes to the house, your dog is stressed and at the same time there are reflections or shadows. And now we've got two stressors stacked on top of each other and there can be other triggers. So, if you've got multiple triggers happening at the same time, very, very difficult to deal with. So in a training session, when we're exposing your dog to the trigger of the laser light, reflections, shadows, we need to make sure that we're controlling the situation and that also means that when we start, there's no other stressors, no other triggers in the environment.

Speaker 1:

Now we're going to need some tools to begin this process. One is we're going to need a really, really good laser pointer. What do I mean by that? We need a laser pointer that has variable brightness, and the more settings that we have to choose from on brightness on that laser pointer, the better. Because what we're going to do to begin with is we're going to project that laser light on the floor or on the wall at the lowest brightness, so as dim as it can be. It's going to be stationary, we're not going to move it around and we're going to start with your dog on leash at a very far distance from where the laser light dot is projected.

Speaker 1:

So you need to think about your setup. Is there a way in your home to create enough distance where you can have a very dim dot, laser point, projected at a wall or the floor and your dog notices it? But because it's so dim, because it's so far away and because it's not moving, your dog really doesn't care. There is no stress. That's what we're looking for, that's our starting point Creating enough distance where your dog doesn't care and bringing the brightness down so low that your dog doesn't care and keeping it stationary, not moving the dot that's being projected by the laser light so as not to excite your dog. We want to, at that distance, at that dim level to shine that dot stationary. And while we're doing that, shining that dot stationary for about three to five seconds, we're very calmly petting your dog, very calmly saying relax, relax. Now your dog needs to be relaxed.

Speaker 1:

If your dog's excitable, there's two things that we need to do to bring down that excitement, and that is either get the light dimmer if we don't have it as dim as it can be, and or create more distance. I guarantee you there is a distance. There is a distance for every dog where they can see the laser light and they're not going to care. We just have to find it. Some environments might require that we start to do this exercise outside, because we may need to have more distance than what we can create inside. You won't know until you try this.

Speaker 1:

What we don't want is to keep presenting the laser to a dog that's excitable. Every time we show the laser to the dog, it has to be in a calm state. We control the environment, we manipulate the stimuli and the factors to make that happen, and this is a slow, gradual process that takes weeks or months to really get permanence and reliability with your dog being calm. But the key is starting at a very safe distance with a very dim light that's not moving. So the training sessions are going to be about three to five minutes long. Again, training sessions are short, three to five minutes long. You need to try to do this two to three times a day and try to do this about five times a week. And the whole time you're doing this work you've got to make sure that in the dog's environment the dog's not experiencing shadows, reflections, other lights that are being projected that are triggering the dog.

Speaker 1:

The whole concept is, whenever the dog now sees those things, we're controlling them and we're doing it in such a way as to keep the dog calm, gradually, systematically, over weeks or months, that safe distance that the dog has between the very dim laser light and where the dog is. We're going to close that gap little by little, gradually, day by day, week by week If it's really challenging, month by month we're going to get that dog closer and closer and closer to that laser dot that's at its dimmest level. Each step of the way the dog has to remain calm and relaxed. If we take a step closer and the dog starts to get triggered, starts to get excited, that's feedback for us that lets us know hey, we went too close too soon. We need to slow things down. We're working faster than the dog's ability to be desensitized, so don't be in a hurry.

Speaker 1:

Patience is one of the greatest tools that you can have when it comes to doing this. Now you can reward your dog with food rewards high value food rewards when it remains calm, when it sees the stationary dot that's dim at a far distance. However, if when you feed your dog, your dog gets excited, then we don't want to do that. We need your dog calm. If you're praising and petting your dog for positive reinforcement and your dog gets excited, we don't want that. We want the dog calm. So where counter conditioning means pairing something very positive, positive reinforcement with a trigger if it gets your dog excited, we need to eliminate that and just do exposure, just do gradual, systematic desensitization. But if we compare positive reinforcement to the trigger and it keeps your dog calm or doesn't get your dog excited, we will do that as well, so that we can have counter conditioning and desensitization.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you need to learn more about counter conditioning and desensitization, go to my website, my other website at dogbehavioristcom. Go to the menu, look at articles. Find the article on counter conditioning and desensitization. It will teach you step by step how you do that. And counter conditioning and desensitization that's basically exposure therapy for dogs that have fears, anxieties, phobias, reactivity, aggression, obsessive, compulsive behavior. It's critical that you know how to implement counter conditioning and desensitization. So if you find that article on my website at dogbehavioristcom, if you go to the article section, look for the one on counter conditioning and desensitization. That's going to give you a ton of information. You can also scroll down to the bottom of the article and there's a think an hour and a half podcast, audio podcast that you can play to learn more about that as well.

Speaker 1:

Okay, let's assume we've done phase one. Phase one is hey, we've had this great distance. We've got a variable brightness laser light. We've turned it down to its lowest brightness setting. We projected a stationary dot on the wall or floor. The dog can see it at that distance and doesn't have a care in the world. The lights projected for about three to five seconds. The entire time the light is projected for three to five seconds. We're pairing positive reinforcement love, praise, affection, a treat with the presentation of that light. Then the laser gets turned off. When the laser gets turned off, we stop the positive reinforcement. If we're doing counter conditioning. If the dog's not getting excited, have a little pause for about 30 seconds and then repeat that process.

Speaker 1:

Don't be in a hurry to get the dog closer Again. This might take weeks. You may stay at one distance for two weeks. Then move a little closer. Stay there for two weeks. Move a little closer. Stay there for two weeks. Move a little closer. Stay there for a month. I don't know what that time is. Don't be in a hurry. Watch your dog for feedback. If your dog starts showing excitement, if your dog starts showing anxiety and stress, you're moving too close too soon. Back up, spend more time at the step before.

Speaker 1:

Now. Let's assume phase one. We've been able to get the dog all the way right up against that very dim stationary dot. We're projecting. We've closed the gap of distance, the dog's calm. What's our next step? Well, the next step is we're going to create that distance again and we're going to turn up the brightness on the laser pointer. We're still projecting just a single dot. We're not moving it. All we've done is made it a little brighter. But because we've changed criteria, because we've made it a little brighter, we're going to go back in our distance At that new level of brightness.

Speaker 1:

Gradually, systematically, slowly, over a period of time, weeks or months, we're going to bring the dog closer and closer and closer and closer. Pairing positive reinforcement. Again, project the light, all the lights projected, for three to five seconds. Calm, positive reinforcement. Then stop projecting the light, take a few seconds break, repeat that process. The sessions need to be about three to five minutes. Doing that about five times a week, hopefully two to three times a day. Now, once you've increased the brightness, add a distance again and you've slowly and gradually got the dog relaxed and comfortable in close proximity to the brighter light. We keep repeating that process until we've got it at the brightest light possible. So, if we've got 10 settings, we're going to gradually and systematically do counter-conditioning and desensitization to each of those settings and every time we increase the setting we add distance and rework the counter-conditioning and desensitization.

Speaker 1:

Now, once we've gotten distance, once we've gotten brightness, the next thing we need to work on is movement. What do you think we're going to do? We're going to turn the brightness down to its dimmest level. We're going to add the distance, put the distance back again and at the lowest dimmest level, at the farthest distance. Now we're going to begin doing very slow, short movement of the dot of the laser pointer and we're going to very slowly make short movements for about three to five seconds the entire time. We're pairing positive reinforcement, giving love, praise, affection, maybe treats to your dog, as long as your dog remains calm. If your dog gets excited when we're moving the laser around slowly and only moving at a short distance, that's feedback. Your dog's not ready for that. Either we need more distance, we need to bring the brightness down, or we need to do less movement.

Speaker 1:

Looking at your dog's demeanor, its body language, making sure your dog's calm, it's relaxed, not fixated. Little by little we are going to, at that distance, build up how fast we're moving the laser light when we can move it really fast at its lowest dimmest, setting at that farthest distance. Now we're going to go up in brightness one setting and we are going to, at that distance, work on movement at that distance. Then we're going to keep going up in brightness at the far distance and we're going to keep working on movement until we can have, at the far distance, the brightest light with very, very fast movement, once your dog is calm and relaxed. Now it's about taking that fast movement that the dog can handle. It's about taking that bright light that the dog can handle and now closing the distance gradually, systematically.

Speaker 1:

The key is patience. There's always a way to decrease stimulation. If, during this process, your dog gets overstimulated, think about what can I do to calm the dog down? Do I need to bring my brightness down? Do I need to add more distance between the dog and the laser pointer? Do I need to decrease the speed of my movement? Do I need to do a combination of all of that, slice by slice, little by little, gradually, systematically, over a period of weeks, over a period of months, perhaps you can help your dog to be calm and to be relaxed. But it takes patience on your part, it takes consistency on your part, it takes repetition on your part and avoiding triggers and controlling the environment to avoid those triggers. When you're not doing a training session Now, in very, very severe cases you may need to get help from a professional.

Speaker 1:

You may need to hire somebody like myself, a certified behavior consultant. You may need to, if your dog is injuring themselves, see a veterinary behaviorist. In some very severe cases, some dogs may need some medication, either short term or long term, along with training and behavior modification. That's for a veterinary behaviorist to decide. Now, practice, practice. Practice makes Not perfect. Practice makes permanence. Do me a favor if you love what we do, give us a thumbs up, give us a five star review. Please tell your friends, your families, to subscribe. Check out my website, dogbehavioristcom. I've got over 85 articles on various behavior problems. Have a great day, everybody. I'm out of here.

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