Does your dog FRAP?
|Dawson enjoys a good FRAP around the living room. Photo by Steve Miller|
By Doris Dressler
Your dog is in slumberland. All of a sudden, he leaps up and races around the room, sliding on rugs and bouncing off furniture. After a few laps, he collapses happily on the floor.
You just observed your dog doing what dog lovers call the “zoomies” or what experts call a frenetic random activity period, or FRAP. Who knew?
New dog owners frequently are startled at this conduct, but seasoned dog owners recognize FRAP as a common behavior and normal release of doggie energy.
Young dogs are more apt to exhibit this behavior, but high-energy dogs or dogs that are not getting enough exercise may also FRAP. Owners report that FRAPs often occur on a predictable schedule, typically once in the morning and again before bedtime. Dogs also tend to FRAP after a bath.
While many owners enjoy watching their dogs frolic, this activity can become problematic if the house is small and the dog is large or if the zooming gets out of control. What’s a dog owner to do?
If lack of exercise is an issue, try adding a walk or a good game of fetch before the FRAP periods typically begin.
Other options to consider include:
- If you observe your dog getting into FRAP mode, run toward the door and ask your dog if he wants to go outside. Most owners don’t mind their dog working off energy outside, away from valuables inside the house.
- Redirect your dog to a calmer activity; for example, if your dog enjoys playing tug, pull out a tug toy.
- Give your dog a food-dispensing toy he really has to work at. Encouraging the hunting instinct is an excellent way to tire out your dog.
- If your dog knows tricks or basic obedience cues, pull out some high-value treats and practice some old tricks or teach some new ones. Mental stimulation also can tire out a dog.
- Putting an undesirable behavior on cue can reduce the frequency of the behavior occurring on its own. If we teach the dog to zoom on cue and reinforce that behavior with food or other rewards, the dog will be less likely to zoom unless requested to. The key is to reinforce only the behavior when you ask for it. If the dog zooms on his own, ignore him; if he zooms on cue, reward with a high-value treat or other rewards, such as petting or a good belly rub.
- If teaching your dog to zoom on cue, be sure also to teach your dog to settle or down on cue.
- Don’t inadvertently reinforce the behavior by chasing, running or laughing; most dogs consider this a reward.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website offers excellent step-by-step instructions on how to teach your dog to zoom and settle on cue. Go to aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/impulse-control-training-and-games-dogs and read the “ready-set-down” and “settle” sections.