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Categories: Behavioral Problems , Puppy Training

Q. My 11 month old dog gets what we call the zoomies. He tucks his butt and runs around like he's nuts. Why does he do this and what should I do about it?
Hello,

I have used 3 of your videos, and they have been of tremendous help to me with my puppy (he is now 11 months old). But there is something I haven't seen addressed, or perhaps I'm not using the right terminology. We got Finley at 6 months of age from a shelter, and he has bouts of what I found on the internet to be called the zoomies. He will all of a sudden just change his demeanor... it used to start with a stare at me with a different look in his eye and you'd know it's coming, and then he'd tuck his butt and run around like he's nuts. He'd jump on and off things. He used to jump at me too, but I told him "no" and to "leave it," and that seems to help keep me out of it. But he will do this to varying degrees until he has exhausted the urge. As he has aged, it usually starts with him huffing or making a little bark and then he goes nuts. I do think it may be more common after a period where he has been sedentary, but not always. The episodes have lessened, but for the first time he did it with new company... he did it around the man. Finley has a tendency to be nervous around some people, especially guys, which we work on by going to town, puppy class, etc, so I'm not sure if this episode was out of nerves, aggression, or what. He didn't bite anyone, nor does he ever with these episodes, but he can sound rather vicious with his growls and huffs. He ran around the guy, jumped on the bed, around the guy, on the bed, etc. What does that mean?


According to the internet, it sounds like lots of people have experienced such zoomie episodes, but I'm wondering what causes it. Is it that he doesn't see me as pack leader? He seems to submit in other ways. Is it a hormonal thing he will outgrow? Should I be concerned? Should I allow him to get it out or make him stop? I have made him stop if he seemed to be getting too crazy where he might wreck something or hurt himself. He is a pit bull, so I am especially concerned about being the leader and curbing any possible aggression.

Thanks so much for your time.
Paula

A. I'm not sure whether you should allow this or not. this is a common activity (usually with younger, high energy dogs) that is a dogs way of blowing off steam or initiating play or interaction.

I don't let my dogs do this WITH ME, unless I initiate it because I train my dogs for structured activities like obedience and agility competition. If you let the dog dictate when and where this happens, they may begin to offer this as a way to get some attention or to divert you from the task at hand. I don't care if my dogs practice this while playing with each other.

If your dog does this and you laugh or act amused, or if you chase the dog around trying to get them to stop it you are reinforcing the dog's behavior. If my puppy does this when I'm out with her I simply turn my back and ignore her. I don't acknowledge this at all. If she's on a leash (which she is 99% of the time) I simply don't allow it and I redirect her to some other behavior that I want to encourage.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen dogs do this at an agility competition.... and I'm fairly certain these dogs have gotten reinforcement for this behavior at home and in other locations in the past. I just don't see a good reason to allow it, because like you said, the dogs get really crazy while they are doing it. I don't like to let my dogs get in that state of mind.

Since you seem to recognize the signs before it happens, I'd try to interrupt it and ask the dog for something positive that you want him to do.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

  Response:

Thanks Cindy. That makes sense to me. In fact, I have never encouraged it in the past but rather kept still and ignored him so he wouldn't jump on me (though I have snickered at him at times). But recently he did it when we were at the neighbors and she was encouraging him by saying, "zoom zoom!" He has had more episodes after that and they have been a bit more wild than usual. Thus, I think encouragement is definitely the wrong thing, as you said. I will take your advice and redirect his attention when he starts thinking about doing it again. And, of course, the more he is able to expend his energy during the day, the less likely he is to have such episodes anyway.

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I know you must get tons of questions, so thanks for taking the time to answer mine.

Paula
  
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