The clock strikes zoomies o'clock and without fail, it’s time for your dog to go absolutely bonkers. Although zoomies don't last long it's like having a little tornado in your house. Why do they do it? Is there a scientific explanation, or is your dog just crazy?
According to the vet Dr Karen Becker (2022), zoomies are technically known as FRAPS, which stands for ‘Frenetic Random Activity Periods’. Such behaviour is defined as a sudden release of pent up energy, causing your dog to randomly run at warp speeds back and forth or around in circles. Although the behaviour seems random, you may have noticed that there is a pattern to when these bursts of energy occur.
When and Why do dogs get zoomies?
Morning and Evening
Dogs are crepuscular, which means that they are more alert and active at dawn and dusk. Their closest ancestor the grey wolf, hunts at dawn and dusk, and will have short bursts of energy between long periods of rest. Therefore, excess energy at these times can be instinctual and the reason behind your dog's zoomies in the mornings and evenings. Zoomies are also very common in younger dogs in the evening, but adult dogs can also experience them at this time, if they have excess energy.
In puppies, zoomies can coincide with the dreaded witching hour, and this may be why your puppy is especially nippy during their zoomies. These zoomies are typically to get rid of any remaining energy and/or may be due to overtiredness in very young puppies. Although zoomies are a separate behaviour to the behaviours observed during the witching hour, one can exacerbate the other. For more info on the witching hour, please see my article The Witching Hour: How to Survive! (pawchores.com)
Dogs that are particularly food obsessed may have zoomies after they eat their dinner or a special treat. In fact, the excitement caused by anticipation of food can be enough to trigger hyperactivity expressed in a zoomie. I've seen this in very foody breeds, such as Beagles and Labs.
After a bath
Dogs can also have zoomies following a bath, my dog Mando included. Some dogs find baths stressful. Even if they tolerate baths and don't cry, growl or attempt to escape, they may still feel stressed. Once they are out of the bath, the relief can cause a surge in adrenaline, thereby triggering the zoomies.
For some dogs the zoomies may be a result of excitement and/or an attempt to dry off. If it’s the latter you often see your dog rubbing and dragging themselves across the carpet to leave that lovely wet dog smell. Dogs may also have the zoomies after getting wet to warm up, which explains why some dogs have zoomies after having a swim or paddle in a river or lake.
After a stressful event
Similarly, zoomies can occur after a stressful event as a way to release tension and anxiety. We humans do a similar thing following a stressful situation. No we don’t run around the house like a mad man, (wouldn't that be strange?) but we may engage in an energetic activity to channel our nervous energy, such as a house cleaning spree or going for a run.
After a poo.
This is something I've been asked so many times. Why does my dog get zoomies after a poo? Believe it or not, there is a medical explanation for this behaviour. It's called ‘poo-phoria’. (that's a word you'll never forget) Famous Bondi vet, Dr Chris Brown (2019), explains that the act of toileting actually stimulates the Vagus nerve, which is found in the colon. This nerve then relays a signal to the dog's brain, triggering a natural high or feeling of exhilaration, thereby causing zoomies. Too much information?
Over stimulation can occur in a busy situation, such as a big house party or at doggy day care. This can cause hyper arousal or over excitement in your dog. These type of zoomies are usually observed with mouthing and/or humping if they get too excited and have no other way of expressing it. Overstimulation can also be a result of feeling stressed, although this is often misinterpreted as excitement.
Both over stimulation and stress can trigger zoomies as a displacement behaviour, also known as ‘fiddle’. Displacement behaviour is normal dog behaviour, displayed out of context. For instance, dogs often display displacement behaviour during training sessions. When they feel under pressure and are unsure what to do, they may begin scratching, sneezing, yawning, sniffing or rolling on their back. All of this is an effort to take attention away from themselves. Likewise, if a dog is stressed, experiencing emotional conflict and/or are unsure how to behave in a certain situation, they may engage in zoomies.
Hopefully, your dog’s zoomies are making much more sense now. The question is how do you stop zoomies? Check out the next article in this series for the answer.
Dr Chris Brown 2019 Drool https://www.drool.pet/blogs/the-why/why-cats-and-dogs-get-the-zoomies