Behaviorists call the syndrome of a dog running helter-skelter around the yard, or zooming from room to room in the house “frequent, random activity periods (FRAPS). However this is a profound misnomer because there’s nothing random about this activity. When a dog goes zoom-zoom-zoom it is actually fear coming to the surface so that it can be dissipated.
The opportunity for the release of fear occurs when the dog feels safe. That fear is being is expressed is why one can observe in such a dog a tell tale “scoot” in its hind end with a tucked tail and hunched in hindquarters as it corners and gathers itself for the next fly by. It looks just as if the dog is being chased by an imaginary predator close on its heels nipping at its tail so that it has to zig and zag to keep away from it.
You can see the identical behavior in cats that find themselves out in the yard, a gust of wind kicks up a leaf and the cat zoom-zoom-zooms until it finds itself up a tree and “safe.” Another example of the behavior can also be found in a litter of dogs. One puppy isn’t comfortable engaging in the group scrum with all the head knocking going on in the pile, and so not being able to participate directly but feeling just as energized as the others nonetheless: it races around orbiting the litter because it’s afraid to make direct contact.
Needless to say, the worst thing an owner can do is encourage this kind of behavior or play chase because now they are becoming the very embodiment of the imaginary predator. This will come back to haunt them in one way or another as we shall see when we plumb the nature of fear and the role it plays in nature.
(Postscript: The comments from some readers of this post indicate a degree of offense by my insertion of fear into the behavior of zoom-zooming. The term seems to immediately imply that their dog is flawed and afraid of things, and this may seem puzzling for it is typically the “friendliest” of dogs that are most likely to do the most zooming. In most people’s minds fear is linked to trauma but in the natural scheme of things fear is what adds intensity to behavior, and in this sense it generic, a function of a dog’s constitution. In other words, all dogs acquire fear simply in the course of being alive and conscious and then this goes on to be manifested in their most intense expressions of behavior. So there is nothing wrong with a dog that zoom-zoom-zooms, simply that this fear needs to be “grounded” so that the intensity can be harnessed for cooperative purposes rather than left to the dog’s instincts to find a way for it to be discharged.)
(Post-postscript: 9/28/13) OR ZOOM/ZOOM/ZOOM AROUND THE YARD
Notice the husky tucks its tail and scoots its hind end periodically, and emits high pitched distressed sounds. That’s indicative of the perception of a predator and additionally, the crinkling sounds of leaves crunching is predator energy, i.e. it reflects emotion. In this dog’s mind, the pile of leaves represents an object of resistance that it associates with its owner, hence it peeks its head out from time to time at the camera man. Note how neat and tidy the yard is, a half mile of thickly painted fence, each tree lined with paving bricks. A very loving owner and turf builder to be sure, this is not a critique, but he runs a pretty tight ship. So the dog is cutting loose with the leaves because this is its chance to connect with his owner at a high level of energy, but it must do so indirectly. Whereas if the dog could connect with his owner directly at such a high rate of energy, it would not zoom/zoom/zoom around the yard. This is a principle of behavior.