A strange and perplexing situation that all dog owners (new and old alike) deal with; one minute your best friend shifts from standing still, minding his own business, to a full-on dash around the house, entirely heedless to his environment around him. What's happening? What's wrong with your German Shepherd? Well, that's what we call a case of the "zoomies."
WHAT ARE THE ZOOMIES?
Zoomies, also known as "Frenetic Random Activity Periods" (FRAPs), is a strange phenomenon by which German Shepherds, and other breeds, will suddenly, inexplicably explode with energy. In this state, a dog with the zoomies will exhibit a somewhat crazed look in their eyes and bent, tense running posture before frenetically racing around in circles. In these manic states, a dog with the zoomies may bark incessantly or make "back and forth" dashes or chase their tail.
German Shepherds that have the #zoomies may be entirely oblivious to their environment or their owner's commands. They have been known to knock over and even break objects and furniture if one of these instances happens in the house.
As we will discuss in this article, while zoomies are not a "dangerous" condition to have for your dog, it can be curtailed and mitigated and quite problematic if not.
BUT IS IT NORMAL?
Well, quite frankly, it depends on what you consider "normal."
Does a case of Zoomies indicate that your dog has a health issue or a precursor to a potentially life-threatening situation? Not at all. For all pet owners out there, rest assured. In terms of overall health and liveliness, your GSD is perfectly normal. Zoomies are not, in and of itself, connected or correlated to any medical issue.
Now, whether or not zoomies are a positive behavior for your dog, that is a different question entirely.
You see, while zoomies do not indicate a medical issue for your dog (such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer), that does not mean it is altogether "good" for them to have.
SO, WHAT TRIGGERS ZOOMIES?
Basically, zoomies are caused and triggered by a dog (or any animal for that matter) that has an excess of stored potential energy that they have not been able to release throughout the day. This stored energy is continuously built up over time before being released out in one massive burst of activity.
So as you can see, whenever your pet gets a case of the zoomies, there is nothing "medically" wrong with them. Still, it is not altogether good for them, you, or your possessions.
Animals, like humans, thrive in an active environment and will naturally seek it out whenever possible. When in the wild, animals will often walk several miles daily as part of their routine. In many cases, this does not include rapid activity when hunting or fleeing from predators. Why is this important? Because, as a result of domestication, this norm is often heavily reduced from an animal's daily regiment, causing that excess of energy to be built up.
This can be the same in humans, as well. If you've ever had those days of pent up energy or times when you felt "stir crazy" or overly anxious, congratulations! You have experienced your version of the zoomies.
HOW LONG WILL THE ZOOMIES LAST?
This is a great question and is heavily dependent on how long your dog has been restrained or kept in a stressful situation. Dogs that have been kept in a kennel for transfer purposes, been made to take a bath, or taken to the vet will all show relatively short bouts of the zoomies. The reason for this is because they are simply "burning off" their excess anxiety from stressful activity. In these cases, a brief bit of the zoomies is nothing to be too upset over and should be expected.
However, when it comes to more prolonged bouts of containment, a case of zoomies might be quite long and potentially aggressive. In these instances, if a dog spends many hours being placed in a kennel or cage, they may be quite "lively" upon release. These dogs may showcase bouts of the zoomies for more extended periods and are most likely to cause physical disruption if in the house at the time.
While zoomies is not a life-threatening issue, it is something that you should, for your own sanity and the overall comfort of your dog, consider mitigating as much as possible.
SHOULD I STOP MY DOG FROM DOING IT?
This is somewhat of a loaded question. While you should, ideally, never stop or punish your dog from acting out from a case of the zoomies, you do want to be mindful of their environment. If they are near glass or sharp stationary objects, it is good to try and move them to another area while they run off the excess energy. Keep in mind that they may not (and likely will not) listen to your commands. A dog caught up in a case of the zoomies does not have that much "control" over themselves as they are overtaken by the desire to "get out" all of their built-up energy. So don't take it too much to heart if they bowl you over or bark too incessantly or otherwise ignore you when you call for them to stop.
The more significant point that should be considered is how to reduce your dog's instances of zoomie behavior.
To reduce the number of times your dog has the zoomies, consider:
REDUCING THEIR FOOD:
While this may sound cruel, it is important to consider that caloric intake is directly proportional to energy expenditure. When considering how much your dog should eat, rather than just pouring food whenever you think is best, consider measuring the amount you feed them each day to equate to their overall general activity.
LET THEM ROAM:
For those in safer neighborhoods or with reasonably large yards, consider letting them go out more often. As stated before, animals do well with physical activity. So long as your dog has spent enough time at the house to recognize it, is in an area that is not vehicular traffic-heavy, letting them patrol the backyard or neighborhood for a few hours will drastically reduce the number of zoomie instances. This, of course, is also dependent on your dog's demeanor, your local leash laws, and your comfort level about your dog wandering.
GET OUT AND PLAY:
While certainly the most "involved" of the options, one of the most effective ways to reduce the zoomies is to designate a few hours every day or every other day with your dog to burn off this excess energy. And while it may seem a bit difficult, especially with the increasingly dense schedules that many families have with work and other responsibilities, "play" does not always have to mean "fetch." Taking your dog out for a morning run for a few miles, allowing them to play with other dogs in a dog park, or paying for a dog walker are all great ways to both get them some much-needed exercise as well as handle their zoomies habit.
Zoomies are not a life-threatening issue for dogs or their owners. Never the less, they can very much be disrupting. If you have a dog that is continuously showing signs of crazed and wild behavior, know that there are ways to curtail this in ways they will very much thank you for. Plus, no more flipping the table!
Welcome to the Pack!
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