When your dog goes from standing still to a full-speed sprint, you’re dealing with a case of “the zoomies.” Look out for crazy-looking eyes, a bent over running posture, and repeated play bows (elbows down, butt up) for further symptoms to support the diagnosis. They lose all control of their body and mind, and they zoom around you with no care for what’s in front of them or what you say. If you’re worried your pup has suddenly gone mad, take a deep breath. Zoomies are a completely natural way for dogs to express their energy.
What the Pros Say
While dog owners call the crazy bouts of energy “zoomies,” pet professionals have another term. Frenetic Random Activity Period (or “frapping”) is their biological, yet self-explanatory, way to describe the behavior. The name is official, but there is no specific cause. Younger dogs that haven’t had the chance to release pent up energy are the most likely to succumb to a bout of frapping, but they’re not the only ones. Dogs of all ages and all breeds have been known to do it, and at the same time, there are some high-energy dogs that never show signs of frapping. Sometimes it starts with a specific trigger—like their favorite game or after bath time—but it can also be completely random.
Your Dog and Their Zoomies
If your pup takes the occasional zoom around the house, try thinking about what was happening right before they took off. Were you extra excited about something? You could have encouraged the behavior without realizing it. Also consider the time of day and how your pup spent the last few hours. Most zoomie attacks happen in the early evening when you get home from work. If they spent all day cooped inside with nothing to do, zoomies happen when that pent up energy finally bubbles over out of control.
You can usually tell when your dog is overcome by a case of the zoomies versus a simple burst of energy by looking at their posture when they run. Frapping is characterized by a strange kind of run that makes it look like your dog is crouching or cowering. They stay low to the ground and keep their butts tucked under. It’s hard to describe, but it won’t be hard to recognize.
Another obvious sign of the zoomies is what dog behaviorists call a “play bow.” Puppies especially pull this pose when they’re playing, but a dog caught up in the zoomies will do it abruptly and exuberantly. They’ll pounce toward you with their front paws outstretched and their bottoms pointed straight in the air. All together, their behavior reaches an extra level of excitement that’s always entertaining to watch.
What to do: Watch out!
As long as there are no dangerous obstacles getting in your dog’s way, a bout of the zoomies is perfectly harmless. It doesn’t last long, and afterward, your dog will have expelled enough energy to bring them back to normal. But if they’re banging into furniture and knocking things over, try directing the craziness outside. Opening the door is usually all the invitation they need to go do a few super speedy laps around the yard.
Your dog loses all sense of impulse control during their frap attacks, and some start nipping and play biting. If this happens, immediately stop interacting with your dog. Encourage them to calm down if you can, but if they’re not listening, let them burn through it on their own. Daily exercise and training sessions can help keep the zoomies at bay.
A dog with the zoomies will be crazy and clumsy, but they’re not in danger of a mental break down or physically harming themselves. If they’re big, and you have a small apartment, take it outside. But if they’re small, and they’re not doing any damage inside, let them run around as they wish. They’re happy and having fun, and you can smile and laugh while they burst with those few minutes of unrestricted joy.