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February 23, 2024 25 mins

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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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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Have you ever played with your dog using a laser
Now, I'm not telling you to dothat.
I want you to avoid that at allcosts.
But you know what?
Some people made the mistake ofusing a laser pointer with
their dog.
Or maybe they rescued oradopted a dog that has what we

call laser point syndrome orlaser point obsessive,
compulsive behavior in dogs,because using a laser with your
dog can drive them absolutelyneurotic, absolutely insane.
Don't go anywhere.

We're going to be talking abouthow do you teach a dog to be
relaxed and calm and no longerhave 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.

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 anotherepisode of dog training today.
Hey, if you're not familiarwith the dog training today
podcast, make sure that yousubscribe.

Wherever you're listening tothis podcast, and if you love
what we do, please give us afive star review.
As I was talking in the opener,today's podcast is going to be
discussing a problem that manyfolks have had with their dogs
and that is laser pointobsessive, compulsive behavior

or syndrome.
A laser pointer can drive a dogabsolutely crazy and it can
have lingering effects where,for a long period of time and in
some cases forever, afteryou've spent a little time
playing with your dog with alaser pointer Now they can never

Anytime they see a light,anytime they see a shadow,
anytime they see a reflection,they start going crazy.
They might start panting, theymight start pacing, they might
start lining or barking, theymay become frantic, they could
do other vocalization, they caneven be aggressive.

They can be trying to snap at,go after shadows, other
reflections from other lightfrom a chandelier, from a light
reflecting on your watch and itcan be a danger to the dog.
They could run into objects andget hurt.
They could run out the door andget hurt.

It could also be dangerous forany person that's near the dog.
When the dog is in that franticstate, if you try to intervene
and stop it, the dog could haveredirected aggression towards
You see, because the problemwith this is, despite tens of

thousands of years ofdomestication and evolution with
the domesticated dog, dogsstill have this incredible prey
drive and drive that relates tohunting, and for them to see
something small moving quicklyelicits that prey drive, that

hunt drive elicits that chasinginstinct.
The problem is with this gamethere's no closure, there's no
No matter how hard the dogtries, it can never get the dot.
There's no way to capture it.

So let's talk about how we goabout helping a dog that's
absolutely obsessed absolutelyobsessed with chasing shadows,
reflections of light, a laserpointer and anything that is
similar to that.
The first thing that we need todo is, once we start the

process and we say, hey, I'mcommitted to working on this, we
need to stop what's workingagainst us.
We want to work really hard,but we need to work smart also.
Imagine that you contacted meand the problem was not a dog

that's obsessed with lasers orshadows or other reflections,
but you had a broken water pipe.
The first thing that I'm goingto tell you to do is turn off
the main water valve becausethere's nothing we can do.
We can't begin the process ofstarting to fix the problem if

everything's leaking out allover the place.
When it comes to your dog, whenit comes to its obsessive,
compulsive behavior with shadows, reflections, the laser.
Turning off the water isavoiding all triggers such as

reflections, shadows, otherlights, lasers, so that your dog
is not engaging in thisbehavior, that your dog is not
continuing to rehearse thisbehavior, making it more and
more ingrained, adding more andmore to your dog's frustration
and its obsessive, compulsivebehavior.

Now, that might mean we got tokeep it dark in the house.
We may have to close shades,drapes.
If we've got reflections comingoff of our cell phones or our
watch, we may have to be mindfulof that and adjust what we're
doing so those things aren'tprojected out for the dog to

become obsessive, compulsiveabout.
What we need to do to fix theproblem is now avoid all these
triggers and set up a behaviormodification training plan that
is very controlled so that whenthese triggers occur, when they
appear, we're controlling themin a way that we can manage this

behavior, because the wholegoal is exposure and
Get your dog to not care aboutit.
Get your dog to have a calm,relaxed response when it does
see these triggers.
Now there's a concept intraining called trigger stacking

We need to take a second totalk about it.
A trigger is anything thatcauses anxiety or stress to your
Imagine that you had a dog thathad a fear of strangers.
Anytime somebody, a guest,somebody new comes to the house,
your dog is stressed and at thesame time there are reflections

or shadows.
And now we've got two stressorsstacked on top of each other
and there can be other triggers.
So, if you've got multipletriggers happening at the same
time, very, very difficult todeal with.
So in a training session, whenwe're exposing your dog to the

trigger of the laser light,reflections, shadows, we need to
make sure that we'recontrolling the situation and
that also means that when westart, there's no other
stressors, no other triggers inthe environment.

Now we're going to need sometools to begin this process.
One is we're going to need areally, really good laser
What do I mean by that?
We need a laser pointer thathas variable brightness, and the
more settings that we have tochoose from on brightness on

that laser pointer, the better.
Because what we're going to doto begin with is we're going to
project that laser light on thefloor or on the wall at the
lowest brightness, so as dim asit can be.
It's going to be stationary,we're not going to move it

around and we're going to startwith your dog on leash at a very
far distance from where thelaser light dot is projected.
So you need to think about yoursetup.
Is there a way in your home tocreate enough distance where you

can have a very dim dot, laserpoint, projected at a wall or
the floor and your dog noticesit?
But because it's so dim,because it's so far away and
because it's not moving, yourdog really doesn't care.
There is no stress.
That's what we're looking for,that's our starting point

Creating enough distance whereyour dog doesn't care and
bringing the brightness down solow that your dog doesn't care
and keeping it stationary, notmoving the dot that's being
projected by the laser light soas 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 berelaxed.
If your dog's excitable, there'stwo 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 asdim as it can be, and or create
more distance.
I guarantee you there is adistance.

There is a distance for everydog where they can see the laser
light and they're not going tocare.
We just have to find it.
Some environments might requirethat we start to do this
exercise outside, because we mayneed to have more distance than

what we can create inside.
You won't know until you trythis.
What we don't want is to keeppresenting the laser to a dog
that's excitable.
Every time we show the laser tothe dog, it has to be in a calm
We control the environment, wemanipulate the stimuli and the

factors to make that happen, andthis is a slow, gradual process
that takes weeks or months toreally get permanence and
reliability with your dog beingcalm.
But the key is starting at avery safe distance with a very
dim light that's not moving.

So the training sessions aregoing to be about three to five
minutes long.
Again, training sessions areshort, three to five minutes
You need to try to do this twoto three times a day and try to
do this about five times a week.
And the whole time you're doingthis work you've got to make

sure that in the dog'senvironment the dog's not
experiencing shadows,reflections, other lights that
are being projected that aretriggering the dog.
The whole concept is, wheneverthe dog now sees those things,
we're controlling them and we'redoing it in such a way as to

keep the dog calm, gradually,systematically, over weeks or
months, that safe distance thatthe dog has between the very dim
laser light and where the dogis.
We're going to close that gaplittle by little, gradually, day

by day, week by week If it'sreally challenging, month by
month we're going to get thatdog closer and closer and closer
to that laser dot that's at itsdimmest level.
Each step of the way the doghas to remain calm and relaxed.
If we take a step closer andthe dog starts to get triggered,

starts to get excited, that'sfeedback for us that lets us
know hey, we went too close toosoon.
We need to slow things down.
We're working faster than thedog's ability to be desensitized
, so don't be in a hurry.

Patience is one of the greatesttools that you can have when it
comes to doing this.
Now you can reward your dogwith food rewards high value
food rewards when it remainscalm, when it sees the
stationary dot that's dim at afar distance.
However, if when you feed yourdog, your dog gets excited, then

we don't want to do that.
We need your dog calm.
If you're praising and pettingyour dog for positive
reinforcement and your dog getsexcited, we don't want that.
We want the dog calm.
So where counter conditioningmeans pairing something very
positive, positive reinforcementwith a trigger if it gets your

dog excited, we need toeliminate that and just do
exposure, just do gradual,systematic desensitization.
But if we compare positivereinforcement to the trigger and
it keeps your dog calm ordoesn't get your dog excited, we
will do that as well, so thatwe can have counter conditioning

and desensitization.
Now, if you need to learn moreabout counter conditioning and
desensitization, go to mywebsite, my other website at
Go to the menu, look atarticles.
Find the article on counterconditioning and desensitization
It will teach you step by stephow you do that.

And counter conditioning anddesensitization that's basically
exposure therapy for dogs thathave fears, anxieties, phobias,
reactivity, aggression,obsessive, compulsive behavior.
It's critical that you know howto implement counter
conditioning and desensitization.

So if you find that article onmy website at dogbehavioristcom,
if you go to the articlesection, look for the one on
counter conditioning anddesensitization.
That's going to give you a tonof information.
You can also scroll down to thebottom of the article and
there's a think an hour and ahalf podcast, audio podcast that

you can play to learn moreabout that as well.
Okay, let's assume we've donephase one.
Phase one is hey, we've hadthis great distance.
We've got a variable brightnesslaser light.
We've turned it down to itslowest brightness setting.
We projected a stationary doton the wall or floor.

The dog can see it at thatdistance and doesn't have a care
in the world.
The lights projected for aboutthree to five seconds.
The entire time the light isprojected for three to five
We're pairing positivereinforcement love, praise,
affection, a treat with thepresentation of that light.

Then the laser gets turned off.
When the laser gets turned off,we stop the positive
If we're doing counterconditioning.
If the dog's not gettingexcited, have a little pause for
about 30 seconds and thenrepeat that process.

Don't be in a hurry to get thedog closer Again.
This might take weeks.
You may stay at one distancefor 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 showingexcitement, if your dog starts
showing anxiety and stress,you're moving too close too soon
Back up, spend more time at thestep before.
Let's assume phase one.
We've been able to get the dogall the way right up against

that very dim stationary dot.
We're projecting.
We've closed the gap ofdistance, the dog's calm.
What's our next step?
Well, the next step is we'regoing to create that distance
again and we're going to turn upthe brightness on the laser

We're still projecting just asingle dot.
We're not moving it.
All we've done is made it alittle brighter.
But because we've changedcriteria, because we've made it
a little brighter, we're goingto go back in our distance At
that new level of brightness.
Gradually, systematically,slowly, over a period of time,

weeks or months, we're going tobring the dog closer and closer
and closer and closer.
Pairing positive reinforcement.
Again, project the light, allthe 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 aboutthree to five minutes.
Doing that about five times aweek, hopefully two to three
times a day.
Now, once you've increased thebrightness, add a distance again
and you've slowly and graduallygot the dog relaxed and

comfortable in close proximityto the brighter light.
We keep repeating that processuntil we've got it at the
brightest light possible.
So, if we've got 10 settings,we're going to gradually and
systematically docounter-conditioning and
desensitization to each of thosesettings and every time we

increase the setting we adddistance and rework the
counter-conditioning anddesensitization.
Now, once we've gotten distance,once we've gotten brightness,
the next thing we need to workon is movement.
What do you think we're goingto do?
We're going to turn thebrightness down to its dimmest

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 doingvery slow, short movement of the

dot of the laser pointer andwe're going to very slowly make
short movements for about threeto five seconds the entire time.
We're pairing positivereinforcement, giving love,
praise, affection, maybe treatsto your dog, as long as your dog
remains calm.

If your dog gets excited whenwe're moving the laser around
slowly and only moving at ashort 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 lessmovement.

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 goingto, at that distance, build up
how fast we're moving the laserlight when we can move it really

fast at its lowest dimmest,setting at that farthest
Now we're going to go up inbrightness one setting and we
are going to, at that distance,work on movement at that
Then we're going to keep goingup in brightness at the far

distance and we're going to keepworking on movement until we
can have, at the far distance,the brightest light with very,
very fast movement, once yourdog is calm and relaxed.
Now it's about taking that fastmovement that the dog can
It's about taking that brightlight that the dog can handle

and now closing the distancegradually, systematically.
The key is patience.
There's always a way todecrease stimulation.
If, during this process, yourdog gets overstimulated, think

about what can I do to calm thedog down?
Do I need to bring mybrightness down?
Do I need to add more distancebetween the dog and the laser
Do I need to decrease the speedof my movement?
Do I need to do a combinationof 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 yourpart, it takes consistency on
your part, it takes repetitionon your part and avoiding

triggers and controlling theenvironment to avoid those
When you're not doing atraining session Now, in very,
very severe cases you may needto get help from a professional.
You may need to hire somebodylike myself, a certified
behavior consultant.
You may need to, if your dog isinjuring themselves, see a

veterinary behaviorist.
In some very severe cases, somedogs may need some medication,
either short term or long term,along with training and behavior
That's for a veterinarybehaviorist to decide.
Now, practice, practice.

Practice makes Not perfect.
Practice makes permanence.
Do me a favor if you love whatwe do, give us a thumbs up, give
us a five star review.
Please tell your friends, yourfamilies, to subscribe.
Check out my website,dogbehavioristcom.
I've got over 85 articles onvarious behavior problems.

Have a great day, everybody.
I'm out of here.
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