What You Probably Don't Know About Zoomies

FRAPs (frenetic random activity periods) or zoomies can be one of, if not, the most comical behavior you'll ever see in a dog, and even cats, rabbits, ferrets and elephants. But do you really know what causes them, and could they be associated with OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder?

zoomies

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The “zoomies” in dogs are wildly adorable, and can be sparked by all kinds of everyday happenings, such as mom or dad arriving home, or even after pooping
  • The technical name from zoomies is FRAPs (frenetic random activity periods), defined as sudden bursts of pent-up energy that cause dogs to run at breakneck speeds back and forth or around and around, or sometimes, in a tight little circle
  • Zoomies are entirely normal for many animal species, both wild and domesticated; they aren’t a sign of a compulsive disorder, so there’s no need to worry unless there’s a risk your pet could be injured
  • During times when you don’t want your dog to break out into zoomies, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood it will happen
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Among the many comical behaviors dogs engage in, a hands-down favorite has to be the "zoomies" (scientific name: frenetic random activity periods, or FRAPs).

These delightfully crazy bursts of energy often come out of nowhere. For instance, your dog finishes a satisfying meal and looks ready to settle down for a food-induced nap, and then suddenly he’s flying through the house with absolutely no direction or purpose, a wild look in his eyes.

Dogs with a case of the zoomies often break into a sprint, tuck their backend, and execute a series of sharp turns, spins, or changes in direction. With enough room, they might also run in wide circles.

More Zoomie Facts

  • Many things can spark zoomies — Common triggers include excitement or arousal, getting outside after being indoors for an extended period, the appearance of another dog, when mom or dad arrives home, romps in the snow, after a bath or professional grooming, after pooping, and upon being let out of their crate.
  • They don’t last long — Most zoomies end within a minute or two and stop as abruptly as they start.
  • Zoomies are normal and natural — According to the president-elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), José Arce, dogs who break out in zoomies are just having fun (and burning off energy) doing something that comes naturally to them, and to many other domesticated and wild animal species, for example, cats, rabbits, ferrets and even elephants!

    Bunny zoomies are sometimes called "binkies" (because "zoomies" wasn’t cute enough?). Binkies can involve running, twisting the head or body around, and hopping or jumping in the air.

No, Zoomies Aren’t a Sign of a Compulsive Order

As noted above, zoomies are an entirely normal behavior for some animals, but pet parents can misinterpret what’s going on and assume their dog has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Compulsive behaviors in dogs typically take the form of obsessive licking (which can cause acral lick dermatitis aka lick granuloma), and tail chasing.

Zoomies alone aren’t dangerous for dogs, but if you have a FRAPper in the family, it’s probably a good idea to keep their normal indoor zoom track clear of objects you’re fond of or items that could harm them in a collision. Puppies in particular can be uncoordinated, so it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on little ones if they tend to be zoomers.

And, of course, if you’re walking a dog who zooms, you’ll want to keep good control of the leash, which should be attached to a harness vs. a collar.

How to Minimize Zoomies When Necessary

While it’s undoubtedly entertaining and even rewarding to watch your zooming dog experience the joy of being alive, there will be times when the behavior isn’t safe or appropriate.

Since zoomies are a way for dogs to burn off pent-up energy, one of the best ways I’ve found to help curb their frequency is a daily dose of rigorous exercise first thing in the morning. In fact, I’ve been able to moderate the length and intensity of zoomies in healthy dogs living with elderly pet parents by designing daily morning routines that include rigorous swims, treadmill sessions and/or 20 minutes of intense retrieving exercises.

Even a nice, long walk can help reduce the amount of pent-up energy healthy dogs carry around all day. If your dog enjoys running (of the non-zoomies variety), consider taking her along on jogs or bike rides.

After an intense exercise session, if your dog still has the desire to really move his body, you might also try playing calming music, which studies have shown can be very relaxing for amped-up pups.