Every evening at 5 o’clock, our poodle Missy transforms from a demure, stately lady into a wild-eyed, crazed creature. She races through our house, scattering couch cushions and spinning in circles. Last week she ran straight into my little niece and sent her flying. Everyone was OK, but the incident was still scary. We love our gentle Missy, but why does she erupt into a leaping, squirming, zig-zagging menace each evening?
– Fast and Furious Missy
Dear Fast and Furious Missy,
Never fear, the “zoomies” as we fondly refer to them, are quite normal. The gleeful frolicking is an explosion of pent-up high-energy that is expressed differently for every dog. Some dogs spin in circles, others wiggle and roll about on the floor. My dog Boomer enjoys racing up and down our stairs while his sibling Charlie does laps of our garden, tail high, legs pumping, eyes fixed on a distant point on the horizon.
Some dogs erupt into ecstatic barking or grab a toy. I once knew an Airedale that was a picture of grace and poise all day long until 11 p.m., when he would snatch his owner’s fedora and careen through their house at breakneck speed. However entertaining these antics can be, they can also result in unfortunate accidents so I will give you some tips and tricks to help channel Missy’s nightly races through your home.
It is wonderful that you noticed that these zoomies occur at regular, predictable times. If you know that Missy enjoys an uncontrolled romp through your living room at 5 o’clock, then a few minutes prior you can put her on leash and go for a walk, play fetch in your back yard or grab some treats and channel all that wild energy into focused learning. Brain games such as puzzles, peanut butter-stuffed Kongs or special chew toys are all excellent sources of entertainment and safe redirection if the zoomies arrive at an inopportune time such as when your niece is visiting.
In addition to channeling Missy’s energy into a safe activity prior to her zoomies, you may also find she benefits from an increase in her daily exercise. Experiment with enrichment walks where you both explore your neighborhood or local trails, seeking new experiences to observe or following scent trails. You can enroll Missy in agility, dock-diving, sheep-herding or shed-hunting classes or teach her to run on a treadmill indoors if venturing outside is not an option.
If Missy begins to race through your house and it is not a safe time for her to do so inside, then try to redirect her by inviting her outside into a more open area where she is less likely to injure herself by knocking into furniture. Refrain from chasing her and trying to catch her. If you were in the middle of playing a game with her and she explodes into action then pause your game and jog briskly toward your patio, calling her name and inviting her to chase you outside to continue her race.
A final piece of advice is to pursue professional training with an experienced trainer specializing in canine behaviorism, who can help you teach Missy to control her high energy moments. Safety is always a primary concern of mine, so I suggest teaching a reliable recall so if Missy is in an unenclosed area you can call her to your side despite the high energy. An additional habit I suggest implementing is not playing chase or initiating play during the 5 o’clock period of zoomies.
With these changes you should find Missy to be just as fast but not nearly as furious.
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For information go to customk9servicedogs.com or email email@example.com.