Dog Science Series: Why Are Dogs Afraid of Vacuum Cleaners?
Many dogs are naturally afraid of vacuums, just like they may be afraid of thunderstorms. The machine makes a high-frequency noise that can hurt your dog's ears or cause a great deal of distress. Keep in mind that dogs can hear at much higher pitches than the average human ear, which can increase that fear. Over time, even the presence of the vacuum when it is turned off and making no sound can induce your dog to bark.
Do you find yourself wondering, "Why is my dog afraid of the vacuum?" Are you looking for strategies that will help you vacuum in peace? Read on to learn more.
Why are Dogs Afraid of Vacuum Cleaners?
Not all dogs are afraid of vacuum cleaners. However, many dogs are fearful or distressed when the vacuum comes out. Pet parents may quickly notice that their dog's body language changes when the vacuum comes out. They may note lunging, barking, or other changes in their dog's behavior.
There are several reasons why the vacuum may cause fear.
Your dog has a negative association with the vacuum cleaner.
Sometimes, your dog may develop a negative association because of a past bad experience with the vacuum cleaner. Your dog may, for example, have experienced someone using the movement of the vacuum to scare them, or they may have experienced a lot of high-pitched noise due to a loud or damaged vacuum, which can be harmful to the dog's ears.
Your dog struggles with the loud noise associated with the vacuum.
Vacuum cleaners can hit very high decibels, which can hurt your dog's ears and leave them whining or cowering. A dog who is more sound sensitive than others may have a harder time dealing with the vacuum than a dog who does not have that high level of hearing sensitivity.
Your dog has had a negative experience with a past vacuum cleaner.
A Roomba, for example, might have tried to vacuum up your dog's tail or caught on the dog's fur. If your dog has had a genuinely negative or painful experience with the vacuum, it may increase the odds that your pet will respond negatively when the vacuum cleaner comes out.
What Can You Do if Your Dog is Scared of the Vacuum Cleaner?
If your dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, there are several steps you can take to create a more positive association and make it easier to vacuum even when your dog is at home.
1. Do not punish your dog for reacting to the vacuum cleaner.
Keep in mind that a negative reaction, including growling or snapping, is rooted in a fear response. Do not punish your dog for that reaction. Instead, give your dog space from the vacuum at first. You may want to keep the vacuum in another part of the house until you are ready to start training.
2. Introduce your dog to the vacuum cleaner while it is turned off and making no noise.
3. Move the vacuum cleaner gradually and carefully without plugging it in.
Consider offering your dog treats from a distance that is comfortable for your pet. You may want to use popular dog food, peanut butter, or pet treats. As a pet owner, you know best what will likely help your dog respond positively to the vacuum cleaner.
Over time, allow your dog to get closer to the vacuum cleaner while you push it around. Continue to keep it turned off to avoid the fear response.
4. Turn the vacuum cleaner on once your dog becomes more comfortable with having it moved around the house.
It can be helpful to have someone else with you when you're ready to turn the vacuum cleaner on for the first time. Make sure your dog is a considerable distance away from the vacuum and distracted. Then, turn the vacuum cleaner on. You want to be far enough way that your dog will react calmly to the vacuum cleaner, rather than panicking. When your dog responds calmly, offer lots of treats and praise. Over time, you can continue to get the vacuum cleaner closer.
5. To avoid further fear of vacuums, never indulge in negative or teasing behavior with the vacuum cleaner.
Often, a fear of vacuums will develop because of a negative event: chasing the dog with the vacuum, or allowing a child to try to vacuum the dog's toes or fur while playing. Even an even-tempered dog may have a hard time dealing with those fear-inducing stimuli. Instead, make using the vacuum cleaner a fun and positive experience for your dog.
Dealing with a fear of vacuum cleaners can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, dog owners can use these strategies to help reduce that fear and make their pets more comfortable. Are you looking for other strategies that can help your pet live a more luxurious life? Contact us to learn more about our range of products.
Do all dogs hate vacuum cleaners?
Not all dogs hate vacuum cleaners. Many, however, are sensitive to loud noises like the sound of the vacuum. You may need to work with your dog over time to overcome that fear.
How do I get my dog to stop barking at the vacuum cleaner?
You may need to carefully train your dog to stop fearing the vacuum cleaner. Desensitizing your dog carefully over time, as part of a multi-step process, can make it easier to overcome your dog's fear.
Is it okay to vacuum if it's scaring your dog?
You may not have a choice about taking care of the vacuuming around your house, even if it scares your dog. After all, you have pet hair to clean up! Go ahead and vacuum, but try to put your dog in a safe place away from the vacuum cleaner to make the process easier on everyone in the family.