Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Many dogs act crazy after a bath, and dog owners wonder what that's all about. Is bath time a struggle in your house, or does your pup jump for joy at the sight of the tub and the soapy suds? Or maybe your pup gets a little too excited once they are all nice and clean?
Some dogs react this way—getting the “zoomies” (technically known as frenetic random activity period or FRAPS)—and we aren’t quite sure why. However, we can make some educated guesses based on history and body language.
First off, let's debunk some common myths: Dog zoomies following a bath are not always necessarily due to an excess buildup of energy or happiness or joy. This is a rather simplistic answer which risks us misinterpreting what messages our best friends may be trying to convey.
If that was the case, why would the zoomies strategically happen always following a bath? Dogs can release pent-up energy or show their joy of life at many other times of the day. There's likely more to it than meets the eye.
When it comes to dog behavior, it, therefore, helps to take a close look at the context in which the behavior occurs and the dog's underlying mindset. By paying closer attention to our dogs, we may therefore deduce other things going on.
The following are several reasons as to why dogs act crazy after a bath and several solutions if that bath-time running is too much for you and you want to keep your furniture and surrounding knick-knacks safe.
1) Relief Never Smelled So Sweet!
One reason for your dog's post-bath time zoomies may have to do with dogs who dislike water and bath time specifically.
Your fur baby might just be bath-and-water phobic and that’s okay because not all dogs will like all things. Think about it, if you have to endure something you dislike be it going to the dentist or the doctor or flying when you have a fear of heights, you’ll be prone to celebrate and do a happy dance of your own once you are done undergoing such negative experiences.
For some dogs, racing around like a lunatic after bats is just their way of expressing their relief that the terrible task is over. So next time you give your dog a bath, carefully watch his body language. Are your dog's facial muscles tense, ears back and tail down? If so, he likely dreads bath-time. Therefore, if your pup is afraid of bath time or doesn’t enjoy it, look at your other bathing options.
There are for sure some fun contraptions out there that don’t require you to wrangle your pup in a bathtub or leash him up so he doesn’t get away. Instead, aim to teach your pup to interact with the water in a positive way and you may get them to be less scared, which potentially may translate in fewer zoomies afterward.
2) Celebrating the Good Times!
Alternatively, you may have a dog who absolutely can’t get enough of water: bathwater, sprinklers, pools, lakes, etc. It doesn’t matter to some dogs; any kind of water will bring them joy.
Suspect this theory if your dog is particularly fond of water or belongs to a breed that has have been selectively bred to perform tasks in water such as retrievers, Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs. These dogs just adore being wet and love splashing.
Their post-bath zoomies are therefore likely a celebration of having gotten to do something they love. With dogs who enjoy getting wet, you may notice that this type of zoomies isn’t reserved just for baths.
You might see it when they’ve been in a pool or lake or even just out in the rain. Pups are great at expressing their pure joy of living. Get two dogs together who love water and you’re in for a happy treat as they chase each other with big old doggy grins.
3) Gaining Back a Sense of Identity
As we know, dogs use scents to communicate all kinds of information to one another. From marking territory to letting other dogs know they’re looking for a partner, dogs rely on familiar scents to let others know what they want.
When you give dogs a bath and lather them with vanilla soap, what you’re really doing is getting rid of their unique scent, at least for a little while and that might stress them out.
Dogs may think they’ve been muzzled from talking to their friends because they just don’t smell right and have lost their identity. It's therefore not surprising why dogs may run around like crazy and then roll on the grass in hopes of gaining back their familiar doggy odor.
If your dog does all of that, next time consider investing in some unscented dog shampoo to avoid the post-bath zoomies in this case.
3) Air Dry Time
Did you know? Depending on your dog’s size and type of coat, he or she may be carrying up to an extra pound of weight after a bath thanks to their now wet fur.
That’s a lot of weight for some dogs, and some studies have shown that to just let it air dry would expend 20 percent of a dog’s daily caloric intake. That’s a lot of work for something that shouldn’t take that long!
I mean, I don’t know about you, but for those of us with longer hair, waiting for it to air dry is excruciating time consuming, and in a busy world, who has time for that?
So, you’ll often see dogs who do the post-bath shake to get rid of up to 70 percent of that water weight in as little as four seconds. They may then engage in some zoomies or other romping behavior to help the drying process along.
After all, in the wild, dogs and other mammals who can’t shed the wetness when temperatures plummet are likely not to survive.
Isn’t it amazing to see the different survival mechanisms and instincts that still exist in our fur babies today?
4) A Plea for Attention
And then you have dogs who will do anything for attention. It can therefore happen that running around like crazy has become a learned behavior that your dog has specifically picked up with the goal of entertaining you.
Suspect this behavior if your dog craves attention and will even perform circus tricks just to obtain a reaction from you, regardless of whether it is good (yielding a few giggles) or bad (making you angry).
Dogs are clever beings and very attentive to our reactions to the things they do. You may therefore end up with dogs who bark when you watch TV, paw at you when you're on the phone, or run around like crazy after a bath in hopes of instigating your attention. This is even more likely if you are the type of dog owner who tends to hype your dog up as he dashes around.
Some dogs may even make a game out of it: they'll grab your brush or towel and run around in hopes of you chasing your dog in a fun game of keep-away.
Some Final Thoughts...
We may never truly know exactly why dogs get the zoomies after bath time, but as we’ve discussed today, there are some interesting reasons we think might be behind that burst of energy. Here are a quick recap and some other tips to help you control the energy bursts.
- Some dogs may dislike bath time and zoom off after the deed to celebrate surviving an uncomfortable experience. Consider other bath methods to try and get your dog comfortable.
- Some dogs zoom around out of pure joy of having gotten to be around and in water. They just can’t hold in their excitement.
- Dogs communicate via scent and after a bath, dogs have lost their puppy smell. They can’t communicate as effectively with their friends when they smell of doggy shampoo. Consider finding a shampoo that doesn’t have a scent to use on your pup. This way, it’s the best of both worlds. You get a clean dog and they don’t feel quite as stressed.
- Most dogs will do the post-bath shake to help dry off faster to avoid the possibility of freezing should temps drop. And who would want to carry around extra water weight if they could avoid it?
- If giving your dog a bath proves too difficult, consider hiring a groomer to deal with it for you. They’ll handle everything from washing and drying your pup, so you don’t’ have to. Just be sure to avoid messes on your way home. You want to enjoy your pampered pooch for as long as you can.
- You can also look into natural dry shampoos, or even cornstarch, as a way to absorb the excess oils on your dog’s skin and fur without having to deal with a wet dog.
- If it’s a nice day out and you time it right, give your pup a bath right before walk time and after they’ve dried off somewhat, hook on the leash and take them for a walk or jog to finish drying off. It gets them the air-dry sensation they need and gives them another outlet to direct their energy.
- Wet mammals shake at tuned frequencies to dry Andrew K. Dickerson, Zachary G. Mills and David L. Hu Published:17 August 2012
- Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion Your Best by Marc Bekoff, Jessica Pierce · 2019
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Adrienne Farricelli
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 05, 2020:
Interesting article. Good reading.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 01, 2020:
Our dogs loved the water so we knew bath time wasn't an issue with them. Yet, after being wet, both of them would run around like crazy playing together. I think in their case, they would just react instinctively trying to get dry quick or get back their small since they would also toss themselves on the carpet and roll in it.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on October 01, 2020:
I've seen my friends dog do this and it is kinda funny. But it's very interesting to read that there is also a reason for the zoomies. Number 1 and 3 are definitely the main reasons why he behaves like this.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 30, 2020:
This article is informative and interesting. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about dogs, Adrienne.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 30, 2020:
Yeah, we have problem #3, even though we have the groomer come in. As soon as they can get out after their bath and groom, zoom to the backyard so they can roll around and stink like eau de dirt and grass.
And the drama that goes on before getting into the groomer-mobile! Then when they're in, the groomer says they're really good dogs. Whatever. It's an act. Brats!
We used to bathe our pups years ago and what a mess! It was mainly problem #4 with air drying time. Goldens can have a lot of hair (and undercoat) and it doesn't dry quickly. Problem solved with the groomer who gives them a blow out, even though they're still a bit damp afterwards.
You certainly are a master of dogspeak! Thanks for sharing your knowledge, as always.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 30, 2020:
The reasons you listed all make good sense to me. Our dogs never particularly liked their baths and I think the #1 reason applied most to them.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 30, 2020:
I know when I had dogs and had given them regular baths. Once finished I let them go quickly to shake off that excess water. Useful tips.
I did not want to be sprayed, so I would keep my distance. Interesting hub
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 29, 2020:
You are so tuned in to how dogs think and feel. How marvelous that you understand them in such a way.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 29, 2020:
That is a great list of reasons for your dogs behavior but I guess we really don't know for sure. Over time we may figure out about our own dog's behavior.
This is a good article, Adrienne.
billips from Central Texas on September 29, 2020:
Having to bath my dog frequently, for medical reasons, I am very familiar with the 'zoomies'. I think he actually enjoys the bath, but does want to 'shake it all out' soon after. It looks more to me like a joyful, 'now I want to get some water on you' display. Anyway, I did enjoy your article, fun and informative.