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My German Shepherd (2.5 Years old) is a bit obsessed with looking at lights/shadows.

The lights I am referring to are for example when my watch or phone reflects the sun light and shines a small dot of light around the wall/floor. She chases the light, which doesn’t bother me, but once it’s gone keeps standing looking for it. She stands there for a very long time.

She also is a bit fixated on people’s shadows. For example on the evenings when we move around and our shadows change and move she comes running over and stares at the floor watching them.

Recently she has taken to standing in places around the house staring at the floor or wall, whether the reflections are there or not. This happens almost every evening now. She spends the majority of the evenings staring like this, fixated.

How can we stop her from doing this? Any tips or advice to help would be appreciated as it’s a shame to watch her do this silly behaviour. We try to play with her or train her with treats, which does often help but she will still go back to staring later. And with kids etc I do not have the time to entertain her all evening as I have other things to take care of as well.

I would like to note that we try to minimise the light reflections as much as we can and we have never played with one of those laser pointers with her, as I am aware they can often start this kind f behaviour. We never used one with her. She seemed to just notice these things on her own.

  • my 1 year old (today!) border collies has started doing this and he’s breaking my heart. Did you ever get your GSD out of it? I try to engage and play with him - he’ll only come away half the time - and usually it’s not for long. – Terri May 21 at 16:13
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Sounds to me like your dog is bored, and so getting entertainment when she can. I would try getting new and different toys for your dog. Since you're busy, hopefully something that will keep her entertained even when you don't have time to pay attention. For example, food puzzle toys, of the type where you put food in, and the dog had to work a while to get it out.

Ultimately though, I don't see why chasing watch reflections and the like is a problem. Your dog thinks it's fun, and she's not destroying anything, or any other inappropriate behavior. You could go with the flow and get your dog an automated laser pointer toy. I suggest the automated one because it can move around even when you're too busy to play. It may even be that if you get your dog a toy laser pointer, she will stop paying such attention to light beams and shadows, because the laser pointer is probably more fun.

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If your GSD is sat doing nothing and sees something (in this case a light) move across the floor and chases it, this is natural, GSDs are naturally have high levels of prey drive.

If she is noticing these more it is because it is fun to chase. Which suggests she is not being engaged and entertained enough. GSDs need alot of engaging, they need to be very well exercised physically and mentally. This behaviour indicates that isnt what is happening or she isnt getting enough engagement/excercise and she is bored.

How can we stop her from doing this?Any tips or advice to help would be appreciated as it’s a shame to watch her do this silly behaviour. We try to play with her or train her with treats, which does often help but she will still go back to staring later. And with kids etc I do not have the time to entertain her all evening as I have other things to take care of as well.

Engage her, play with her, train her. Mix it up, use toys or rings instead of treats, tug and fetch, obedience work, tracking work etc. You need to be the source of her fun and not anything else so she will come to you to be entertained. What type of training do you do? Look at something different like bite work or something more demanding. Obedience and heel type training for half an hour wont cut it with GSDs.

This isn't silly behaviour, its boredom.

If you dont have time to entertain her i.e. work etc give her marrow bones or food puzzle toys like this. I found both of those god sends for my two GSDs.

Luckily she isn't actually doing anything bad, bored GSDs are often destructive ones so you're lucky she is actually focusing on light movements. Its not bad or silly behaviour she just wants to play.

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  • Thanks. I do clicker training for obedience and tricks, tug, fetch and hide and seek games where we hide her toys but I have been particularly busy lately as I recently had a baby. i will look for some new ways to engage her. – RDub Aug 22 '18 at 20:22
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As other answers already explained, your dog is bored out of her mind. She is developing compulsive behavior or has already developed it. You must stop this as soon as possible! What looks like silly behavior now might gradually develop to a state where you close all shutters and keep your dog in constant darkness because she gets so focused on any sparkle that she cannot relax, eat, defecate or sleep anymore as long as there is any shadow or light. This is not silly, it's dangerous for your dog's mental and physical health.

Please have look at this video. The dog is obsessed with his own shadow. He's highly agitated, stressed by the constant stimulation and probably has muscle and joint aches from his constant jumping. The woman finds it highly amusing and even animates the dog with her voice. What she actually does is torture.

To stop compulsive behavior:

  • Engage and entertain your dog. She will not play on her own, she needs you as a partner. (You might get the idea that a second dog would be a suitable play partner. It is not! The second dog will adopt her behavior rather that stop it)

  • DO NOT under any circumstance use a laser pointer toy or a flashlight to play with your dog.

  • If she fixates on a light or chases her shadow, immediately distract her with a different game or toy. Do not allow her to act out her compulsive behavior, but do not punish her for it either. Offer her an alternative that is more fun.

  • Desensitize her. Here's a video that explains how it's done.

Here's a list of useful information on how to desensitize and train your dog:

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