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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
You may have heard the term ‘zoomies’ used to describe a dog’s behaviour: but what does this mean? Despite what it sounds like, we’re not talking about having internet-based chats with our dogs. Instead, the zoomies “can be like a happy dance or a burst of energy,” shares Dr. Jessica Taylor, a veterinarian with Petfolk. They can occur anywhere, anytime, and for a variety of reasons.
However, Dr. Taylor says dogs are usually triggered by some excitement in the environment, such as you coming home from work, opening a new dog toy, or a fellow pet getting excited.
While zoomies tend to come on quickly, there are signs indicating one is about to begin. “Usually, a play bow will kick things into high gear,” explains Leigh Siegfried, CEO at Opportunity Barks Dog Training, “This is a social invitation to play, which then can kick things off.”
Zoomie behaviour typically involves a pup running around very fast, generally in a lower-down position, or rolling and jumping, reveals Dr. Taylor. “They usually last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes,” she adds.
In this article, we’ll explore dog zoomies, whether they’re ‘normal,’ what causes them, and how to keep your dog safe during one.
Are dog zoomies’ normal’?
Especially if you’re a new dog pet owner, the first time you see your canine engage in a zoomie might be a bit of a funny surprise, but there’s nothing to worry about. “It is perfectly normal for dogs to get the zoomies,” states Renee Rhoades, Head Behavior Consultant at R+Dogs.
The scientific term for the zoomies is ‘frenetic random activity periods’ FRAP. Dr. Taylor says that, generally, zoomies are dogs playing and blowing off excess energy.
Zoomies come in all shapes and forms, with some related actions more acceptable than others. Dr. Taylor notes that while zoomies are usually a good thing, you should closely monitor your dog. For example, if your dog engages in the following negative behaviours during a zoomie session, they might need additional dog training.
- Knocking things over
- Chasing other dogs and ignoring your commands to stop
- Chasing other dogs and not reading their signals to stop
- Jumping on people
- Chasing tails
9 reasons dogs get the zoomies
All breeds and ages of dogs can have zoomies, and there are numerous potential causes behind these energetic outbursts, including the following.
Needs more exercise
The level of exercise required by a dog varies depending on age and breed. If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise, zoomies are a quick and easy way for them to expel pent-up energy.
Rhoades says that ensuring your dog gets some form of physical stimulation during the day can help temper the intensity of zoomies. These activities include a sniff-focused walk, trick training, or play, like a game of tug.
“Zoomies related to a dog wanting to play can sometimes be the easiest to spot,” she says. “Usually, the dog will engage with us at some point during the zoomies, either jumping up on us, barking, or maybe grabbing at our clothing or hands.”
Ready to play, too? Great! “One of my favorite sayings to clients is, “If it’s not a problem for you, then it’s not a problem,” she adds.
They’ve had a bath
Your dog might love bathtime (or getting wet in general!), and this sense of joy and excitement can prompt zoomies. However, there’s another reason your pup might start acting crazy after a bath.
“Dogs go into zoomie mode when they are wet in an attempt to dry off,” Siegfried says. The feeling of having a heavy coat isn’t pleasant Dogs run and roll to shake off water. Have a towel ready to help remove excess moisture and reduce zoomie behaviour.
Stress or anxiety
On many occasions, a zoomie is a happy behaviour, but there are times when they can indicate your pup isn’t feeling so great, Rhoades says. She explains that zoomies can also occur in response to fear, anxiety, or stress.
So how can you differentiate between a happy zoomie and a stressed-out one? “This can be a bit more challenging,” she laments. “The communication the dog gives through their body movements and subtle signs will give the best estimation of their feelings.”
There are many indicators that a dog is unhappy, including lethargy, disinterest in everyday activities, aggression, hiding, and disinterest in exercise or play. So if they’re zooming around and showing these signs, it’s “always good to proceed with the understanding that the dog is either conflicted or uncomfortable,” Rhoades says.
In these instances, she adds, the best thing a pet owner can do is back away, respect their dog’s space, and create distance to de-escalate the situation and help reduce their dog’s stress levels.
Time of day
Just because you’re ready for sleep doesn’t mean your dog is. “Although dogs have largely adopted our sleeping patterns, they are innately a crepuscular species,” Rhoades shares. “This means they’re most active during twilight hours, and this is when we are most likely to see zoomies, too!”
While you can’t change their internal clocks, ensuring they get lots of exercise during the day can help ensure they’re tired by bedtime.
While people often assume zoomies are related to young dogs specifically, Rhoades says older dogs can act out too! Siegfried agrees that age isn’t necessarily a key indicator of zoomie activity. “I’d say it’s [more] about breed traits, play, and then the [specific] situation.”
While older dogs can get the zoomies, they more frequently occur in younger pups, often as part of their ‘witching hour,’ she notes. According to the National Canine Research Association of America, the witching hour is when your pup acts a bit wild and typically occurs early in the morning or between 5-8 pm.
They’re over-excited or happy
Have you ever been so excited you felt like you could burst? The same can happen to our dogs. They get the zoomies to try to release all that built-up happy tension.
“Arousal related to positive events, such as a favourite human guest or arriving at a fun outdoor space, are perfect setups for zoomies, especially if they coincide with a lack of other physical or mental stimulation during the day,” Rhoades shares.
While it’s fantastic to know your dog is happy to see you, she says it’s important to bear in mind any safety-related issues, especially if you have a larger dog, like a Great Dane, or there are children around.
“I prefer setting up a protocol for when guests arrive, such as being on a leash or scattering food on the floor to help manage or redirect the dog,” she suggests.
Children can quickly get hyper and start running around when it’s past their bedtime, and they get overtired. Young dogs are no different. Overtired-related zoomies are “more typical in puppies under six months of age,” Siegfried notes.
In these instances, getting them more excited in an attempt to tire them out isn’t the best action plan. Instead, take steps to help calm them and prepare them for bed.
They’re avoiding you
Avoidance is when a zoomie isn’t so great. Sometimes, behaviours used as defence or protection can be mistaken for more playful zoomies. For instance, “you go to touch them, and they avoid you or get defensive to create more space,” Siegfried shares.
In these cases, understanding how your dog feels is vital. So, rather than trying to play, take a moment to read their body language cues and recognize if anything is happening that could make them feel stressed or anxious.
How to calm a dog down during zoomies
It’s not so easy to stop zoomies once they’re started. As natural releases of energy, some might argue that they shouldn’t be. Instead, Siegfried explains, it’s about training your dog so you can ensure their behaviour doesn’t get out of hand.
For example, she recommends having your dog come when called in low-distraction and high-distraction settings. This will make it “an accessible behaviour when a dog is playing, and you may need to interrupt play.”
Working on ways to indicate to your dog that play is ending is another key approach, Siegfried states. “The repetitive pairing of ‘enough’ at the end of a play session can often signal ‘we’re done.’ But, again, the repetitions need to be established for that to be meaningful for the dog.”
If your dog has finished their zoomie but is still excited, “try scattering some food on the ground for them to find,” Rhoades suggests. “Simple nose work activities like this can help calm dogs.”
How to keep your dog safe during zoomies
As Taylor notes, when it comes to zoomies, “the most important thing is that your pet and family are safe.” So what can you do to help prevent hyper dogs from injuring themselves as they run and roll around? Here are some suggestions:
- Check your outdoor surroundings. Rhoades says that trees, holes, or uneven ground can harm your dog when they’re moving quickly. Keep your dog on a lead to help prevent your dog from zooming off and injuring themselves.
- Work on recall. As noted earlier by Seigfried, working on recall techniques with your dog can aid in managing their behaviour when in zoomie mode.
- Dog-proof your home. This applies to zoomie-prone dogs of all ages! Make sure sharp corners and edges are covered and don’t have any rugs or loose carpets your dog could trip on.
- Move them to a safe space. If a zoomie kicks off indoors on slippery floors, Rhoades recommends moving them to somewhere with carpeted floors to give the dog secure footing. She says taking them outside is even better to prevent them from running into furniture or walls.
- Get into a regular exercise routine. Schedule regular exercise with your dog so they can release their energy that way instead of zoomies.
Dog zoomies: takeaway
Zoomies are normal dog behaviour and can occur in all ages and breeds. However, Taylor notes zoomies can look different depending on the pet.
In most instances, zoomies allow your dog to release pent-up energy or express happiness, excitement, or love. Having fun and trying new activities with your dog is a great way to help them shake off excess energy, but it can also assist them in being more fulfilled overall.
“Giving dogs opportunities to ‘dog’ and rehearse species-specific behaviours will help many dogs be more fulfilled day in and day out!” Seigfried shares.
However, there are instances when zoomies aren’t great, especially if they’re biting you. “If you’re concerned about your dog’s zoomies, reach out to a qualified, ethical dog behaviour consultant for guidance and support,” Rhoades concludes.