What Are Zoomies & Why Do Dogs Get Them?
Dog zoomies. In my house, we call it the mad half hour. That inexplicable time that your dog decides to lose all sense and run around in circles as if their tail is on fire. Or maybe your pup prefers to run up and down the corridor in a thunderous rush that sends your downstairs neighbours into a murderous rage.
But why? Why do dogs get zoomies and what do they mean? Do they mean anything? Let’s find out.
What Are Zoomies?
Zoomies are the affectionate name given to a far more boring scientific name: Frenetic Random Activity Periods or FRAPs. The key terms here are “frenetic” and “random”. Frenetic means wild, uncontrollable, fast and free. Random refers to the fact that you rarely see them coming. (Although, fun fact: I taught my dog when she was young to embrace her zoomies and actually run around in circles on command. I would say “Ready? Go!” and my dog would spin around in circles and run up corridors for fun.)
Because of how fast and wild this activity is, it’s more common for younger dogs to have them. Puppy zoomies are surely the cutest thing in the world. If you want a fun afternoon, look up puppy zoomies on YouTube. You won’t regret it.
That’s not to say that older dogs don’t indulge in the odd zoomie session every now and again. While older dogs generally tend to be calmer, it simply depends on their energy levels. Some old dogs still can surprise you with a random runabout when in a wide-open space or at a certain time of day. Congratulate them on their activity - it likely took a lot out of them.
What To Do When Your Dog Gets Zoomies?
If your dog gets the zoomies at home or outdoors, there’s generally nothing to worry about. Let the zoomies run their course (pun intended). It’s not naughty behaviour you should halt or chastise your dog for. Doing so would probably confuse them.
It’s a completely normal part of doggy behaviour. It may annoy those aforementioned miserable neighbours but your dog needs to release that pent up energy somehow. It’s much more productive if they are running around like a headless chicken than destroying furniture, peeing mercilessly around the house or terrorising small animals. A wee bit of zooming never hurt anybody.
If your dog is zooming to an excessive degree, it could be a concern.
“...constant zoomies may be a sign of a larger behavioural problem, so it's a good idea to keep tabs on how often your dog is zooming and for what reasons.” - Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT from The American Kennel Club (1)
Are There Any Risks Associated With Zoomies?
Generally, zoomies are quite harmless. One concern you may have is if your dog gets zoomies outdoors. There are a couple of risk factors to consider here. For example, the weather.
“One risk from the zoomies is present during warm weather. Your dog can easily overheat when running around maniacally during warmer months. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh water available at all times.” - Jenna Stregowski from The Spruce Pets (2)
Heatstroke is very prevalent in dogs and you can’t (or shouldn’t) prevent your dog from being active when they get this sudden burst of energy. You can mitigate the risks by having fresh water nearby and cool timeout area.
But let’s say that you’re outdoors and your dog gets zoomies. Maybe you’re in the dog park off-leash or on a beach. Couldn’t your dog escape when in their mindless tailspin?
Yes, they could. It’s a very real concern that your dog could go a little out of control during their FRAP and be entirely out of reach. Here are some top tips to consider in that scenario:
When Do Dogs Do Zoomies?
You may find that some dogs do zoomies at certain times of the day. When my oldest dog was young, it was always around 4pm. Her mad half-hour was like clockwork. She had a large spurt of energy at this time, although this is completely anecdotal. Your dog may be most energetic early in the mornings or late in the evening.
Other common timings could be:
Why Do Dogs Do Zoomies?
Zoomies are a way of releasing excess energy in the body. It’s a very healthy way of doing this that is fun and usually productive. It provides your dog with some relief from their pent up energy and you with some cute social media videos. Everybody wins, right?
Having multiple FRAP episodes per day or even having daily FRAP episodes is likely a sign that your dog is not getting enough exercise. If your dog is having a daily brisk walk with you then they shouldn’t need to run around the house to burn energy. That said, there is the factor of just being young. Younger dogs can have more frequent bouts of zoomies. It could even be encouraged by younger family members because it’s a playful atmosphere when your dog is zooming.
Bathtime zoomies likely stem from a few contributing factors. It could be that they are instinctively drying themselves off. The stress factor also comes into play - some dogs are not a fan of baths or bathing at all and the stress triggers a FRAP episode. Alternatively, it could just be for fun. (3)
Let Your Dog Zoom!
Dog zoomies are funny, charming and endlessly entertaining. This natural dog behaviour is generally nothing to worry about at all so allow your dog the freedom to zoom. I hope this article has helped you to understand this strange side of your dog’s inner world and some potential risks to watch out for.
And to your loveable canine, I say happy zooming!
Zoomies can be a bit infectious. Anyone with a multi-dog household knows the joy of one dog having a mad half hour and the second dog soon following suit. Their combined FRAP episodes usually last longer as it’s now become a game.
Generally, this is completely harmless as it is with one dog. All part of the fun. However, there are a few scenarios when this could turn ominous.
If you’re in a place with strange dogs around and your dog is zooming out of stress, another dog may see fit to chase your dog or attack them. It can appear all fun and games at first but ultimately end in a fight. If that happens, be very careful about breaking up the fight.
Use a distracting sound or object to draw the dogs away from each other and calm them down. Only use your physical body to separate the dogs as an absolute last resort. It could end up in your getting injured too. (4)
This is a relatively rare occurrence if the nearby dogs are friendly, so don’t automatically be alarmed if dogs are zooming together. Watch out for any signs of aggression. Otherwise, assume they’re just having fun because they are
- Gibeault, S. January 29, 2019. “Zoomies: Why Your Dog Gets Hyper & Runs in Circles”. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved January 11, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/what-are-zoomies/
- Stregowski, J. August 31, 2021. “Why Does My Dog Get Zoomies?”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved January 11, 2022. https://www.thesprucepets.com/dogs-and-the-zoomies-4177759
- Bauhaus, J. April 23, 2021. “All About Dog Zoomies!”. The Hill’s Pet. Retrieved January 11, 2022. https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/behavior-appearance/dog-zoomies
- Gibeault, S. June 18, 2021. “How to Break Up a Dog Fight”. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved January 11, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/stopping-dog-fight-confrontation-fighting-dogs/