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How To Avoid Evening Puppy Zoomies!

Collie under blanket looking overwhelmed

“Every night around 7pm-9pm our dog goes loopy. She gets over excited for no reason and is starting to get snappy while she is at it – barking and appearing quite aggressive. We have tried ignoring it, distracting her, putting her in her crate which she then tears about.

The rest of the day she is quite normal – gets excited when she plays but nothing like she is in the evening. It’s like she is possessed! I have tried taking her for a walk but she bounces all over the place and refuses to do anything she does during the day. Any advice? She has her last jabs tomorrow – as I type she is tearing round the house growling at things in a frenzy.”

 

Sound familiar? If you have a puppy, the chances are high that you’ve experienced your fair share of puppy zoomies. Most commonly spotted just as you plonk yourself onto the sofa of an evening, ready to relax. 

Let’s explore why puppy zoomies happen, what they mean and how you can help your puppy to calm down. 

 

Do zoomies mean a dog is happy?

Not exactly! Zoomies are often a build up of adrenaline in your dog’s system that your dog needs to do something with. This then results in a bout of zooming around burning off all that pent up adrenaline in their own sweet(?!) way. 

4 main reasons for puppy zoomies

  • Overwhelmed
  • Excited
  • Overtired
  • Growing pains

We see zoomies when a dog is overwhelmed, overtired or excited. But how do you tell the difference? 

Excited zoomies: A short burst of energy resulting in zooming around, but your dog’s brain is still engaged. They’re aware of their environment and can be interrupted.  

Overwhelmed zoomies: The brain has exited the body – your dog is running into things, racing around like a looney and not very aware of their environment. 

The difference between an excited zoomie and an overwhelmed zoomie is in whether your dog’s brain is still engaged! 

 

Do puppies get zoomies when overtired? 

Yes, puppies need a lot of rest! Often people think that they need to tire the puppy out in order to help them be calm in the evening, but this can have the opposite effect. Rest is actually really important for your puppy. 

Your puppy is learning all the time and experiences that seem small to us can have a big impact on them. 

If your puppy has experienced a lot in a day, their body and brain might feel full up. It can’t cope with anymore. It’s like an overtired child who can’t switch off – they become frustrated and need help to calm down. 

Puppies will not take the responsibility of putting themselves to bed when they’re overtired and mouthy. So we need to help them and take the parental role of settling them down for a rest. 

collie puppy sleeping on a big brown teddy

 

Should I ignore puppy zoomies?

Puppy zoomies are very difficult to ignore, particularly as your puppy gets bigger. Plus, zoomies can be dangerous; your puppy can hurt themselves, hurt other people or animals, and damage items in your home! 

Rather than ignoring the zoomies, It’s more effective to try and understand what’s triggered them, so you can better manage the things that get your puppy amped up and overwhelmed. 

border collie puppy with stick in it's mouth, staring at the camera

We have to be champion observers and use the puppy zoomies as an opportunity to learn more about our dogs. Did they have a very busy day? Did they have a very quiet and boring day? Were they frustrated today? Read on to learn more about what to do with this information! 

When your puppy is in full zoomie mode, there’s not a huge amount you can do except to try and help your puppy calm down.

 

How to calm down the puppy zoomies

Our aim is to help your puppy stay in a headspace where they can regulate and connect their brain and their body together. And to help them wind down and rest if that’s what they need! 

If you think of puppy zoomies a little like an overtired baby or toddler, it can help you understand them. For human babies, we usually have a nighttime routine to help them calm down for sleep in the evening. Your puppy can benefit from the same. 

Each puppy will be different, but here are my go-tos for calming a puppy down:

1. Give your puppy a chew

Chewing can relieve teething pain and release calming endorphins for your puppy. If they’re reluctant to take the chew, try softening it in hot water then letting it cool before giving it to your puppy. An already frustrated puppy may not want to put in the work to start off a hard chew, softening it can help. 

 

2.  Have a short training session

Take some tasty treats and run through some of your puppy training repertoire or perhaps even teach a new trick. Only use around 10 treats in a session, so it’s short and sweet, and your puppy doesn’t get bored.

 

3. Grab a kong

Get hold of a Puppy Kong from somewhere like Pets at Home and fill in to the brim with some of your puppy’s kibble, baby food (mild and gentle for young tummies!) and plug the top with some cream cheese. We usually use something like plain Philadelphia.

Once you’ve made this up (oh and you might want a couple of these so you have one ready for the next time you need it) pop it in the freezer. This achieves two things – nice and cold for sore, teething gums (just like human babies!), and it will also take puppy a lot longer to get through it too. 

 

4. Try a calming remedy

Scents designed to calm dogs down may help take the edge off for your puppy. Brands such as Adaptil and Pet Remedy offer natural calming solutions in a plug in diffuser, spray or collar form. 

They don’t work for everyone, but I do know people who’ve sworn by their effectiveness. My old collie Kai really benefited from the Pet Remedy spray during fireworks season. 

 

Puppy zoomies & biting

One of the only ways your puppy has to communicate is through their mouth. So if your puppy is in pain, overwhelmed or overtired, it’s not unusual for them to become a bit bitey, a bit zoomie… or both!

Your puppy’s body is changing all the time. In the same way that children and teenager’s bodies go through phases of growth surges and growing pains, your puppy’s does too. Only, your puppy’s growth and development is happening at quite a rapid pace. 

Think about how quickly your puppy goes from being a squidgy little bundle to a more grown up dog. It happens super fast when you consider the comparison between human growth and development vs puppy development. 

As your puppy is growing really quickly, they can experience growing pains. And when your puppy is in pain, they’ll try to release it. Usually, this is directed at their nearest and dearest. 

It’s not unusual for the main caregiver of a puppy to tell me that they’re the member of the household who gets the brunt of their puppy’s biting! 

Yep, just like when you’re a child’s safe person you get all the emotions and outbursts, the same is true with puppies! 

collie trainer gemma fisher with a black and white border collie puppy

 

Aggressive puppy zoomies

Zoomies can look aggressive – but generally it’s not true aggression. It’s full on, yes! But it’s really more because your puppy is overtired, overwhelmed or frustrated. 

Aggression doesn’t come out of nowhere and what can look like anger or aggression can be your puppy communicating their frustration or overarousal. 

It’s an observation game.

As we’re getting to know our dogs, we might not always understand their communication. Can you imagine how frustrating that is for a puppy? 

Again, a bit like a child who’s not yet got the ability to verbalise their wants and needs or understand boundaries – explosions can happen because it’s their only way to communicate frustration or upset. 

My canine body language webinar can help you understand your puppy’s non-verbal communication, so you can reduce their frustration and intervene when they need help. 

 

Puppy witching hour biting

Yep, there is a definite witching hour for puppy biting. As we’ve discussed, depending on the experiences your puppy has had that day, there will be an impact on their mood in the evening. 

See how quickly my collie puppy Toddy changes his behaviour as a result of his bed appearing in this video? 

The opportunity to earn reinforcement on the bed is more reinforcing than playing with his brother, partly because he’s enjoyed practising this many times already in his short life (though this is only the 4th time I’ve used this particular bed – this skill transfers from other places).

Notice Jade & Vodka, his sisters, also understand this game and demonstrate what Toddy’s behaviour will develop into – all taught using reinforcement and praise.

I don’t need to tell him off because I set him up to make GREAT choices all by himself. Puppies, all puppies, are smart – it’s how we shape their brains which makes the difference between one we enjoy living with or one we don’t.

You can learn how to teach your puppy an impressive ‘go to bed’ behaviour and lots more, in my Practical Puppy Fix course here. 

 

When do puppies grow out of zoomies?

Generally, your puppy will grow out of zoomies when their body is settling down. This isn’t as simple as the physical growth you can see on the outside, but also the things happening on the inside. Your dog’s hormones are changing too and their growth plates and skeletal developments are happening even though you can’t see them. 

One of the arguments for not neutering too early is that your dog’s sex hormones aren’t just for reproduction, they affect growth too. If we neuter too early, your dog’s growth plates may not get the message to stop growing – which can cause problems! 

Learn more about when to neuter your puppy here.  

 

In Conclusion

My puppy’s witching hours have got less and less as I’ve got more experienced as a dog trainer. And I think this is because of my ability to gauge what is an appropriate amount of exercise and stimulation for my puppies. 

It’s about being able to move with your puppy and understanding their body language, so you can decide what’s too much for them. This can be really difficult as you’re learning about your puppy and getting to know them. 

You’re learning on the job so go easy on yourself and take notes on what your puppy’s day has looked like when you then have hideous witching hours at night.  

 

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