Is Your Dog Afraid of the Vacuum?

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How can I help my dog be less afraid of the vacuum cleaner noise?

Assuming it is just the sound and not the sight and/or motion of the vacuum cleaner that frightens your dog, you can help her overcome her fear by gradually habituating her to the sound. To do this you will need a realistic recording of vacuum cleaner sounds that you can play at home and control the volume of the sound.

There are many websites where you can purchase recordings of vacuum cleaner sounds as a CD or download (they are sold as white noise to soothe crying babies). Send an email to dogtrainingquestions@yahoo.com and I will send you links to several of these websites. Test samples of the sounds at a loud volume to find one that your dog reacts to in the same way she reacts to your vacuum cleaner. Once you have a realistic recording, you are ready to start.

The process should take about a week or two. While you are habituating your dog to the vacuum cleaner sound, you should not run the real vacuum (you might want to do a thorough cleaning before starting this process). The next step is to find a volume level at which your dog notices the sound but does not react fearfully. This is your starting volume. Play the recorded vacuum cleaner sounds for at least several hours a day while your dog is in the house. Each day, turn the volume up slightly but not so much that it frightens your dog. Repeat the process until you can play the sound as loud as your real vacuum cleaner without any fearful reaction from your dog. If you use a music portable player, you can make the sound more realistic by playing it in different rooms. When you can play the recording at full volume with no reaction from your dog, start pretending to vacuum while the sound is playing. Next, run your vacuum while the recorded sound is playing, gradually reducing the volume of the recorded sound until the only sound is from your vacuum.

You can now vacuum your house without frightening your dog. No more excuses for dust bunnies!

Send your dog training and behavior questions to dogtrainingquestions@yahoo.com
Or put them in the comments section.

Letters to Editor

  1. Janice Dickson says

    I had a cat who LOVED to be vacuumed. He would lie on his back right in front of where I was vacuuming, just waiting to be swept. Our builder was quite astonished one day when he was cleaning up at the end of the day with a powerful shop vac when Charlie laid down right in front of him. He said “he behaved as if he wanted to be vacuumed, but I … doubted …. it.”. I said he probably would not have liked the shop vac. It turned out that I never had to brush this cat since he would patiently wait for the dust brush to come out for his vacuum brushing. I know most animals hate the sound of the vacuum, but this guy appeared quickly as soon as I turned it on.

  2. Abigail Robson says

    My dog isn’t afraid of the vacuum… she attacks it! I have to close her in another room while I’m vacuuming because she bites the machine and gets in my way while I’m trying to clean. It’s pretty funny, actually, and I would let her attack it while I clean if she wasn’t getting in my way and I thought she might hurt her mouth on the thing!

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