Has your pup spontaneously raced around the house or in frantic circles before coming to a halt? Then you may be familiar with the zoomies, or the scientific name for zoomies, Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs).
The zoomies are an incredibly common practice in dogs of all ages and can be especially prevalent in dogs who live in small homes, like apartments. But just what are the zoomies, and what should pet parents do when our dogs get those bursts of energy?
When dogs experience inexplicable bursts of intense energy, the “zoomies” are often the outcome. Although these frequently happen at night, pups can experience the zoomies at any time of day, especially when excited.
“This is an unfortunately common experience for pet dogs, especially city pups, due to being pent-up mentally, physically and socially,” Anthony Newman of Calm Energy Dog Training says. “Nine times out of 10, this results from them not getting enough consistent off-leash social play with other dogs in dog parks.”
Although each pet experiences the zoomies differently, the extreme energy is common in most domestic dogs. Some pets may spin in circles, while others sprint back and forth. Pups typically run erratically with their rump tucked and back rounded, mixing in a play bow here and there.
“Dogs that roam free on farms, chasing deer and squirrels when they feel like it, otherwise lounging on the dirt in the sun, don't get zoomies,” Newman explains. “The natural state of dogs after they've satisfyingly purged their mental, physical and social energetic needs in a way that makes them emotionally balanced is one of happy, peaceful and quiet calmness, even sleep.”
Lack of exercise and stimulation aren't the only reasons dogs can get the zoomies — some medical conditions can trigger them, too. Cushing’s disease, aka hyperadrenocorticism, (a condition that causes the overproduction of cortisol) can lead to sleep alterations and unusual behaviors. Arthritic pain, flea and tick bites, kidney and liver disease, toxins and brain tumors can also cause unusual behaviors.
Age-related dementia and cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) should also be considered if your senior pup begins bolting or acting abnormally. Changes in sight, hearing and smell may also contribute to bizarre behavior. It’s not uncommon for pets with failing eyesight or hearing to snap, bark or flee from invisible foes.
“Sometimes, inevitable medical restraints prevent our ability to purge a dog's energies. For example, puppies who aren't vaccinated can't yet hit the dog park,” Newman says. “Similarly, after they get spayed or neutered, if they're medicated for catching parvovirus (a contagious virus) or if they had an injury or operation and have to wear a cone, they can't socialize. In these cases, we just have to do our best and know that we'll see behavioral regression and aim to get back on the exercising and socializing horse as soon as medically permitted.”
Zooming can also be rooted in a behavior issue. Anxiety and stress can heighten senses to the point where a pup reacts to the slightest stimulus. Depression or emotional strife can produce sleep-wake imbalances and unusual social responses in our furry friends.
“The underlying pent-up mindset definitely can be dangerous,” Newman says. “In addition to causing hyperactivity, it can cause anxiety and/or aggression.”
Zooming behavior is often how dogs engage their inner predator. These play periods allow our furry companions to hone their survival instincts – think stalking, pouncing and pursuing. For the vast majority, zoomies are a healthy expression of excitement.
Most dogs can’t sustain this zooming behavior for more than a few minutes. As pets age, the FRAPs often get shorter and less frequent. Newman explains that even if your dog tires himself out, your zoomie problem isn’t solved.
“They still aren't getting mentally or socially exhausted and fulfilled, which is why we see so much destruction of apartments, separation anxiety, barking at doorbells and yanking on leashes,” he says.
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Certain times of day may elicit the zoomies more than others. Sometimes in the morning, after a full night’s rest and a nourishing breakfast, pets are ready for mind and body stimulation. Evenings are also common for pets to zoom if they don’t get enough exercise throughout the day or are eager to play when you come home from work.
“I tend to find that a dog is most likely to get the zoomies at night or, surprisingly, after a walk,” Newman says. “In both cases, when the dog realizes ‘That's all we're gonna do? Now I have to go to sleep? But I'm all pent up!’"
Stressful triggers, like bath time or lifestyle changes, can also warrant a race around the living room. It’s your pet’s way of calming their nerves or showing relief that an uncomfortable situation is finally over.
While entertaining to watch, our zooming pets and their unpredictable paths can result in injuries or household damage, so it’s important to know how to handle them.
Most of the danger lies in your pet being unaware of their surroundings. Keep your home free from breakables and obstructions, including older pets or children. Hardwood floors can cause your pet to slip, so direct them to a carpeted room if needed.
You should never chase or raise your voice at a zooming pet. This will only encourage their frantic activity and may lead to excited nips or bites. If that should happen, simply redirect their energy to a favorite toy.
Also, if your pet gets a case of the zoomies while outside in a safe and confined space, remove their leash! Leashes can tangle and cause them to trip. If you let them off leash, they’ll be able to run faster, getting out the excess energy.
The zoomies aren’t something you can necessarily prevent, and they shouldn’t be discouraged as long as your pet is in a safe space. Instead of trying to control your pet’s zoomies, be sure they get plenty of stimulation during the day so they have less need to get out extra energy while at home.
“You should take your dog on daily outings to purge mental, physical and social needs. Your dog should get exhausting fulfillment every day outside, off leash, in the grass/dirt parks, running and playing with other dogs,” Newman says. “Granted, not all dogs can safely socialize – but any dogs who won't bite and puncture to draw blood on other dogs can and should be shown how to socialize and be kept socialized.”
There are numerous benefits of socializing and exercising with your pet. A tired pet is one that’s less likely to zoom inside. By providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day, you can lower the likelihood or frequency of your pet’s zooms.
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