10 Reasons Why Dogs Run Erratically (Not Zoomies)



Zoomies are incredibly fun to watch and a sign of how excited and happy your dog is at the moment.


But what if your dog displays similar behavior in addition to his usual Zoomie triggers?


Changes in our dogs’ behavior are always worrisome and can have many underlying reasons.

If your dog runs erratically, he could be suffering from CCD, infections, brain tumors, anxiety, liver disease, or pain. However, it can also indicate that you are not getting enough exercise or that your dog is seeking attention.

Causes of Erratic Operation

Before we get into the different reasons for this erratic behavior, we need to clearly draw the line between run-of-the-mill zoomies and something more worrisome.

Zoomies or FRAP (Frantic Random Activity Period) are characterized by sudden bursts of energy that last for a short time.

During this, your dog will be running around in circles like crazy to get all that excess energy out.

This usually happens in moments of pure emotion such as before going for a walk, after eating or when meeting another dog.

It can also occur out of sheer relief after bathing or pooping.

Your dog will be exactly the same just before and after the zoomies and they will mostly occur around the same time/activity.

If this running doesn’t stop, your dog is acting differently or seems uncomfortable during it, then something could be wrong.

Brown dog running down a paved street.
Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

1. Insufficient exercise

The first possible reason for running erratically could be lack of exercise.

If your dog doesn’t get the required amount of daily exercise, he might try to get rid of excess energy by running around the house.

For some breeds, running in circles is actually their preferred type of exercise.

The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on his breed, age, size, and health.

Also, don’t forget to mentally tire your dog out.

Mental stimulation is just as important and can be achieved through training, play, puzzle toys, nose jobs, and much more.

2. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Erratic behavior can indicate neurological problems such as CCD (canine cognitive dysfunction).

This syndrome usually occurs in older dogs and can be compared to dementia or Alzheimer’s in humans.

Dogs with CCD experience behavioral disturbances such as disorientation and different interactions with the owner and the environment.

Rhythm and other repetitive movements can be the result of disorientation and visual impairment.

Like people with Alzheimer’s, dogs can experience increased anxiety, phobias, and aggression.

It is usually diagnosed based on clinical signs and a physical examination.

Early intervention is key here and although there is no cure, treatment can increase quality of life.

Dogs diagnosed with CCD live for about two years on average.

3. Ear infections

The ears are responsible for hearing and are essential to your dog’s sense of balance.

Ear infections can cause disorientation and your dog can lose balance due to pressure changes in the inner ear.

Compared to humans, dogs are much more prone to ear infections due to the shape of their ear canal.

If you suspect that the ears are the cause of your dog’s unusual behavior, take a quick exam.

Do you see any redness, swelling, discharge, or scabs?

Does your dog constantly shake his head or scratch his ear?

If so, it’s definitely time for a visit to the vet, who can recommend treatment based on your dog’s underlying problem.

4. Brain tumor

Neurological problems are often suspected in behavior changes that have no obvious cause.

A brain tumor is a very serious condition that is especially common in older dogs.

Depending on which part of the brain is affected, symptoms can vary greatly in type and severity.

Apart from behavioral changes, seizures are a very common sign of brain tumors and often the only symptom that shows up clearly.

However, brain tumors share similar symptoms with many other neurological diseases, so imaging of the brain with a CT or MRI scan is needed to diagnose it.

5. Looking for something

Just like us, dogs tend to lose items or completely forget where they last saw the ball.

Fortunately, they are equipped with a strong sense of smell that usually leads them to the source.+

So if your dog suddenly gets up and starts running around the house frantically, he may just be looking for his favorite toy.

If this behavior stops when your dog has found something and if it only happens when he is looking for something, then there is nothing to worry about.

This can also happen when a family member (two or four legged) has recently passed away and your dog is simply looking for his mate.

Grief is hard on our pets, too, so give them time to adjust to this new reality.

6. Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion our dogs struggle with too, and a sudden surge of fear can trigger numerous physical responses.

Shaking, walking aimlessly, panting excessively, and hiding are all part of this state of distress.

Intense anxiety can lead to a panic attack for no apparent reason.

Most likely, this happens due to chronic stress or other anxiety triggers.

Although fear and anxiety are completely normal emotions that everyone has experienced at some point, the anxiety that controls the day to day points to a disorder.

Dogs with anxiety disorder react strongly to things that would not upset other dogs and may need daily adjustments to function normally.

Recent research has also shown that our dogs can sense stress and anxiety in humans.

The results indicate that physiological processes associated with an acute psychological stress response produce changes in volatile organic compounds emanating from breath and/or sweat that are detectable by dogs.

Dogs can discriminate between human baseline and odors from psychological stress conditions

Dogs are incredibly sensitive to our own emotions and may respond with similar feelings.

If you are anxious all the time, your dog may pick up on this and become more fearful.

Dachshund running on the beach.
Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

7. Liver disease

The liver is a very important part of the body and is responsible for filtering toxins from the system.

Any problem with the liver can cause severe symptoms ranging from increased thirst and loss of appetite to seizures and ascites.

It often leads to confusion and pain, resulting in an unsteady walk.

Liver disease can be caused by many things, including bacteria, mold, parasites, and diabetes.

Left untreated, it can turn fatal, so early intervention is key here.

8. Hear or smell something

Even when they are resting, dogs are always listening.

The smallest sound can quickly wake up an alert dog who will jump up and immediately try to find the culprit.

There are also noises that our dogs can hear but we can’t.

So if your dog is running around the house, it may be trying to figure out where that weird noise is coming from.

The same goes for certain scents that our dogs are much more attuned to.

Your dog could also be running away from a sound if he has noise anxiety.

This is most commonly associated with loud sounds like fireworks, thunder, or sirens.

9. Attention seeking

There is also the possibility that your dog’s erratic behavior is happening because of you.

Dogs do the strangest things when it comes to getting our attention.

And like everything they’re doing, they repeat what works.

How do you react when your dog starts running?

If you find it funny, your dog will gladly remember that doing it will put him in a good mood.

But even negative attention is attention.

If you scold your dog for this behavior or tell it to go elsewhere, it may happen again.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking attention, and if you can’t talk, there are a few things you can do to get it.

Your dog is most likely telling you something with this behavior.

You may need to relieve yourself in the fresh air or you may just be crazy with boredom.

10. pain

Pacing and restlessness are common signs of pain in dogs.

Wandering around and not being able to get into a comfortable position may indicate an underlying problem.

This is often the case with older dogs suffering from arthritis.

Specifically, they have difficulty getting up after a nap and have trouble walking over doorways or up stairs.

Especially sudden pain from swelling or injury can cause dogs to pace.

There is usually whining and panting involved and differences in the way they carry their body.

Check your dog for any visible signs of injury and take him to a vet immediately.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for veterinary care and is not intended to be. I am not a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet.



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