Given that our dogs’ primary sense is their sense of smell, it stands to reason that they are frequently terrified of vacuums because they are both loud and have an odd, perplexing smell. Vacuum cleaners also have an odd, foreign appearance.
Due to our dog’s extremely sensitive hearing compared to our own, loud noises are much less pleasant. That and the expectation of the coming chaos has given rise to our very own vacuum monster.
You probably only use the vacuum once or twice a week in a typical home (give or take). Therefore, our dogs do not have enough time to become accustomed to and comfortable with the equipment.
As a result, your dog becomes more and more anxious every time the vacuum runs and frightens or startles her.
The emotional responses eventually turn into learned behaviors; even the sight of the vacuum can cause hyperarousal and barking. Zuigerphobia, or the dread of vacuums, may result from this.
How can I teach my dog not to fear the vacuum?
From a human perspective, a dog’s distaste for vacuuming may not always make sense. However, when it’s in use, a dog has good reason to be extra vigilant. Your dog’s perception of the sounds, motion, and odors emanating from the vacuum cleaner all cause the dog’s routine and environment to change. And everything that is unfamiliar and out of their comfort zone can appear to be a threat to dogs.
This was the case with my pug, Indiana Bones, who when he heard the vacuum sent out an SOS by lowering his tail, pinning his ears, tensing his face, becoming hypervigilant, and becoming more jumpy. I understood that if his fear was not handled, it would probably progress and get worse. The training Bones went through to become more accustomed to the sound of the vacuum is outlined in the sections that follow. I did this during one session of vacuuming.
I captured Bones’ intervention on camera during a single lengthy training session, but it’s best to spread out training sessions over several days, especially with dogs whose anxieties have advanced and who may need to proceed more slowly. And even once the dog has become acclimated to vacuum sounds, it’s crucial to maintain a pleasant attitude.
Here’s how to make your dog look forward to the vacuum cleaner in a cheerful way.
Movement, No Noise
While it is off, introduce the vacuum from a distance. Turn on the vacuum while the dog is still calm and comfortable, placing it across the room or in a different room from the dog and rewarding it for good behavior.
Your dog is probably going to react to the vacuum since it moves “acting as though the vacuum is a real person. If the vacuum enters the space “It can seem dangerous if you’re growling at the dog. The better the dog is able to accept rewards, such treats, and the more comfortable they will eventually get with the vacuum’s movement and loudness as they become more accustomed, the more effectively the vacuum can be introduced to the dog.
Heel With Vacuum
Teach the dog a different behavior when the vacuum is nearby. asking for a hand, sit, down, or settle target “By using touch to redirect the dog’s attention, you can then reward them. In Bones’ situation, he tended to act in a “For goodies, heel near to the vacuum. Take note of how the vacuum is being transported perpendicularly rather than in his direction. It moves back and away when changing directions.
Observation: Dogs nearly always react out of underlying dread and insecurity, even when they act confidently around the vacuum, as if they’re attempting to boss it about with barks and muzzle jabs. Dogs are continually learning and adapting their answers based on what works or doesn’t work and how their actions affect the environment around them. When a dog repeatedly barks at the vacuum and it is eventually switched off, the dog might believe that the barking was what defeated the enemy, which would increase the dog’s inclination to bark at the vacuum going forward.
Vacuum Check Without Sound
Reward the dog for any inquiries it makes about the vacuum, including looking, advancing toward, or touching it. In the dog’s eyes, doing this makes the vacuum a good thing. Before making any noise or introducing any gradual movement, keep the vacuum calm and silent.
Vacuum On Signals Play
Positives should be paired with the vacuum cleaner’s sounds and visuals. In particular for dogs with heightened sensitivity to strange or loud sounds or moving items, pairing positives with the vacuum encourages a nice, happy reaction and substitutes the fear, anxiety, and tension that can develop.
Try to combine your dog’s preferred rewards, games, and activities with vacuuming. For example, if your dog enjoys playing fetch, the vacuum’s on switch may “turn on” a game of fetch. The vacuum meant Bones could play with a favorite toy, engage in his blanket wrestling activity, or investigate the vacuum in exchange for rewards.
Some dogs won’t feel secure enough to approach the vacuum while it’s running and could prefer to remain at a safe distance. To help your dog behave more confidently when the vacuum is in use, you can combine the sound of the running vacuum with enjoyable rewards.
Recognize and praise your dog whenever he exhibits a desirable behavior while the vacuum is running, such as sitting, looking the other way, or remaining quiet. When Bones got his toy, it was a time worth celebrating, and when he played with it, more good things happened along with the vacuum.
Position and Move Vacuum and Treat
Reward the dog for maintaining its composure while the vacuum is running with non-crumbly, simple-to-deliver biscuits. Treats should be thrown for the dog to grab in midair or in a direction that permits the dog to back away from the vacuum before deciding whether to approach it again. The dog’s willingness to do so is a reliable indicator of its degree of comfort.
We might not even notice some aspects of vacuuming, including the sound that occurs as carpet changes to hard flooring or the way the cord looks as it moves behind the vacuum.
Reduce movement and noise when adding a new element to the environment, such as switching from carpet to hardwood. One intermediate step might be to switch off the vacuum as it is being pushed over the floor and then turn it back on later. To lessen movement and noise as the vacuum goes across the floor, you might keep the cable closer to the suction.
Reward Ears up
A dog’s internal emotional condition might be influenced by their body language. Just as someone might force a grin and feel better as a result, or strike the “Wonder Woman power stance and instantly feel more confident, so too can a dog’s physical placement affect their interior emotional state.
Bones’ ears are typically facing forward rather than backward when he is more at ease. When both ears were facing forward, I gave a prize. Make sure the vacuum isn’t getting too close, too noisy, or moving in a way that encourages the dog to exhibit terrified body language rather than relaxed and confident body language by constantly assessing the situation. To return to a place where the dog is more comfortable, in such circumstances, increase the distance between the dog and the vacuum, adjust it to a quieter level, or turn it off.
When the vacuum rapidly changes shape, like when using the attachment nozzle, dogs may become alarmed. Reverting momentarily to the fundamentals (sounding off and rewarding the dog for gazing at or approaching the vacuum attachment while it is motionless) will allow you to introduce the dog to various vacuum features, such as the nozzle, one at a time.
Putting Vacuum Away
Finish on a high note. For instance, praise the dog for maintaining its composure while you wind the string.
Dogs thrive when happy events happen frequently throughout their lives rather than just once. Find a way to combine the look, sound, and use of the vacuum cleaner with the activities and things your dog likes to do by taking into account his or her favorite pastimes.
Mikkel Becker’s profile: Mikkel Becker is the head animal trainer for Fear Free and a certified trainer as well as a counselor for canine behavior. Mikkel completed the demanding San Francisco SPCA Dog Training Academy with Jean Donaldson, earning a Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC). She also completed the Purdue Dogs and Cats Course, shadowed Dr. Nicholas Dodman at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Karen Pryor Academy, becoming a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP). Also a Certified Behavior Consultant, Mikkel
Are vacuums a fear for most dogs?
Given their size, noise, and disruptive nature, vacuums are not surprising to many dogs. Our canines must contend with yet another terrifying household adversary when self-propelled cleaners are included in the frightening equipment mix.
A single frightful encounter with a vacuum is unlike any other piece of household equipment, and it can create a lifetime of fear. Even though mixers and hairdryers make comparable noises, they don’t take over the space like vacuums do. Instead, they remain hidden in closets.
Roombas and other self-propelled cleaners are particularly frightful because they generate noise, move abruptly, and emerge and vanish without notice.
Why do animals avoid using vacuums?
The vacuum cleaner is one of the most important modern household appliances, especially for pet owners who have to deal with fur on the carpet, floors, and furniture. However, it can be unsettling, to put it mildly, when a pet flees in terror, barks, hides, or trembles when the dependable vacuum is hauled out. Having a pet that is afraid of the vacuum is a difficult issue, but thankfully there are methods that owners may use to keep their animals calm.
Why Pets are Scared of the Vacuum
There are numerous factors that could cause a pet to be afraid of the vacuum, including:
- inadequate exposure Many animals are just terrified by this large, loud object when it occasionally seems to torture and pursue them around the house (this is especially true for cats).
- bad associations from the past
- If your pet was initially shocked by the vacuum, over time, it might turn into a phobia or full-blown fear.
- Some animals are just naturally more shy or scared than others. If your pet is afraid of loud noises like thunder or fireworks, they can also find the vacuum unsettling.
- herding propensity
- In certain instances, your dog’s apparent attempts at “herding” may be disguised as fear-based barking and lunging at the vacuum.
A Cause for Concern
Your dog or cat is in extreme discomfort if they are panting and shivering hysterically under the bed or hiding under the covers. Cortisol levels are raised by extreme anxiety and stress, which might eventually cause health issues. It is essential for your pet’s improved health and happiness to provide support as they overcome any phobias.
Strategies for Success
For animals and machines to live in harmony, you must desensitize your pet to the sight and sound of the feared vacuum cleaner. To gradually and securely lessen your pet’s anxiety, use the following methods:
- Start by leaving the vacuum cleaner running, but with the motor turned off, and give your dog or cat goodies and praise for for being present. Vacuum for many days while relocating it to various rooms (but never too close to where your pet sleeps, eats, or the litter box).
- The vacuum cleaner needs to be activated in a different room as the next stage. It’s beneficial to have someone else operate the cleaner while you stay nearby to provide rewards for your pet.
- Once your pet gets used to hearing the vacuum cleaner from a distance, try turning it on in the same space but facing the opposite direction. Give him or her sweets as an incentive for remaining in the room.
- Now operate the vacuum as usual, and have rewards on ready for excellent conduct.
I want my dog to use the vacuum, but how?
Give them a long-lasting chew toy or toy on their own mat, if they have one, and quietly start the vacuuming process away from them. By now, they should be aware that the look, sound, feel, smell, movement, and characteristics of the vacuum cleaner indicate a likelihood of receiving delectable rewards.
What is the name for the fear of a vacuum?
A particular phobia is known as zuigerphobia, or the fear of vacuum cleaners. An extreme, unreasonable dread of a single object is referred to as a specific phobia. An acute anxiety response is produced by this kind of phobia, which frequently prompts the sufferer to avoid the object at all costs.
What frightens dogs?
The Fourth of July may be stressful for some dog owners because of the crowds, fireworks, and nervous dogs. Your dog is not alone if he is terrified of loud noises. There are many actions you may take to assist your dog in overcoming his phobias and fears. Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer of the AKC, goes over some of the more typical ones and how to relieve them.
Fear vs. Phobia
Fear in dogs is a typical issue, according to Dr. Klein. “Fear is a protective mechanism, so we don’t have to completely get rid of it. Wolves and other wild canids need on fear to survive, but humans must step in when frightened behavior endangers the dog or other family members.
Fear is one of the many emotions that dogs can show. They might pace, tremble, scream, bark, cower, hide, or even show signs of fear reactivity—which is sometimes mistaken for aggression—by shaking, pacing, whining, or hiding. How can you tell whether your dog’s fear has developed into a phobia, then?
A phobia is a “intense and persistent dread that develops when a dog is exposed to something that may feel threatening, such as a thunderstorm,” according to Dr. Klein. Some dogs even know when it will happen. Similar to those who have phobias, this terror transcends a logical reaction.
Phobias are the outcome of a past event. When it comes to dogs, it only takes one experience to turn a terrified reaction into a phobia; other times, they develop as a result of frequent exposure. According to Dr. Klein, animals cannot be taught to grasp what thunder is. However, even though they are aware of the world, humans can still experience phobias. Unreasonable phobias have a will of their own.
According to Dr. Klein, there are four fundamental types of phobias and fears that are frequently observed in veterinary practices:
Many dogs are afraid of loud noises like gunshots, fireworks, thunderstorms, and firecrackers. Even genetic evidence for noise phobias has been found. Dr. Klein asserts that herding breeds are particularly susceptible to noise phobias, maybe as a result of their heightened sensitivity to their surroundings.
Many people suffer from needle phobias, often known as blood injection phobias. When they go to the vet, some dogs have the same phobia. Dogs do not understand that going to the vet is in their best interests, and many of the circumstances surrounding these visits, including being ill, in pain, traveling in a car, visiting new places, meeting strangers, and being around other stressed animals, can exacerbate this fear and turn it into a phobia.
Situational phobias most frequently manifest as separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety may engage in harmful activities including chewing, eliminating indoors, and barking because they do not appear to grasp when their owners will return.
After a bad incident, some dogs grow fearful of strangers, particularly men. This dread frequently affects dogs removed from abusive households and can result in aggressive behavior. This phobia can also include a fear of other dogs and a dread of people wearing caps or bulky clothing.
Dealing With a Fearful Dog
Living with a dog who is scared can be demanding and frustrating. It requires time, patience, and persistence to treat phobias. When persistent barking enrages neighbors and landlords, this may seem impossible. The possibility of an unintentional dog bite from a nervous dog or a dog that might jump, flee, or go through a window or onto the street is possibly the most frightening aspect.
Fortunately, there are measures pet owners may do to assist their dogs in overcoming phobias, starting with a trip to the vet as soon as possible. Phobias, in Dr. Klein’s opinion, seldom go away on their own and may even get worse over time. The sooner you respond, the better because in some circumstances they can even trigger new phobias.
Behavior modification strategies are advised as a first line of defense by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary behaviorists. These methods, like desensitization, assist dogs in controlling their scared behavior. While there are drugs available to ease distress, most medicinal therapies complement behavior modification and do not provide a quick fix.
Dog behavior and owner behavior are both included in behavior modification. Owners frequently unknowingly reinforce unpleasant behaviors in their dogs or even start them in an effort to make them more phobic. With the aid of a veterinarian or veterinary specialist, retraining yourself and your dog to new behavioral patterns takes time and patience.
“One of the things I frequently witness people doing is saying things like “good lad” in tense circumstances. According to Dr. Klein, the owner is rewarding the dog for appearing scared, which might actually promote the fearful behavior. When they hear terms like “stressful circumstance,” some dogs even learn to expect one “They have learned to correlate those words with stressful situations, like going to the vet, so it’s acceptable.
Basic obedience training helps timid dogs develop their confidence. It can also be used to redirect unwelcome behavior, such as when you urge a dog to sit, stay, or touch you in a potentially upsetting circumstance. The use of a Thundershirt or simply placing your hand on your dog is examples of consistent pressure that Dr. Klein argues is preferable than patting since it relaxes canines.
Making plans in advance is crucial to changing behavior. The majority of phobias are predictable, therefore you can use them as a teaching tool. For instance, the Fourth of July always falls on the same day, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. During the warmer months, owners of dogs who are afraid of thunderstorms should check the weather forecast. Dogs who are afraid of other animals could be exposed to their fear every time they go for a walk.
Some canines can overcome their fears by changing their behavior on their own. Others might require the assistance of medical therapy, such as relaxing room sprays or anti-anxiety drugs.
While there are various classes of medications that can ease stress in dogs, Dr. Klein advises that the goal of these medications is to reduce the phobia to a fear, not sedate the animal. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any medicine. It is alluring to believe that treating our dogs’ anxiety with medicine will do the trick, but just as with humans, helping dogs deal with their fears may be challenging. Each dog is distinct. It generally takes some trial and error to determine what course of action will work best for your dog because what works for one dog may not work for another.
“The most crucial thing to keep in mind, according to Dr. Klein, is that there is hope. “You are not alone in dealing with fear; fearful conduct is highly prevalent.