The reactions of canines to vacuum cleaners can vary from indifference to fear-induced flight or fight responses, such as running away to hide or attacking the vacuum while you are trying to use it.
If your dog responds in one of these ways to your vacuum, you may find yourself wondering – why are dogs afraid of vacuums?
In this article, we will delve into some of the reasons why your dog reacts the way he does and explores solutions to help your dog’s anxiety.
In this article, we will discuss:
- Why are dogs afraid of vacuums?
- Signs your dog is afraid of the vacuum
- How to help a dog that is afraid of the vacuum
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Vacuums?
Often when you get a new puppy, you may not consider that when you switch a vacuum cleaner on for the first time, your new pup has no idea what it is, what the loud noise means, or what this monster is going to do next.
This all equates to a pretty traumatic experience for your young dog.
When puppies are young, they need to be introduced to new things delicately so that positive and safe experiences are associated with them.
If this isn’t done with care, you may risk creating phobias that will follow your dog into adulthood.
When you think about it, most vacuums can be pretty terrifying.
They are bulky objects that move around the room, making it over in an invasive manner, making a loud, aggressive whirring sound that comes from the motor.
They also suck things up and disrupt the environment with furniture, other items, and even people having to be moved out of the way.
If you have a self-propelled vacuum, it may be even more terrifying for a dog as it moves and makes noise unexpectedly, appearing to have a mind of its own.
Common reasons dogs display hatred towards the vacuum:
- Lack of exposure – The unfamiliarity of a vacuum can present a threat to dogs. Then each time the dog is exposed to the danger, the fear is reinforced because the exposure is a negative experience in which the dog feels anxiety and fear.
- A bad experience – Early traumatic experiences involving similar loud noises or scary encounters with a vacuum can cause a phobia to develop in a dog.
- Fearful Temperament – Some dogs are naturally more nervous due to the way they were socialized as a pup, and also due to the temperament of the owner. Some dogs are even more genetically fearful that others, or shyer in general, not just of vacuums.
- Herding Instinct – What looks like fear (barking and chasing) may be a dog asserting its herding instinct? If you have a breed of dog that was created for herding, then these instincts will be very strongly bred into them, and that could be what is causing your dog’s behavior towards the vacuum.
Signs Your Dog Is Afraid Of The Vacuum
It would be best if you took your dog’s fear of the vacuum seriously. This is an object, which is used regularly and causes a significant amount of stress for your dog.
The first thing to do is to recognize the signs that your dog is afraid of. This may not be as obvious as you think.
Here is a list of signs to look out for in your dog:
- Hiding – When a dog experiences fear, their natural survival instincts will set in, and these usually encourage them to “flight or fight.” The safest option is “flight,” or to run away and hide. So when you get the vacuum out if suddenly you find that your dog has disappeared out of the room or you find them cowering underneath furniture, this is a sure sign that they are afraid. If they haven’t run away and hidden, they may attempt to escape the vacuum whenever it gets too close. This also displays a level of fear and “flight.”
- Chasing – If your dog chases the vacuum, you may think that they are playing. What your dog could be displaying is a “fight” response to his fear of the vacuum. Instead of running away and hiding, your dog may be choosing to face the situation head-on and is trying to ward the vacuum off out of its territory. It may seem like your dog is enjoying himself, but he could be experiencing a significant level of stress, and so it is not wise to encourage the behavior, as it will only get worse over time.
- Drooling/Pacing – These are behaviors that exhibit when a high amount of anxiety is affecting the dog. Drooling may not be as obvious to see, but if you check wherever your dog has been resting his head during the vacuum session, if there is a wet patch, then you can be pretty sure that your dog has been drooling in that spot. Likewise, pacing may be mistaken for healthy behavior. Still, if you find that your dog appears to get up and walk around for no reason while you vacuum, it is his way of spending the nervous energy from anxiety that is causing him to feel tense.
- Destructive Behaviour – Another way that a dog might spend nervous energy being generated from anxiety is through destructive behaviors like chewing. Chewing or licking are calming actions that help the dog to release tension and feel more relaxed. Unfortunately, this might mean that he chooses your belongings like shoes or furniture to chewing on. Alternatively, they may direct the chewing or licking onto their bodies. You should observe your dog for these behaviors when you get your vacuum out to see if they are experiencing anxiety and stress because of it.
- Urinating – Urination is a common thing to occur when a dog is experiencing fear. A dog may urinate in anticipation of something fearful happening, as well as when the vacuum is being used.
How To Help A Dog That Is Afraid Of The Vacuum
There are a few ways that you can address a fear problem in the home. Keep reading for some useful ideas to help you ease your dog’s fear of the vacuum.
- Reduce Anxiety & Stress – Your priority is to reduce the amount of anxiety and stress that your dog has to experience. This may mean allowing your dog to rest in a calm and positive environment that is away from the scary activity of the hoover, perhaps with food and treats and another member of the family to play with, and soothing music on in the background. This method can also help to start building positive associations with the hoover because when the hoover comes out, your dog will begin to recognize that it is his time to go and have some fun.
- Desensitization – Your dog has probably developed such an intense fear of the vacuum that they may even feel anxious when they see you approach the broom cupboard where it lives. To desensitize your dog, you must build up their exposure to the vacuum with positive experiences. Firstly you can leave the vacuum in plain sight when it is not being used so that the view of the vacuum will not trigger your dog’s anxiety. In time you should try to encourage your dog to approach the dormant vacuum by feeding treats nearby and even by placing treats next to or actually on the vacuum for your dog to take. This will show your dog that the vacuum is not a threat, and that rewards are available when he approaches the vacuum. This makes the vacuum more desirable to be around. Training your dog to be comfortable around the vacuum takes time and patience. Some dogs will respond positively to it, but some won’t
- Natural Products – If you have a particularly sensitive or nervous dog and you don’t think that you are going to be able to help them learn that the vacuum is not a threat, then you might want to look into natural products like pheromones that are designed to reduce stress in severely phobic pets. Speak to your veterinarian for some advice.
- Buy a different vacuum – There are now some much more gentle sounding vacuums on the market that have just as good suction. Perhaps investing in a new model could be an option for you to reduce the stress your dog is experiencing. When you use the latest vacuum, make sure to introduce it properly to your dog so that he can learn that the new vacuum is a friend and not foe.
Dogs can’t communicate with us by talking. So it is always especially important for us to be aware of their body language and the various behaviors they exhibit to derive clues that can help us work out how our pets are feeling.
Now that you know for sure whether or not your dog is scared of the vacuum, you will be more able to help them overcome their fear with some of the tips found in this article.