Why Does My Dog Race Through the House
Have you ever watched your dog run around the house like a maniac and wondered, “What’s up with that?” Turns out the behavior actually has a name – frenetic random activity period (FRAP) – but I prefer to call them the canine crazies.
During an episode of the canine crazies, a dog may race through the house, run around the yard, spin in circles, lie down and wiggle on his back… just about any exuberant, goofy behavior qualifies. No one is exactly sure why dogs behave in this way, but they are probably just blowing off steam. Older puppies and young adult dogs most frequently exhibit the canine crazies. It’s no wonder they need an outlet for all their energy when you think about how much get-up-and-go dogs in this age range have and how we often ask them to be relatively sedentary for long periods of time.
How to Determine if Your Dog is Going through a FRAP?
When a dog races through the house or yard because of a FRAP, he should look like he is having fun. The canine crazies are a form of play, after all. Being able to read a dog’s body language will help you determine what his state of mind is. In general, a dog that is excited and in the mood for play:
- holds his eyes wide open
- keeps his ears pricked forward
- pants or keeps his mouth closed or just slightly open with his lips covering most of his teeth
- may wiggle with excitement, “dance” by lifting up one front foot and then the other, or “play bow” with his chest lowered to the ground and head and rump elevated
- wags hi tail rapidly
In many cases, people can engage dogs in play during a FRAP by mimicking play bows and chasing them around the house or yard.
A dog that is nervous or fearful will look very different from one that is playful:
- his body will appear stiff
- you may be able to see the whites of his eyes
- his ears will be pulled back against his head
- he may pant nervously or his mouth could be closed or slightly open with his teeth showing
- his tail will be lowered and either rigid or wagging slowly
Dogs that are scared may also run quickly through the house or yard, but they are doing so out of fear not fun. By learning what a dog is trying to communicate through his body language, you should be able to determine whether your are witnessing a FRAP or a dog that feels he needs to escape a potentially dangerous situation.
What Sets off A FRAP?
Why do dogs go from relaxing quietly one moment to racing through the house the next? Is there an internal or external cue that sets them off? We may never know for sure, but it is important to remember that even though nothing appears to have changed to us, a dog’s senses could easily have picked up a stimulus we missed.
A dog’s sense of smell is remarkable. In comparison to humans, dogs have over 40 times the number of scent receptors in their noses, and a large proportion of the canine brain is dedicated to decoding the olfactory world. Although it is impossible to say exactly how much better dogs smell than we do, they are certainly much more aware of what is going on around them with regards to odors. Perhaps dogs race around the house because they smell something exciting and new.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs actually have very good eyesight; they just see the world very differently than we do. The eyes’ retinas convert light energy into nerve impulses to be sent to the brain. Cells in the retina called rods are primarily responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement. Dogs have a many more rods in their retinas than do people. Dogs also have another ocular structure called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light within the eye. All of this means that dogs are able to see very well in dim light and can pick out a moving object much better than people can. If your dog gets a case of the canine crazies, he may have just seen something that you missed. FYI, dogs do have fewer cones – the cells that differentiate colors and help us see fine details – in comparison to people, so we have them beat in this regard, at least.
Dogs hear very well too. They are able to pick up sounds at much lower intensities than people can, which means they can hear things from much farther away. Dogs can also hear at a much higher pitch than we do. In general, the upper threshold for human hearing is around 23,000 Hz and between 45,000 and 75,000 Hz for dogs depending on the study and the breed tested. FRAPs may be set off by sounds that dogs hear but we can’t. Does your neighbor have a dog whistle, by any chance?
Can FRAPs be Dangerous?
Although racing through the house or yard may be perfectly normal behavior for dogs, owners do have to make sure their canine companions are safe when they do so. In the middle of a FRAP, dogs are almost completely oblivious to their surroundings. Make sure your house and yard have been adequately puppy proofed so they can’t knock over anything heavy (or valuable) or run into anything sharp. People who could be injured by a speeding furball should also take precautions to protect themselves, and it should go without saying that dogs prone to the canine crazies should always be leashed when they outside in an unfenced areas.
So keep your dog safe, but feel free to smile at your dog’s foolish antics. He’s just enjoying life to its fullest. We should all take this page from the canine playbook and make it our own.