Dog owners and friends, you may or may not know what the dog zoomies look like.
Have you seen dogs shake off water and run around the house like a half-happy, half-relieved maniac after a bath?
Does something get under your dog’s skin while chilling in the backyard and all of a sudden she’s flipping circles and running back and forth like she’s at the horse track?
This, my friend, is the dog zoomies.
The title may sound like a “Your Mama” joke but it’s true. Your dog does get the zoomies and runs like a horse, too!
Whoosh-whip-whoosh-weeeeeeee-whish-whoop! That’s the sound of your dog running back and force across your backyard. Watch out because they’re not thinking of you; only of the rush of endorphins and release of any pent-up stress as they zip-zoom-zee!
Have you noticed human behavior when we are observing dogs with the zoomies? I don’t have scientific evidence but by the silly grins plastered on our faces as we gawk in delight. I’d bet our endorphins get a rush, too, when we’re giggling at the silly antics.
“Along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Even the anticipation and expectation of laugher, e.g., attending a comedy show, increases levels of endorphins.” — Thai Nguyen
Recently, I watched our longtime-rescue and newly-homed rescue dogs running side by side. Juno (longtime rescue) had a case of the zoomies and zipped back and forth in our backyard. Nugget (our new rescue) tried to keep up with her.
Love at first (play) fight
When we brought Nugget home, he weighed 2.6 pounds and the rescue agency described him as “feisty”. He’s a Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix and cute as can be.
We followed the advice of professionals to let Juno, our rescue from five years ago, and Nugget meet on leash and in neutral territory (our street). The meeting went well.
Juno is a mutt. We ran her DNA test and got back: American Staffordshire Terrier, Weimereiner, Rottweiler, Akita, and Chow. She weighs 55 pounds and is a bit of a goofy klutz who doesn’t understand her mere weight can harm people (or tiny dogs).
She’d had puppies so we hoped she’d get on fine with Nugget. And, Nugget was feisty so we hoped he’d stand up to Juno. They get along great!
Zoom zoom zoom!
Juno loves to run sprints in our backyard. It didn’t occur to me that her sprints are the zoomies until bringing Nugget home and noticing he had no idea what was going on. Turns out treating our backyard like the Indy 500 is zoomie behavior.
When the spirit moves our dog, Juno, she makes a beeline to cover the largest portion of the yard. Then she sprints back to her dug out dirt hole and muddles around in it for a bit. Then, it’s back to the races.
We like to encourage this behavior by shouting, “Go, Dog, Go!” (Do you remember the children’s book of the same name?). It’s similar to the zoomies but not quite the same.
Nugget, our puppy, saw Juno getting the Dog Zoomies and decided he might want in on the action. He ran after her, tried to keep out of her way, and keep up, no easy feat for a dog about 1/18th the size of Juno!
I noticed something while he was running. First of all, he was stinking adorable. Second of all, his run was different from Juno’s. He was lifting his front legs simultaneously and then his back legs simultaneously — a sort of kangaroo-hop-run across the yard.
Why dogs get the zoomies
“Zoomies, or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), refer to those unmistakable explosions of energy that dogs have on occasion. Zoomies often feature frantic, repetitive behavior such as running in circles or spinning around. A frequent cause of zoomies is an excess buildup of energy that dogs hold on to, which is then released in one big burst.” Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT
According to Sassafrass Lowrey at dogster.com, dogs give clues with their body language before the zoomies hit. This could be with play-bowing or a certain mischievous look crossing over their eyes.
Some dogs spin in circles until they fall down or chase their tails. As long as your dog is in a safe space when the zoomies hit, there is nothing to be worried about.
More examples of dog zoomie behavior
- running up and down the stairs
- jumping on and off furniture--couches are popular
- running laps inside the home
- may zoom when coming in from being outside
To make sure your dog stays safe, work on keeping the environment they zoom in safe instead of trying to prevent or stop the behavior.
This means giving the dog plenty of space to run and play in and being careful to keep them off of slippery surfaces like tile or hardwood floors.
Know that the zoomies are a normal part of dog behavior that can be enjoyed by dogs and quietly observant pet owners, alike.
Another safety tip is to never chase a dog when they’re zooming. A better option is to run away from them and let the dog zoom after you.
As to the Why of the zoomies, Lowrey says “zoomies are a great way for dogs of any age to release pent-up energy.”
Maybe people need to try the zoomies, too!
Take some time to observe your dog’s behavior when they are excited. What do they do? Maybe they’ve been displaying the dog zoomies for years, but you didn’t know what that specific behavior is called. Now you do!
Are they excited and happy when they have the zoomies? Would they benefit from zoomie encouragement after a stressful situation? Help them to be their happiest doggie-selves.
Enjoy your dog’s zoomies as much as they do. The zoomies are good for them and you! Remember when you laugh you release feel-good endorphins.
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.” Mary Oliver
Dogs have different running gaits. It’s not vital to know them, but it is interesting. Maybe you’ll win the next Trivia Night when Dog Trot is the answer!
Originally published in Creatures in August of 2020.