If you are a dog owner who uses a vacuum cleaner, you know how frustrating the cleaning experience can be for the dog. As a pet parent, you want to make your home as comfortable for your dog as possible, but cleaning is also a necessary evil.
The fraught relationship between dogs and a vacuum cleaner is hard to miss around the home. Every time you pull out the vacuum cleaner, the dog will either run to another part of the house, hide somewhere within the room, start to bark loudly, or in certain cases, try to attack the vacuum cleaner.
Dog owners need to understand why dogs are scared of vacuums. Understanding the root of the fear will help them have more compassion for their dogs and figure out ways to help them, making the cleaning process less traumatic. Here are a couple of reasons why dogs are petrified of vacuums;
Why are dogs scared of vacuums?
While humans know the cleaning device poses no physical threat to dogs, unfortunately, dogs do not perceive it that way. For one, the cleaners make really loud noises even for humans; now, can you imagine what that is like for dogs whose hearing is nearly three times better than humans?
Dogs have a more keen sense of hearing. Among the most hated sound for dogs are vacuum cleaners. Dogs can hear sounds at very low decibels, so cleaners' loud noises can be unpleasant and even somewhat painful.
Dogs who are more sensitive to loud noise or get nervous easily are even more predisposed to discomfort when using the cleaning device. Dogs can tolerate high-pitched sounds from 20,000 Hz to about 25 000 Hz - anything above that becomes irritating to the dog. Vacuum cleaners emit between 61 to 75 decibels which is too high for a dog to handle.
Dog's sense of smell is more heightened compared to that of humans. Since more air passes through their nose, it means that they can pick up more smells. A dog has about 50 scent receptors for everyone a human has, so while vacuuming, the smells emitted are much stronger to the dog.
The fresh and warm scent of freshly vacuumed floors can be delightful to you, but dogs pick on even the scent of dust and mold particles that have since settled on surfaces.
Vacuum cleaners kick up unusual smells that your nose may not pick up easily, but they can be very overwhelming on the nostrils of a dog.
An old dog, however, experiences a sensory decline with the aging process. This means that their sense of hearing, vision, and sense of smell decline - hence they are less likely to be overwhelmed by the loud noise from a vacuum cleaner.
Additionally, the cleaning device's movements while cleaning can come off as menacing and predatory to a dog. A vacuum cleaner has rapidly rotating shafts on motors - which by a dog's perception can mean an attack. This is why a dog will lunge at a vacuum cleaner, try to bite it, or bark at it because it perceives it as a threat.
What do you do when your dog is afraid of a vacuum?
The fear of a vacuum cleaner by dogs is called queerphobia. Dogs and vacuums are an integral part of the home, and since most households cannot do without the other, it is important to find a way for them to co-exist peacefully.
When you realize your dog is frightened by the vacuum cleaner, you first want to get the pet accustomed to it. Start by storing the vacuum in open areas where the dog can easily see it. The more the dog or puppy gets to see it, the less it will view it as a foreign object or see it as a threat.
Sometimes dogs are petrified of vacuums because all they see is this object taken out of a closet at certain times of the day. They need to realize it is just like any other item in the house.
As you store it in an open area, you may want to keep the vacuum low to the ground. The goal is to make it look as non-threatening as possible. Keeping it close to the ground helps to diminish the fear a little as it seems less imposing.
Dogs are naturally very curious animals. Encourage your pet to investigate the cleaner; try to move it closer to them anytime sitting or relaxing. Allow them to sniff and touch it with their paws. Dogs are mostly terrified of something they have no idea about. When they get used to the sight and smell of the cleaner, they will be less scared of it.
However, do not impose the vacuum's presence on them; this will beat the whole purpose of try to get them less scared. Please do not place the vacuum where they sleep as they may view it as an enemy trying to take over their space. Let their instincts take over and lead them to the cleaner themselves. That way, they will be more comfortable with it.
If the dog's instinct doesn't take over and lead it to the vacuum, try making it a little more familiar to the pet. Place something the dog likes or is used to on top of the cleaner or near it. This will naturally draw the pet closer to the cleaner because it sees something that it wants.
You can either place the animal's favorite toy or goodies to eat. When the pet goes to retrieve the treat, they will be initiating some contact with the cleaner. Additionally, when you use place toys they love on it, they may slowly come to associate the cleaner with one of its playthings, and with time they will be less afraid of it.
Turn the vacuum on while you keep it stationary. The dog may probably run away out of panic because dogs are scared of loud noises, but seeing that it is not moving, it will probably keep watch from a distance. The dog gets accustomed to the loud sound and may even try to move closer to the cleaner with time.
While cleaning, try to keep your distance from the dog. Never try to chase after the dog with the cleaner; this will not let your dog overcome their fear. Give your dog the space to get used to the cleaner on its own.
Frightened dogs become more challenging to handle as they may become aggressive and start barking loudly. They also get extremely territorial and feel the need to protect. It is therefore important not to freak them out with the cleaning device.
Be sure to reward your dog for every attempt he makes to get closer to the cleaner. You should realize it takes a lot of effort from them to tolerate being near the cleaning device, so you should applaud their efforts.
How do you introduce a dog to a vacuum?
Your dog needs to get acquainted with your vacuum cleaner to know that it is not a threat. Start by bringing the vacuum out in a spacious room with the dog present. Please do not turn it on or try to move it around; the goal is to get the dog used to its sight and overcome the fear of vacuums.
Scatter the dog's favorite treats around the vacuum cleaner for them to find and sniff. Do not force the dogs to go around the vacuum; that will beat the whole purpose. Let them get comfortable approaching the vacuum on their own, and most especially, ensure they have a good time doing it.
Next, turn the vacuum cleaner on and try to introduce the sounds of the vacuum to the dog. The goal is to help your dog get used to the noise. Introduce some treats in this experiment, scatter some of his favorite treats or bring out his favorite toys to play with with the vacuum sound in the background.
On the other hand, if the noise is overwhelming to the dog, move the vacuum to another room and turn it on there while you continue playing with the dog in another room. Doing this will help suppress the sound and make it easier to put it in another room when you start vacuuming.
The next thing you need to introduce your dog to is the movement of the vacuum cleaner. The dog needs to realize that the movement of the vacuum is non-threatening. Throw some treats around and slowly start moving the vacuum cleaner around. The goodies should help distract them from the movement of the vacuum.
Gradually increase how much longer you move the vacuum cleaner around so you can help your dog get more familiar with the motion it makes.
If the dog runs away or tries to pounce on the vacuum, distract it with some goodies, make them feel that it is more rewarding to chase after the goodies than cleaner.
It is important to introduce your dog or puppy to the vacuum cleaner so that they remain calm when you start vacuuming. To avoid causing a sensory overload, help your dog get used to the presence, movement, and noise when you clean. This will help reduce their fear of vacuums.
How can I make my dog more comfortable with a vacuum?
Trying to make your dog comfortable with the vacuum is an act of compassion. There are a couple of things you can do to make the experience less traumatizing.
You can start by looking into sound therapy. Sound therapy is aimed at helping dogs or puppies with sound phobias. You can play a CD with the same sound vacuums make; getting them used to the sound without the sight of the cleaner may help them overcome their fear.
Start by playing at low volumes, then gradually increase the volume until the pet can maintain calmness. Do this over time until they get completely used to it.
All vacuums make noise, but some are louder than others. You can decide to purchase a much quieter one. Try to use one that isn't as noisy.
Talk to the dog while cleaning. Talking to the pest in a calm voice will help it realize that it is not under any threat. If it starts hiding when you clean, call it over gently and with a calm demeanor. Since the animal trusts you, it will be less fearful.
You can also decide to use a robot vacuum instead. They are conventionally less noisy, and since they are physically less intimidating, they will reduce the fear.
You help your dog become more comfortable by desensitizing it towards the cleaner. Take it out a couple of times during the day and let the pet get comfortable seeing it around. Help it unlearn fearful associations and instead associate them with good things.
Learn to train your dog with movement and noise separately before bringing it together. Training the animal at both a the same time can be overwhelming to them. Remember, it may not sound so loud to your human ear, but it can be unbearable to the dog.
Strive to understand where your dog's fear of the cleaning devices stems from. Knowing the root of the problem will make it easier to know what to do to make it more comfortable. Alleviate the dog's fear by addressing the issues.
Pet owners need to realize that the dog often perceives vacuums as a threat to them and a family member, and that is why it tries to attack or run away from it. It is important to desensitize the dog to the cleaner and help it learn that there is nothing to fear.
Be patient with your pet while they are still getting accustomed to the cleaner. Do not rush them into getting used to it; it takes time.
Reinforce and reward all good behavior towards the cleaner. Do not get angry or yell when the dog does not react positively towards the cleaner. When the cleaner is not moving, stop rewarding the animal.
Always give your dog an escape route. Do not force your dog to stay through the whole process of your cleaning. If there would rather stay in another room, let them.
If all the measures to try and desensitize your dog don't work, ask a family member to take the dog out of the house while you clean. Some pets never get accustomed to loud sounds; hence it may only harm them.