Vacuuming the entire house is by no means a task for the faint-hearted; however, it gets worse when you have a whimpering canine by your feet. It is like that for most pets; they seem to hate the vacuum the moment it comes out of the closet.
As pet parents, we always try to help our pets live a peaceful, enjoyable life at home. The same goes for when they are disturbed by the noise and movement of this particular device. Vacuuming, however, is important in any household, especially when our furry friends shed their fur everywhere. The fear of vacuum cleaners is a very commonly learned behavior in pets. When you begin to look for the reasons, you can understand exactly what dogs fear.
In this guide, we will talk about the most common signs of fears in canines, the reasons your pet may be getting scared, and how you can deal with it. It is possible to train your pet to remain calm even with the noise chaos. The treatment for desensitizing dogs includes changing the environment, creating a positive association, and getting your pet to understand that he is not in danger. Therefore, if your pet becomes fearful and agitated when you use the vacuum cleaner – read on to find the solution best suited for your pooch.
What Are the Symptoms of a Scared Dog?
When it comes to showing fear, many pets do so differently. Some canines are more expressive as compared to others. While some of these signs are easily noticeable, there are many subtle symptoms as well. To help your pet overcome the fear, you first need to know when the dog is scared. Only then can you build trust and find proper treatment.
Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms of a scared canine. While your pet may not be showing all these signs, even a few of these behavioral characteristics describe fear.
This subtle response to a vacuum may go unnoticed to new pet parents. When dogs are hiding, they can do so for various reasons. When that reason is fear, it means they seek protection from something they have determined to be dangerous, in this case, a vacuum cleaner. While hiding, if your pet is breathing unevenly, has a stiff tail, and is concealing his entire body, we can safely say that he is scared.
This is not a very common behavioral issue and usually shows up in dogs who think they need to mark their own territory. This is deliberate urinating and can be fixed by using repellent sprays and training. However, when your canine is being fearful, the nervousness can induce urinating involuntarily.
Usually, this behavior is only spotted when the scary thing in question is around, and the dog seems to feel guilty. Your pet may even seek protection from you. It is important to understand the difference between deliberate urinating and the response to fear.
Depending on the size of your vacuum cleaner, if your pet determines that he can fight the mechanical beast, he will try to do so. When your pet is growling at another dog or cat, it either means he is scared or is trying to show his dominance. However, as a vacuum cleaner cannot be intimidated, your pet will learn to fear it.
Fear can induce anxiety, and that often leads to destructive behavior. This can include excessive chewing on soft pillows and blankets and making a mess of everything. Destructive behavior is bad for your house and your pet. While this needs immediate attention, you mustn’t punish your pet. When your canine is being destructive out of fear, punishment only tends to increase the problem instead of solving it.
Attempts of Escape
Last but not least, if your pet gets too scared, he would want to have nothing to do with the vacuum and try to flee. Usually, a dog will show this response if he considers himself in danger and thinks that he cannot remain safe in the device’s presence.
With this list, it becomes very easy to note if your pet is scared. Once you know that for sure, you can now work on finding the exact cause of the fear. See what triggers it – is it noise, the scent, movement, or everything combined.
What Should I Do to Help My Scared Dog?
Once you are sure your pet is scared, the next step is to determine the causes of the fear. Only by knowing that can you be able to help your furry friend. Following is a list of the most common reasons pets feel scared of vacuums:
Lack of Exposure
New situations can often induce fear more easily as compared to other known dangers. In normal households, we usually use vacuum cleaners twice or thrice a week. Since it is not a daily routine, our pets do not get the time to get accustomed to it. That is why they are scared when the machine emerges from within the closet to sweep around the house and cover all the ground.
While this certainly does not mean that you should clean every single day just so your pet gets his habit developed, it does mean that you should try to create a positive association with it. Break it gently and let your pet explore.
First impressions are very important. If your pet suddenly wakes one day with a noisy and smelly vacuum cleaner, he will get scared. Depending on the size of the vacuum cleaner and the level of noise, he may not want to have anything to do with it ever again. The best remedy for this problem is to start off slowly. Make sure your pet is either awake and alert or is away from the noise.
A Fearful Temperament
Last but not least, dogs have their own behavior and preferences. Some tend to get disturbed by noise more as compared to others. As these machines are no animals, they do not respond to dogs barking, which may leave your pet feeling even more disturbed. Young pets may take these as a playmate for some time, but some older canines are unable to overcome their fear.
Therefore, it is useful if you already know what kind of natural stimulus disturbs your pet. Once this is done, it is recommended to note the level of fear. See what your canine reacts to the most. Is it noise, is it the movement, or is it the suddenness of the entire process? Some pets simply find themselves helpless because they cannot bark at a vacuum to stop it. With this data, we can now move on to a remedy.
Dog Training to Overcome a Fear of Vacuums
After the reasons behind the fear are known, we can now focus on creating a plan to desensitize your pet. Following is a list of steps to consider when using a vacuum cleaner. While this order may not be followed exactly as it is, it certainly does help in building a better association with the cleaning device.
- Build a positive association: While it is possible to train an older dog, it is recommended to start the fear-overcoming training when your canine is still a puppy. This is because pups tend to be less fearful and are willing to learn. The first 3 to 16 weeks of your pet’s life include the prime association period. During this time, your canine observes and learns from his environment, including positive and negative feedback to various stimuli. You can start by regularly taking out the vacuum cleaner device and letting your pet observe it without switching the device on. If your pooch shows signs of discomfort, consider getting him treats.
- Assure Security: Dogs are only scared when they consider themselves in danger. You can ask for help from a friend and demonstrate that the vacuum is not dangerous. Using pheromone sprays to induce a sense of security and calm in your pet.
- Reduce Noise: Dogs have a sensitive hearing compared to humans, and what sounds like a slow vibration of the vacuum cleaner to us can scare them a lot. Therefore to reduce your pet’s fear, consider getting a vacuum cleaner with lesser noise. Usually, you can find the noise level on the packaging and decide which one suits you best.
- Reduce Unpredictability: Another thing that dogs find really scary about vacuum cleaners is their unpredictability. From your pet’s perspective, devices like Roombas tend to roam around the house and emerge from all sorts of places. Consider following a single routine, so your pet can learn the movements.
- Mask the Draft and Scent: Just like the hearing ability, dogs have quite sensitive noses as well. While we do not notice it much, when we are using a vacuum cleaner, its draft carries certain scents that disturb canines. There are two ways to deal with it. One is by reducing your pet’s exposure to the device, and the other is to mask the scent by using pheromone sprays.
- Build Tolerance to Desensitize: Lastly, you need to carry on with this training for at least 10 minutes every day and 7 days a week. The time this training requires depends on the level of the pet’s comfort. If he feels safe in approaching the device, the desensitization is successful.
Treatment About Vacuum Cleaner Phobia
The above training is most useful when your pet is having his first interactions with the vacuum cleaner. However, if your pet already has a traumatizing past with the device, it may not be as useful. It is still possible to reduce his fear.
Here’s what you will need:
- A Friend
- Lots of your pet’s favorite treats
- A pheromone spray
- Time and Patience
Here’s a list of the steps you can follow to treat your canine’s vacuum cleaner phobia.
Use Counter-conditioning: Canines fear vacuums because they consider themselves in danger. Counter-conditioning involves using treats and appreciation to change that fear into a feeling of reward. Depending on how scared your pooch is, this step can take many weeks.
With the help of a friend, you can start by giving the treats the moment the vacuum cleaner is brought in. It will be new for your pet at first, but he will eventually learn to love it. Doing so continuously will help your pet learn that whenever the housecleaning for a.k.a vacuum, comes out, he gets to have his favorite treats.
Make Vacuuming a Less Traumatizing Experience: After using the treats, your pet will undoubtedly feel better; however, the noise and the scent will still be bothersome. This is where the pheromone sprays come in. You can use these to mask the scent. Noise reduction is not easily possible with vacuum cleaners. However, you can always consider getting a less noisy device or using it in a place away from your pet.
Reduce the Element of Surprise: Waking up to loud noise and smell does not seem very nice, and dogs, with the stronger senses, definitely don’t like that. It is therefore recommended to avoid vacuuming near your pet when he is asleep. Consider doing this when your pet is outside in the yard or in another room to reduce the surprise factor.
With these things being taken care of, your pet will soon feel safe again and get back to his relaxed routine. Remember, patience is key, and it is strictly advised to avoid punishment.
Any regular household with pets and children requires regular cleaning. While this is done to make the place clean and tidy, some of our canine friends cannot appreciate it due to the loud noise and strong scent. To change the vacuuming experience from “traumatizing” to something your pet can look forward to, you need to use positive association training.
This requires help from a friend, lots of treats, and patience. This training aims to make your pet understand that he is safe and divert his attention towards the reward. That way, whenever it is time for the vacuum cleaner to emerge from the closet, your pet does not get scared out of his wits and remembers to stay calm. This training may be more effective for younger pets. However, it does work for older dogs as well.