Animals & Money: Buy a better 'laser beam' for your dog (or cat)

The laser pointer is the lazy dog owner's best friend. With a small flick of your wrist, you can send your dog happily chasing after a little red dot, excitedly in a pursuit that never ends. The dot itself never gets covered with slobber or mud, gets lost under the couch, breaks or breaks anything, which puts it ahead of most dog toys. The pet store variety are weak and expensive for how pathetic they are. But there are a few better laser options out there.

I'm not really sure what the actual original purpose of the mass market laser pointer was. Was there a time in pre-PowerPoint offices where anyone needed to point things out on a distant chart in a dark room? I can guarantee that if you tried that in an office today you would not make a favorable impression with your tech prowess. Many years ago someone discovered they entertain cats. Then someone else figured out the same prey drive makes the lasers enchanting to dogs, too.

Somebody brought a laser pointer to my dog run one night many years ago and my dog Jolly and I have been hooked ever since. When he was younger he would be part of a pack of dogs anxiously chasing the dot for 100 feet at a time. Now that he's older the dot is the perfect motivator for going for a walk or climbing the stairs.But the standard pet store laser pointer only works in the day because the light is so dim. In laser pointer terms they are only one or two 2 milliWatts (mW) (More milliWatts is brighter). They also come with low power watch batteries that are a hassle to replace. The common laser pointers released radiation of 650 nm (nanometter). I have no idea what this means, but this guy does. All I know is, you want a lower nm number so you can see it better.

Why is laser power important? Because if you're using your laser to motivate your dog to cross the street before the light changes, you want one that is visible during the day. Also, older dogs don't see as good. And finally, the bright ones are really cool and in a dog run situation, you can get the dogs running like crazy. So, it's totally worth it.

The problem with the higher powered lasers are that they are expensive (like $50 to $150 for a 5mw and $240 for a 50mw) and there's some question of whether the really high powered ones are totally legal in civilian hands. In May Australia banned the import of all laser pointers over 1mW.

The easy option turns out to be ebay, where you can import a decent 5mw green laser that uses AAA batteries from Hong Kong for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20. I couldn't help but notice even higher powered lasers there for pretty cheap, too. My dog Jolly loves his red and green dots now. The powerful laser was about the best toy I ever got him.

A couple other things you should know about laser pointers
  • Don't point them at your eye, the FDA warns, for obvious reasons.
  • You would think that dogs would not fight over a non-physical object like a laser dot, but you would be wrong. It's as if they feel like if the dot has escaped them for so long they last thing they'd want is for another dog to catch it. So if you have a group you may have to herd the dogs to run in separate directions.
  • Not all dogs are into the dot. Some just don't seem to see it or care.
  • Your dog may become obsessed with the dot and start reacting even to reflections. If so, time for a break.
Read Full Story