Updated - Dec 8th, 2023
Remember the first time you saw your dog run in circles?
There you were, minding your own business at home, when your dog suddenly became an explosive ball of energy! Leaping on furniture and speeding around the room, your pup became the embodiment of adrenaline. Watching your pup in this state was certainly entertaining for you, but when it happened a second and third time, you began to ask yourself, “Is this normal?”
This dog behavior, popularly known as “zoomies,” is something that many dog parents seek to better understand. This article will discuss the possible causes of these energy outbursts, as well as appropriate actions to take when these episodes take place.
- Frenetic random activity periods, also known as zoomies, are sudden bursts of energy commonly seen in dogs of all ages.
- Zoomies often occur when a dog has been understimulated for a prolonged period (for example, if they’ve been home alone for hours with little to do).
- You can give your dog stimulating activities to do to help reduce your dog’s restlessness.
- If your dog is frequently restless or shows signs of distress during FRAPs, consult a vet right away.
- Take precautions to lessen the risk of injuries when your dog goes into a zoomie frenzy.
What are the zoomies?
The technical term for zoomies is frenetic random activity periods (FRAPs). You know your dog is in the middle of a FRAP when you notice the following:
- Their eyes are wide open — but due to joy, not fear.
- Their tongue is sticking out.
- They’re running at top speed.
- They’re going around in circles.
- They’re leaping onto — or even over — items around the house.
What causes zoomies in dogs?
To this day, experts have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the zoomies. There is plenty of debate about the factors that influence canine behavior in general. Some scientists believe puppy epigenetics can indicate their temperament, while others say a dog’s breed has only a small influence on their behavior.
While research on FRAPs hasn’t fully connected the dots, we do know that zoomies have been observed more frequently at certain times and in specific situations. These include in the late evening, during play, after a dog training class, and when the pet parent arrives home.
Another time when FRAPs tend to occur is after bath time. There’s a simple explanation for this: Your dog may be reacting to the smell of their shampoo (which might be an unfamiliar scent to them) or just by being wet. Also, the feeling of being constrained during bathtime might cause your dog to actively seek “freedom” immediately afterward. So, as long as your pup doesn’t “zoom” themselves into a trash can or your clean laundry, they can enjoy the fun!
Aside from these typical scenarios, dogs can also trigger FRAPs among other dogs. “If you have two or more dogs, and one suddenly bursts into frenetic activity, it can cause the others to join in,” says Dr. Stanley Coren of Psychology Today. “You soon have what looks like a stampede of crazy wild-eyed dogs running around like they’ve all lost their minds.”
In a 2023 article, health writer and editor Emily Swaim points to the following other factors that may increase the likelihood of your dog getting the zoomies:
- Age: FRAPs are most common among puppies and young dogs, though this behavior can occur among older dogs as well.
- Breed: Some dog breeds tend to be more active than others, as they’ve been observed to display high-energy activity for a longer cumulative period per day. Particularly energetic breeds include the Belgian Malinois, the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Brittany Spaniel, and the Miniature Australian Shepherd.
- Personality: Dogs (like us humans) have distinct personalities that shape how they behave. Swaim elaborates on this: “Some dogs are so excitable they’ll take any excuse to zip around at home, while others don’t like to get off the couch unless they have to.”
Zoomies are not a sign of any mental disorder in your pup, but you should still be aware of your dog’s energy triggers so you can brace yourself for a zoomie sesh.
How long do dog zoomies last?
“A dog who has been home alone all day with nothing to do may feel the need to zoom around the house or yard to expend some of that energy and get some relief from hours of [understimulation],” says veterinarian Pamela J. Perry. Eventually, though, that pent-up energy runs out.
In her Insider article, Swaim quoted dog trainer Becky Simmonds as saying, “Zoomies typically last for a few minutes, and the dog will eventually calm down on their own.” In other words, zoomies are brief episodes that you shouldn’t typically worry about. However, if the dog’s restless activity lasts longer than a brief spell, that’s a sign that your dog could use some more mental stimulation in their day.
5 types of dog enrichment to help with zoomies
According to a 2016 article published by Purdue University, there are five types of enrichment that you can provide for your dog to help ensure proper stimulation. Test them out to see which of them works best for your pup.
1. Social enrichment
Give your dog opportunities to interact positively with fellow dogs and other types of animals. Something as simple as walking your pup can go a long way in terms of socialization.
Other ways to provide social enrichment include doggie daycare and participation in play groups. Socialize your dog with humans, too. Research suggests that well-socialized dogs are more obedient dogs.
2. Occupational enrichment
Just as humans perform beyond expectations by particularly challenging jobs, dogs can be stimulated by well-designed and challenging tasks. One good way to provide occupational enrichment to your dog is to facilitate fun physical activities. Play fetch in the backyard, or — if your pup is particularly suited for it, you may want to explore dog sports such as agility training.
3. Physical enrichment
Physical enrichment happens by “altering the quality and complexity of the dog’s living space.” In other words, provide toys, doggie doors, comfy beds, and even things like sandboxes if your dog’s a digger.
4. Sensory Enrichment
Stimulate your dog by catering to their different senses. For instance, some pups love to watch the world outside through an open window. Some dogs also find classical music and the scent of lavender calming. Keep an open mind while trying different experiences to see what your pup responds to.
5. Nutritional Enrichment
Nutritional enrichment is accomplished by encouraging foraging behavior and setting a food reward as the endgame. Though the food item certainly provides nourishment for the dog, the physical and mental effort your dog expends is an important component of this enrichment activity as well.
When it comes to keeping your dog stimulated, there are many options. Check out our beginner’s guide to dog training for more dog activity ideas.
Do I need to do anything if my dog gets the zoomies?
If your dog suddenly gets the zoomies, don’t panic. Remember that this is a manageable, normal canine behavior. Be the best dog parent you can be by staying alert during these times. In particular, once zoomies start, quickly determine whether there are any possible hazards in your pup’s immediate environment.
Potential hazards might include:
- Sharp edges
- Wet floors
- Open windows and balconies
- Loose electrical cords or other tripping hazards
If you’re anticipating a burst of energy from your dog, consider moving them to a fenced yard or another outdoor location where there’s plenty of space and no immediate sources of danger. After all, you don’t want your dog to get hurt when they’re just trying to have some vigorous fun.
The top canine health-related concerns for dog parents include getting hit by a car and sustaining injuries from other animals. The likelihood that your dog will get into an accident increases if they get the zoomies somewhere dangerous, so do what you can to prevent unwanted scenarios.
Pay close attention when your pup gets the zoomies
Since the zoomies can be triggered by your pup playing with certain toys, you should keep an eye on how they react to them over time. If one toy, in particular, keeps triggering the zoomies, consider taking that one out only when your dog can be supervised and there are no hazards present.
While you might be capable of easily spotting external hazards during FRAPs, you also need to pay close attention to your dog’s body language during these episodes. Why? When your dog gets the zoomies, they might not necessarily be in a good mood. They could be anxious or distressed.
Dr. Natalie Marks, of VCA Blum Animal Hospital, outlines the differences between happy and unhappy zoomies:
Happy zoomies: Dogs that are enjoying themselves during FRAPs might stick their tongue out or do a “bow” before taking off as if inviting the others around them to play.
Unhappy zoomies: Distressed dogs are noticeably tense while a bout of zoomies unfolds. Their ears are folded back, and they often pant excessively.
Consult your vet right away if your dog is showing signs of distress during their zoomie episodes. There may be something else going on that requires attention.
Zooming out from the zoomies
Typically, the zoomies are nothing to worry about. They are a common behavior among puppies and young dogs especially — though they can happen in dogs of any age (and other animals, too). The zoomies are triggered by under-stimulation or events they consider exciting, such as you coming home from work. If your dog has been stuck inside the house for an extended period, expect a bout of the zoomies shortly after your return.
Your top concern during zoomies should be protecting your dog from physical hazards and watching for signs of distress. Secure the environment to the best of your ability so that your dog won’t get hurt while zooming. Also, keep your eyes peeled for negative body language, such as tense muscles, folded-back ears, and excessive panting. If you see any of these signs, visit your vet right away.
Otherwise, give your dog plenty of love and snuggles after their zoomie episodes, and enjoy this fun quirk of dog behavior!