Does your dog ever seem to lose his mind and run around your house at breakneck speeds? It may start out of nowhere. He will run with his bottom lowered and tail tucked as if he is being pursued, running back and forth with frequent stops and starts, occasionally stopping to bow down and give you a crazed look. Oddly enough, this is perfectly normal behavior lovingly referred to by dog owners as the zoomies. While more common among younger dogs and seen in some breeds more than others, it can be an almost universal behavior among dogs. As long as he does not hurt himself or wreak too much havoc on your home, feel free to sit back and watch the show.
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The Root of the Behavior
Dog owners, trainers, theorists, researchers, and veterinarians can all testify to having experienced a dog ‘frapping’. This is the technical term derived from the acronym FRAP, which stands for Frenetic Random Activity Periods, lovingly called the zoomies. When your dog runs around like a crazed animal, he is ‘frapping’. The zoomies are distinct in that every dog exhibits similar positioning as if they are being chased and nipped at the heels, bottom and tail scooted under and legs spread a bit wider. They will dash back and forth at seemingly breakneck speeds and at times run in circles. They may bark at you, or in general bark out loud. He may even pause and ‘bow’ to you with a little grin on his face. If you mimic him, it will spur on another round of zoomies for sure. The zoomies seem to come on for no apparent reason but often occur early or later in the day or after a bath. They only last a few minutes, and then the dog has tired himself out. In general, it is believed that your dog is simply getting out excess energy, whether it be from being cooped up all day or after a stressful event such as a bath or visit to the veterinarian. All dogs need exercise, especially the hunting breeds, so the combination of being in the house and your coming home may push him into a frantic need to let off steam. After a bath, dogs often need a release as the water and sound and tub confinement can be stressful for him. And any trip to the vet can bring on pent-up stress that a good FRAP can alleviate. While dogs enjoy a good walk, if you are remaining on predictable paths and going at a sniffing only pace, he may still have the zoomies after the walk as a release of the energy that still remained.
Encouraging the Behavior
The zoomies are perfectly natural. If you find them entertaining, then often you can get them started by bowing and smiling at your dog with a bit of a crazed grin. He will most likely get the hint, bow back and then zoom. If you are outside and want to play, by all means, chase him and make a game out of it. He will love the attention and rest well afterward. Zooming inside the home can cause some problems, based on the size of your dog as well as the size and layout of your home. If his zooming is causing damage to furniture, walls, or he can or has harmed himself, then you should try to discourage his zooming inside. Should he start to zoom and you do not want him to, do not laugh too loudly or too much, chase him, or stroke him in an effort to calm him as he may see all of these actions as praise for the behavior. If possible, open the door and attempt to get him to zoom outside in an area that is safe such as a large pen or fenced in yard. If he tends to zoom after a bath, try to keep the baths as short as possible and have a large terry towel on hand to dry him. A wet zooming dog can get messy.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Your dog most likely gets zoomies at predictable times or in the same types of situations. If you want to limit his zooming, attempt to distract him at his frantic times with a food-filled toy. A fully tired dog, both physically and mentally, will be less inclined to zoom and more inclined to rest so exercise is key. If he tends to zoom in the mornings, try to take him for a run and brief training session before the behavior begins. Evening zooms are often from a long day home alone, so hiring a dog walker to get him out and about in the middle of the day may decrease the frapping behavior as well. Some behaviorists indicate that the zoomies are a result of your dog being afraid. The idea is that when he is with you, he is no longer afraid but needs to release the energy he had built up from the fear. Please note that not all dogs that frap are fearful, it may just be another reason he is exhibiting the behavior.
Dogs have a lot of energy and cannot help but get it out one way or another. If your dog is running around the house, he is frapping or has the zoomies. Most dogs exhibit this behavior, and unless it is causing a problem for you, feel free to let him wear himself out. Often your dog has the zoomies from pent up energy or stress, so adding in intense exercise and training several times in the day may tire him out and save your floors and furniture.