Why Do Dogs Hate and Bark at Vacuums?
Why are Dogs Scared of Vacuums?
Dogs and Vacuums. It’s not the same feeling as sugar and spice—a quite different feeling, in fact. A lot of dogs are scared of vacuums, and sometimes some dogs are so hyper-focused on the vacuum cleaner they even bark at the closet the sweeper lives in. Some dogs are very fearful of this loud, moving machine and will tear out of the room trying to hide from the beast. Other dogs may bark at vacuum cleaners and even try to attack or kill the machine.
I remember my golden retriever, Theo, would do a little dance and try to retreat as fast as he could. But I worked on his fear of the vacuum cleaner and we were able to get to a point where he would comfortably hang out in another room while I swept the house. Dexter on the other hand, just lies on the floor and I actually have to ask him to move so I don’t sweep him up!
Today I am going to teach you some techniques to help your dog not fear the vacuum cleaner, how to manage his dog anxieties, and how to prevent your future puppy from developing vacuum phobia. 🙂
Living with the Monster
- When your dog is not around, bring out your sweeper and find a place in your home, up against a wall, that your vacuum cleaner can live. By keeping it out in the house and not hidden in a closet, your dog will be able to slowly adjust to the look of vacuum without the noise and movement. I know, it’s not pretty, but it’s a great first step in a good dog behavior modification program.
- Next, place a handful of healthy dog treats around the vacuum cleaner and leading up to the sweeper.
- Let your dog back into the room, but do not say or do anything about your new décor. Just allow your dog to figure it out and do what he pleases. He may bark and charge, it, and as long as he’s safe, don’t worry about it. He may or may not eat the tasty dog treats. Eventually, he will settle down, but it may take a few days.
- When you see that your dog is eating the treats, randomly throughout the day place more treats around the sweeper and once again, allow him to do his thing.
- At some point, your dog won’t be as focused on the machine as he once was, and this is when it’s time for the monster to move.
The Monster Moves
Continue to allow your dog to live with the vacuum and collect treats, even when you start this new training regimen.
- When your dog is not visiting the vacuum, walk over to the vacuum and glide it one sweep (not on), say, “YES” and toss your dog a treat. Your sweep should be parallel to the wall and not toward your dog. No scary monsters are allowed to move TOWARD your dog.
- Repeat. Move sweeper, YES, toss treat.
- Continue this routine at various times of the day, for multiple days or weeks. Moving to the next routine really depends on your dog’s reaction. You want your dog to be pretty comfortable with this routine before hitting the on switch.
The Monster Talks
Continue with the above lessons, even when you start this new routine. Okay, this might be a biggie. Don’t jump to this step too quickly—make sure the other sessions are going well with some good repetition and conditioning before turning on your vacuum.
- Ensure your dog is not close to the vacuum cleaner before you start this step. Be ready. Turn your vacuum cleaner on and quickly off, say “YES,” and toss your dog a treat. Whew. That may have been a big step for him. Assuming all went well, go to #2.
- Allow your sweeper to stop spinning and repeat your quick on/off/yes/treat. Repeat this process as your dog gets comfortable with the monster’s voice.
- Once your dog is doing well with the quick on/offs, allow your vacuum to stay on for a few seconds, before turning off and treating. You are going to gradually increase the time the sweeper is on before tossing his treat.
The Monster Moves and Talks and Cleans Your House
Remember, it is critical to go at your dog’s comfort level before making a task harder. If at any time you see him starting to stress or panic, take it back a notch or two.
- The time has come. First, make sure your dog has a safe place to go to be away from the sweeper. You do not want to sweep your dog into a corner with no escape route.
- Start your normal cleaning, but make sure you are not pushing your vacuum too quickly and never toward your dog. You may need to stop the sweeper at times and help your dog move out of the way and into a safer area. As you sweep away from your dog, toss treats behind you toward your dog. This continues with the conditioning process that the sweeper really isn’t a monster, but instead a way to earn a reward. If you really don’t want to do this step, skip right to the next step, Sweeping Management.
During your dog’s behavior change, you will have to install some sweeping management techniques so that you can clean your home even when he’s not ready. Or if you don’t want to put the time into changing his emotions, you can also just skip to management.
- Before sweeping your home, prepare a hollow filled toy or your dog’s favorite healthy chew, and take him into his safe room, such as the bedroom. You can turn on some dog-calming music and give him his long-lasting chew, shut the door, and go do your vacuuming.
- Once you finished vacuuming, open the door and allow your dog back into the area. Shut yourself and the vacuum into the “dog room” as you sweep that area.
- Viola. Swept home, stress-free dog.
Vacuum Monster Back Home
Once you get to the point of sweeping your home, consider moving the vacuum back into the closet. Your dog will likely still have a high association with the closet, so you can slowly work on desensitizing him to that too, or just put him in another room as the monster comes out of his cave.
Does your dog think there is a monster in the house? Tell me in the comments.
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