This is what it means when your dog is running around like crazy

Kövess Péter

2024. April 17 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

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Many owners have encountered the phenomenon of a dog that suddenly starts running, as if it's gone mad, and runs up and down tirelessly. What could be the cause and should you be worried?


Although it is often thought that the dog is running around because of stress or something else is wrong, there are usually more mundane reasons behind it. The unusual behaviour can simply be a sign that the dog is having a good time.

The dog may be draining its energy or running around happy

Dogs often run around to let off steam

According to veterinarian Dr. Andrea Bodó, the phenomenon is most likely to occur if the dog has had little exercise in the past (for example, because it was locked up in the kennel or apartment), but it can also be triggered by the owner turning up, feeding or walking the dog, or by meeting another dog.

It is more common in younger dogs and more energetic breeds.

When your pet is running around frantically, it can be a manifestation of an energy surge. In the jargon, these are called frenetic random activity periods (FRAPs). The same natural response is seen in cats and some wild animals, including excited rabbits, badgers and even elephants.

As we learned from Dr. Andrea Bodó, cats also typically release excess energy, which may reflect the fact that they are happy and healthy.

This is when to worry if your dog is running around

A dog may be suspected of having obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, which can be associated with other unusual behaviours. It may chase its tail or shadow, start licking the floor, orbite the air for seemingly no reason.

But running around alone does not indicate a mental problem.

If that doesn’t reassure you and you’re worried about your pet’s strange behaviour, record a video of what it’s doing and show the footage to the vet.

A dog chasing its tail can be a sign of mental illness

Better safe than sorry

Running around usually doesn’t end in injury, so there’s nothing you should do about it, but for safety’s sake, you can do your best to get fragile, accident-prone objects out of the way at home, and while you’re walking hold the leash tighter so it doesn’t accidentally get loose.

If you are taking your dog to a place where a potential outbreak could be particularly dangerous (such as a mountainside), consider draining the excess energy before you do so.

Click here to learn more about the most common behaviour problems in dogs.

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