Zoomies in dogs
If your dog bursts into a frenzied sprint around the house or yard, runs in circles or chases his tail, how should you react? Is it him having a funny little moment or should you be worried?
This unusual behavior, known as the ‘zoomies’, is often a mystery to dog owners. What exactly causes dogs to engage in this wild display of energy?
Let’s delve into the mystery behind zoomies, uncover the reasons why dogs behave this way and what we should do about it.
What are zoomies in dogs?
The zoomies are those times when your dog darts around at high speed, often in circles, zigzags or figure eights. It's as if they are possessed by an uncontrollable burst of energy. These episodes can last from a few seconds to several minutes and typically end as abruptly as they began.
Also known as FRAP (Frenetic Random Activity Periods), zoomies are most commonly seen in young dogs but can occur in dogs of any age. These bursts of energy are often linked to an excess of pent-up energy, excitement or a release of stress.
Some experts believe that zoomies could also be a way for dogs to communicate and socialize or as a form of self-expression or playfulness.
Types of zoomies
Dogs may exhibit different types of zoomies based on their individual breeds or personalities. Some common types of zoomies that you may observe in your dog are:
- Circling zoomies: Your dog runs in circles, often with increasing speed and intensity. Circling zoomies are often seen in dogs with high prey drive or herding instincts.
- Bouncing zoomies: Your dog leaps into the air and bounces around with joy. It is often seen in highly energetic and playful dogs. Bouncing zoomies can be triggered by excitement, the presence of toys, or during play sessions with other dogs or humans.
- Figure-eight zoomies: Your dog runs in a figure of eight pattern, often with quick turns and changes in direction. This is typically seen in dogs with a high level of agility and athleticism. Figure-eight zoomies can be triggered by a burst of energy or during stimulating activities such as fetch or agility training.
- Chase zoomies: Your dog engages in a game of chase, either with you, other dogs, or imaginary prey. Often seen in dogs with a strong prey drive or a natural instinct to chase, this type of zoomies can be triggered by the presence of running animals, the sight of moving objects, or during play sessions that involve chasing games.
When do dogs have a zoomie?
In many dogs, zoomies occur first thing in the morning and first thing in the afternoon. In more playful puppies and younger dogs, they are more common because younger dogs have a lot of energy that they need to burn off.
In older dogs it may be noticed that zoomies often follow a period of restraint such as after a bath or when a dog has been groomed. The frenetic zooming around is then a release of pent up energy following the stress (to some dogs) of having to stay still for a period or to dry off.
Dogs can also exhibit the zoomies after eating, long periods of sleep, relieving themselves or even when they are tired or frustrated. In these cases it's possible to associate certain activities that precede the frenetic activity in your own dog. Certain stressful situations, such as a visit to the vet, can also provoke the zoomies.
It's important to note that zoomies are a normal behavior for most dogs and are not necessarily a cause for concern.
The science behind zoomies - why do dogs get the zoomies?
While the zoomies may seem random and spontaneous, there are often triggers that set them off. Understanding these triggers can help you better manage and redirect your dog's energy.
Some common triggers are:
- Excess energy: Dogs are active animals, and if they don't get enough physical exercise or mental stimulation, they may release their pent-up energy through zoomies.
- Excitement: Dogs are masters at sensing and feeding off human emotions. If someone in your house is particularly excited or energetic, your dog may mirror that energy and engage in zoomies to express their excitement. This can happen during playtime, when guests arrive, or even when they think they are going for a walk or car ride.
- Release of stress: Dogs, just like humans, can experience stress. It can build up in a dog's system from changes in their environment, new experiences or even boredom. Zoomies can be a way for dogs to release that stress and regain a sense of control and balance.
- Bathtime: Certain breeds are more prone to zoomies after a bath. High-energy breeds such as Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Dalmatians are known for their zoomie antics. These breeds are naturally very active and may need extra outlets for their energy to prevent excessive post-bath zoomies.
Why do dogs get the zoomies after a bath?
One possible explanation is that dogs experience a surge of energy after being cleaned. During a bath, dogs are usually held still and may feel somewhat restrained. Once released, they are overcome with excitement and newfound freedom leading to a sudden burst of hyperactive behavior.
Another theory suggests that the sensation of being wet triggers a primal instinct in dogs. Wolves avoid getting wet whenever possible and therefore dogs might feel a need to dry off quickly by zooming around and shaking vigorously. This behavior could be their way of returning to their natural state and reclaiming their territory.
The frequency of baths can also impact the zoomies' intensity. Dogs who are not bathed often may have a stronger reaction because they are not accustomed to the sensation of being clean. On the other hand, dogs who are regularly bathed may become desensitized to the experience and exhibit milder zoomies.
Are there physical and mental benefits of zoomies for dogs?
While we might helplessly laugh at our dog’s crazy antics, his zoomies may actually provide him with several physical and mental benefits:
- Physical exercise: Zoomies are a form of high-intensity exercise that can help burn off excess energy and keep your dog fit. Running, jumping, and playing during zoomies uses multiple muscle groups, promoting cardiovascular health and improving overall strength and agility.
- Mental stimulation: Zoomies also provide mental stimulation for dogs. The bursts of energy and the need to navigate their surroundings require mental focus and problem-solving skills. This mental stimulation can help keep your dog's mind sharp and prevent boredom-related behavior issues.
- Emotional release: Dogs, just like humans, can experience a range of emotions. Zoomies can serve as a healthy emotional release for dogs, allowing them to let go of stress, frustration, or anxiety. Engaging in zoomies can help improve your dog's emotional well-being, happiness and contentment.
How to safely manage zoomies in your dog’s environment
First of all, when you see your dog go crazy with the zoomies, there is nothing to get distressed about. Even if your dog's zoomies are accompanied by the odd nip or bite, this is not unusual nor harmful behavior.
When your dog is experiencing zoomies, you should ensure his safety and avoid problematic situations. If you're wondering what to do about these bursts of canine energy then some options are:
- Stay calm: Avoid any overreaction, shouting or other excessive behavior as this may upset your dog.
- Don't try to catch your dog: Avoid grabbing your dog or getting in his way as he runs quickly. This could inadvertently cause an injury or scare him. Allow him to release energy until he calms down on his own.
- Create a safe space: Zoomies at home can be quite unpredictable and your dog may run around without much regard for his surroundings. Ensure that your home or yard is free of any potential hazards that could pose a risk to your dog's safety. Remove breakable furniture, small or sharp objects and secure loose items. Clear space for your dog to zoom around without the risk of injury.
- Redirect your dog’s energy: Puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or toys that encourage problem-solving can help redirect your dog's energy and provide them with an outlet for their zoomies. These toys can also help prevent destructive chewing or other unwanted behaviors that may arise from excess energy.
- Go outside: Playing fetch, frisbee, or agility training will allow your dog to release their energy in a controlled and structured manner. Keep a watchful eye on your dog to make sure he doesn't wander into dangerous areas, such as roads, rivers or lakes (a long leash may help with this). New outdoor sights, smells, and experiences can help stimulate your dog's mind and prevent boredom-related zoomies.
What to do about zoomies after a bath
Preventing zoomies after a bath may not be realistic, as it is a natural behavior for many dogs. But there are a few strategies you can try to minimize the intensity and duration of the zoomies:
- Exercise: Can help burn off excess energy and potentially reduce the likelihood of intense zoomies after a bath. Take your dog for a walk or play a game of fetch to tire them out beforehand.
- Calming techniques: Use lavender-scented products, Bach Rescue Remedy or play soft music in the background at bathtime. These techniques can help create a more relaxed environment and reduce the likelihood of intense zoomies.
- Gentle drying: Instead of towel-drying your dog vigorously, try using a gentle patting motion. This can help reduce the stimulation caused by the sensation of being wet and lessen the severity of the zoomies.
Tips for preventing excessive zoomies in dogs
Despite all the indications that there is nothing to worry about, you may prefer your dog not to exhibit zoomie behavior in the first place. If this is the case, you can reduce the likelihood of zoomies with the following practical tips:
- Regular exercise: As mentioned earlier, one of the most common triggers for zoomies is an excess of pent-up energy. To prevent excessive zoomies, provide your dog with regular exercise such as daily walks, interactive toys, or games such as fetch or tug-of-war. By giving your dog an outlet for their energy, you can help prevent zoomies from becoming overwhelming.
- Establish a routine: Dogs thrive on routine. Set regular times for meals, walks, and playtime, and stick to them as much as possible. This will help regulate your dog's energy levels and provide them with a sense of structure and predictability.
- Structured playdates: If your dog enjoys socializing with other dogs, arrange playdates with other canine companions. Supervised play with other dogs can provide an outlet for your dog's energy. Choose dogs that have a similar energy level and play style to ensure a positive and enjoyable experience.
- Keep things interesting: Expose your dog to different environments, people and other dogs to help reduce any anxiety and over-arousal. Proper socialization in a variety of situations will help your dog feel more comfortable and secure. This can decrease the frequency of zoomie episodes.
- Dedicated training sessions: Training sessions can redirect energy and provide mental stimulation. Teach them new tricks, practice obedience commands, or engage in scent work or agility training. Training sessions not only tire out your dog physically and mentally, but they also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.
- Avoid excessive stimulants: Some dogs are more prone to zoomies when overstimulated. If you have a nervous, anxious or fearful dog, avoid exposing him to excessive stimuli such as loud noises, traffic or crowds if you know this triggers his zoomies.
- Mental stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is important for preventing excessive zoomies. Challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills with puzzle toys, interactive games or training sessions. Mental stimulation can help tire out your dog reducing the need for physical stimulation through zoomies.
- Practice impulse control: Training your dog to sit, stay, or wait for a command can help them learn to manage their excitement and energy levels. This can be particularly useful during playtime or when guests arrive, as it provides your dog with a structured outlet for their energy.
- Teach your dog calm behaviors: Settling on a mat or relaxing in a crate promotes a sense of calmness. Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your dog for calm behavior and gradually increase the duration of these calm periods. This can be useful when your dog is likely to experience high energy levels such as when guests arrive or during exciting events.
Zoomies are a perfectly normal and natural part of your dog’s behavior that can occur anytime, often when least expected. They can be triggered by a variety of stimuli and may in fact have some physical and mental benefits.
If zoomies are managed correctly, they can be both safe for your dog and nothing for you to worry about.
Main photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash
Does your dog get the zoomies? Was it something you found amusing or worrying? Let us know below!