Vets explain why dogs get the zoomies and how to keep them safe when they're charging around the house
- Zoomies are a very common dog behavior, especially for high-energy breeds and puppies.
- You don't need to worry about a case of the zoomies unless your dog can't seem to calm down.
If you're a dog owner, you've probably seen the explosion of energy known as the "zoomies" a time or two. A dog with the zoomies might spin around like a top, race around the yard, or do a few wiggly leaps in the air.
The fancy, official name for this behavior is frenetic random activity periods, aka FRAPs. Basically, the term just means your dog is running around in a frenzy for no apparent reason.
Zoomies are a natural dog behavior, but they can happen for a few different reasons — and of course, your dog can't tell you why they're suddenly compelled to do an impression of a crashing race car around the kitchen table. So, we're here to explain the behavior on their behalf.
Here's why the zoomies happen, according to vets, and what to do about them.
What causes the zoomies?
When your dog feels bored or restless, zoomies can help them blow off steam.
Sometimes a dog needs to stay still or show a lot of self-restraint for a long period — for instance, while enduring a bath, taking a break in their kennel, or visiting the vet or groomer.
But once they're free, they may shoot off like a rocket to burn away their nervous energy.
Dogs can also get the zoomies because they're incredibly excited, and they can't help but
express all that emotion physically. You may see your pup doing zoomies when:
- Greeting you when you come home from work
- Going out for their daily walk
- Seeing their food bowl filled
- Training, especially if learning a new trick
Note: Some dogs also "zoom" after going potty, though experts don't know exactly why. Post-poop zoomies may simply be fueled by your dog's feeling of relief — especially if they had to hold it for a while. If your pup kicks the grass before zooming, they're likely marking the ground with the scent glands in their paws.
Other factors that might contribute to the zoomies include:
- Age: Younger dogs and puppies tend to get the zoomies more frequently, but FRAPs can happen at any age. "An older dogs' zoomies will likely be less explosive and shorter in duration, but they've still got it," says Sophie Whoriskey, veterinarian and senior writer at Floofy Doodles.
- Breed: "High-energy dogs, like Australian shepherds, might get a case of zoomies more often since they were bred for herding," Whoriskey says.
- Personality: Your dog's natural traits may also play a big role in whether they do zoomies, according to Zac Pilossoph, consulting veterinarian at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. 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 absolutely have to.
What to do about them
FRAPs help your dog blow off steam, but they don't necessarily mean your dog is feeling stifled or neglected.
In fact, your dog can get the zoomies even when they're fully exercised and tired out, according to Russell Hartstein, certified pet behaviorist and trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care.
Zoomies are a natural dog behavior, like barking, digging, or jumping. So, they aren't something you can — or should — try to stop completely, Hartstein says.
"Zoomies typically last for a few minutes, and the dog will eventually calm down on their own," says Becky Simmonds, dog trainer at Breed Advisor.
That said, if your dog doesn't calm down shortly, or they zoom about nonstop every day, that could suggest they need more stimulation.
Dogs benefit from five main types of enrichment:
Your dog may need more than a casual stroll to the mailbox to stay healthy. "Daily walks just don't cut it for some dogs. They may need a hike, swim, or game of fetch in the backyard," Whoriskey says.
Dogs are pack animals, and they need contact with both humans and other pets. You can help keep up their social life by arranging playdates, taking them to dog parks, or even walking them around the block while your neighbors are out.
"It's always wise to fully enrich your dog and all of their senses," Hartstein says. Classical music, brown or pink background noise, or lavender-scented cloths can help your dog calm down when they're in their kennel. You could also give your dog a seat by a window so they can watch the world outside.
Dogs in the wild get their food by foraging and hunting — activities that meet their nutritional needs and provide some mental stimulation.
For pet dogs, puzzle feeders or food hiding challenges can offer some entertainment at mealtimes.
"Training is a great way to go if you want to keep your dog stimulated so they don't have so much pent-up energy," Simmonds says.
Just know your pet doesn't need to be a guide dog or bomb-sniffer in order to get an honest day's work. Instead, you can teach basic tricks or "chores," like putting away their toys or helping you bring in the groceries.
How to keep a zooming dog safe
In the thrill of the moment, your dog may not watch where they're going — but you can protect them from injuries by:
- Keeping them in a safe environment: When they start barrelling over furniture or get that wild look in their eyes, let them out into a fully fenced yard or keep them in a room where nothing's going to fall over and hurt them.
- Never letting them do zoomies in the street: Even in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac, you don't know when a car could come around the corner.
- Making sure they have solid ground to run on: Slippery, unstable surfaces, like ice, sand, or hardwood floors, can cause your dog to careen out of control. It's best to keep them on grassy earth or carpeted floors.
Important: A few extra safety precautions are especially important if your dog has health issues. Dogs with orthopedic or neurologic disease can get hurt if they twist and turn too quickly, Pilossoph says.
When to check in with your vet
In some cases, your dog may not be frolicking, but fleeing — perhaps from a grabby toddler or a loud vacuum.
You can usually recognize frightened zooming because your dog may seem stiff and keep their head low in submission — unlike during a FRAP, when they'll have a loose and bouncy posture. After a FRAP, a happy dog might also do a play bow and start wagging their tail. A scared dog, however, may keep their tail tucked firmly between their legs.
You can help your frightened pup by removing whatever they're afraid of from the area. If separation isn't possible — like during a fireworks display or thunderstorm — keep them company and try to distract them with a toy or blanket.
Dogs who run away from everything, however, could have a more chronic anxiety issue. Keep an eye out for other signs of severe stress, such as:
- Excessive barking
- Constantly chewing their paws or tail, especially if they make themselves bleed
- Circling and pacing
- Frequent attempts at escape, such as opening doors or digging under a fence
- Eating their own poop
A vet can help you get to the root of your dog's stress. In some cases, a simple change in your dog's environment can calm them down. If your dog's behavior relates to a medical issue, like focal seizures or cognitive dysfunction syndrome, your vet can prescribe medication or other treatments.
Zoomies are a natural behavior — they help dogs release pent-up energy and express excitement. How often your dog gets the zoomies generally depends on their age, breed, and of course, personality.
While zoomies themselves are usually nothing to worry about, frequent episodes could be a hint that your dog needs some more excitement in their life. Dogs are happiest when they have regular physical and mental stimulation. And as the zoomies plainly demonstrate, a happy dog is a fun dog.
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