Every dog lover has experienced it: that moment when a normal dog suddenly goes crazy. Your mild mannered pup is replaced by a wild monster who is running around the home, crashing into everything and, it seems, having a great time.
Most pet parents refer to these crazy bursts of energy “the zoomies,” and for the most part they’re a completely normal—and highly entertaining—part of life as a dog owner. But the zoomies can cause problems if the fits happen at a less than ideal time, say when your pup is off leash or in the same room as your precious china collection.
Here’s what you need to know about dogs and the zoomies.
What Are the Zoomies?
The zoomies are also known as Frenetic Random Activity Periods, or FRAPS, which is almost as cool a name as the zoomies.
“FRAPs are a totally normal release of pent up energy,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack of New York City’s Animal Acupuncture.
An episode is typically described as a wild run that seemingly comes out of nowhere and lasts for a few minutes at most.
It’s like a wind up toy that was wound to the max, says Dr. Jill Sackman, head of behavior medicine service at BluePearl Veterinary Partners.
”I think most people would see it as a playful and positive energy,” she says.
What Causes the Zoomies in Dogs?
It’s not known exactly what causes the zoomies, says Los Angeles-based veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney.
“They can happen anytime a pooch is very excited,” he says, including when a pet parent comes home after a long period away, when a new canine or human friend comes over, or after an event like a visit to the veterinarian or groomer.
“Sometimes they can be triggered by watching other pets, children, or people engage in high energy playful behavior,” says Barrack.
The zoomies are most likely a way to relieve stress, says Sackman. If a dog has put up with a less than desirable experience, such as a bath, a vet visit, or a day alone with minimal stimulation, FRAPs provide a way for that dog to expend energy and get some relief.
She compared it to something many humans can relate to: “It’s like a little kid who is excited to finally be getting out of school.“
What Kind of Dogs Get the Zoomies?
The doctors agreed the zoomies occur in dogs of any age.
Very young puppies, those only a few weeks old, might not exhibit them as frequently as older dogs because their bodies haven’t fully developed the skills and strength to run around wildly, says Mahaney. Adults and seniors can get the zoomies provided they are healthy enough to have that kind of energy.
Which means, in a way, the zoomies could be a sign your dog is feeling happy and healthy.
“I’ve never seen a dog that is severely ill exhibit such behavior,” says Mahaney.
Are the Zoomies Dangerous?
While the zoomies are usually a sign your pup is in a good mood, if those intense energy bursts happen at the wrong time or place they could put your dog—and your belongings—in potential danger.
Keep zooming dogs away from stairs and elevated areas, says Mahaney. If you can, herd her away from slick surfaces like hardwood floors or tile and onto something with more traction, like carpet or a grassy surface.
When a dog is experiencing the zoomies, it’s also important to keep her away from the road if the bursts happen during a walk or playtime at the park.
If the fits hit while you’re outside, try to resist the temptation to chase your dog, says Sackman—it will only make her think it’s a game. Instead, try to call her back to you with a treat or a dog toy. When she’s close enough, try to slip on the leash.
If that’s not working, run in the opposite direction. Your pup is likely to chase you, she says.
How to Help Dogs With the Zoomies
While FRAPs or the zoomies are completely normal in dogs, there are some actions you can take if these bouts of energy happen frequently. If you think the zoomies might due to stress, you can try to help your dog by getting ahead of the problem.
“Try to recognize these patterns so you can encourage a healthy release of energy with a long walk, run, or a game of fetch,” says Barrack.
Helen Anne Travis is a freelance writer based in Tampa, FL. She also writes for CNN, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail.