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Why do dogs get zoomies at night?

It’s no secret that dogs need ample exercise to be happy. Running, walking, sniffing, training– the list goes on and on. But what happens when your furry friend doesn’t get enough time to exercise their brain and body?

Well, a lack of these types of exercises throughout the day can lead to undesirable behaviors such as pacing, whining, and destructiveness. Another, slightly more entertaining, but just as telling sign of under stimulation in your dog, could be a round of the night-time zoomies.

Night-time zoomies or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs) can be caused by a dog having excess energy or excitement.

You might notice your dog exhibiting night-time zoomies as a result of pent-up energy throughout the day. This sudden burst of speedy, fuzzy mayhem may ignite in order to expel the energy before bedtime.

If you have found your dog is repeatedly experiencing the zoomies, read on to learn more about this distinct behavior and how to prevent and manage them.

What are the zoomies?

According to Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Jill Goldman, the zoomies, in more scientific terms, are Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs). These are seemingly sudden periods of hyperactivity that can lead to frantic bursts of speed in a circular or sporadic motion.

This behavior can appear suddenly when the dog has been inactive for long periods of time, such as at the end of a long, lazy day, and then receives a tiny bit of stimulation to set the zoomies off. While the behavior can be quite entertaining, your dog may leave a path of destruction in their wake and, if repeated frequently, this behavior could be indicative of a dog that is bored and in need of stimulation.

Thankfully, a typical case of night-time zoomies is no emergency, and there are endless possibilities when it comes to entertaining your dog throughout the day to mitigate the frequency of a whirl of furry chaos when it’s time to be winding down.

What causes night-time zoomies in dogs?

We previously argued that under-stimulation, or boredom, is the primary cause of the zoomies. Long car rides, extended hours in a kennel, or lazy rainy days with no opportunity for a proper walk could all trigger a case of boredom-based, night-time zoomies.

This is not an inherently dangerous behavior as long as your dog has adequate space to zoom. The dog should be able to perform this behavior in a securely fenced-in backyard or an area inside the home, cleared of obstacles like furniture or breakable items.

If you don’t have access to either of these spaces, you might want to try purchasing a long-leash, one that is not retractable. With a long leash and ample outside space away from others (a park or open field are ideal). Your dog may engage in zoomie behavior on the leash under supervision.

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A new toy, the return of an owner, the excitement of seeing a friend they like to play with, or finding an exciting scent on a walk could all be occasions your furry friend activates zoomie mode. Just like when a human experiences a burst of excitement they might “jump for joy”, squeal, or even do a little dance.

You may have even noticed your dog exhibiting a round of zooms after completing a bowel movement. This is perfectly normal behavior and may even be a sign of relief.

Breed and genetics

The AKC currently recognizes 200 registered dog breeds, all bred to complete different tasks from hunting and herding to simple companionship. As dog owners, we must keep in mind that breed significantly influences the amount of exercise our pet might need.

For example, Jack Russell terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and Border Collies are historically more energetic dogs, so they may naturally exhibit more zooming behavior even with the proper amount of physical activity.

On the other hand, your Pug or Bulldog may be more likely to exhibit the behavior when excited rather than due to lack of exercise, as these breeds tend to be on the “couch potato” end of the spectrum.

Keep in mind that some activities, like sniffing and searching, may be more appealing to a Pointer, while chasing may be more appealing to a Whippet. When adopting a dog, it’s important to keep in mind the type of dog you’re bringing into your home and what you can offer them in terms of time and exercise.

While FRAPs are not age-specific, you may notice canines in the puppy stage performing this behavior more than senior dogs.

Could it be more?

As we’ve discussed, while a typical case of night-time zoomies is not a reason for alarm, it is important to distinguish this from other behaviors that could be symptoms of underlying medical issues.

If your dog is displaying accompanying behaviors such as chronic tail-chasing, excessive chewing or licking of their own extremities, pacing, whining, or shaking, this might be a sign of anxiety, pain, or other disorders and you should keep track of these behaviors and consult with your veterinarian.

How to manage and prevent the zoomies at night

Even though zoomies at night may be a natural release of joy or movement, if you feel your dog is using the behavior to compensate for a lack of activity, there are plenty of ways to entertain your dog to reduce the behavior.

Regular exercise

The most obvious way to make sure your dog is energetically content is to walk or run with them. Depending on your dog, you may need to set aside an ample amount of time each day for walks outside. Whether it’s a couple of 20-30 minute walks or a longer activity during the day.

You can also check for dog parks in your area. When visiting dog parks, make sure to introduce your dog to others properly and always keep an eye on dangerous behavior like snarling, pinning, cornering, or snapping.

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If you’re lucky enough to have a securely fenced-in yard, playing an engaging game of fetch or tug-o-war is an excellent way to get your dog’s body moving.

Natural instincts

As important as it is to provide your canine with physical exercise, it’s also equally as important to allow them to participate in mentally productive activities. Sniffing is a natural behavior dogs use to explore and learn more about their environment. In fact, canine behavior professionals have stated that a slower and shorter sniff-filled walk can be just as tiring as a longer, faster-paced walk.

This is another scenario in which a long leash may come in handy. Take your dog to their favorite outdoor space and let them lead the way and sniff to their heart’s content. A 10-15 foot long leash will give your dog ample space to sniff in any direction they want without putting pressure or tension on the leash or collar.

Mental Stimulation

You can also combine your dog’s love of treats and toys with their ability to smell and search to provide your dog with mental stimulation. You can even use household items like towels, shirts, and cardboard and paper packaging to create a game of “find the treats.” Hide treat stuffed items in boxes, kennels, or around the house, and let your dog use their nose and brain to find the reward.

This can satisfy your dogs’ need to sniff and provide them with fun and rewarding entertainment. If you do use cardboard items, make sure to supervise and make sure your dog isn’t ingesting cardboard as this may potentially cause intestinal blockages or other issues.

If you find them eating the cardboard, stick to items like kongs, t-shirts, towels, etc. There are also plenty of puzzles you can find and purchase online to occupy your dog’s time.

Training and behavior modification

Training should also be a part of your canine’s daily routine. Training should be done in 5-10 minute sessions throughout the day. From basic training like learning to sit and lay down, to husbandry training like desensitization to nail clippers or baths, training is a great way to make your dog focus, use their brain, and ultimately, tire them out and reduce unwanted behaviors.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, night-time zoomies are a natural way for your dog to release pent-up energy or express excitement. Responsible dog owners should always be aware of their dog’s behaviors and habits. It is an owner’s responsibility to educate themselves on their dog’s breed and provide them with the appropriate amount and types of activities.

Lastly, be sure to remember that it’s all about FUN! Have fun with your dog, and they are sure to be happy and tired at the end of each day. This will reduce the frequency of those nighttime zoomies.