The Dog And The Vacuum

Why is My Dog Afraid of the Vacuum?

It’s a tale as old as time and there are countless videos on YouTube that show dogs reacting hilariously to vacuums. However, for many dogs, it’s not a laughing matter

It doesn’t seem to matter what size the dog is, how old they are, or how “tough” they are, some dogs are just downright terrified of vacuum cleaners. But why is that?

Dogs are afraid of the vacuum simply because they are afraid of it. It is like a stranger living in the closet, who comes out randomly, makes a lot of noisemoves around, and then hides again. It is loud and unpredictable! You need to help your dog understand that the vacuum is not a threat by doing some conditioning and desensitization techniques. 

Wag Dog Vacuum 1

My Dog VS the Vacuum

As a dog owner, one thing that you have to realize is that unfamiliar things are going to scare your dog. It does not matter what it is. You could put on a funny hat and it can scare your dog. If your dog is never around children, they might scare him. 

That is why it is so important to make sure that you introduce your dog to as many different things as possible. This way he will be comfortable with everything. A note though, you want to introduce them slowly (or at your dog’s comfort level) so as to not overwhelm your dog and actually do the opposite and accidentally terrify him!

How to Teach Your Dog to Not be Afraid of the Vacuum?

You can help your dog to see that the vacuum is not a threat by following these steps. It is important to not push your dog too much.

  • Let them run and hide if he needs to.
  • Introduce the vacuum to your pup by giving treats around the vacuum.
  • You can feed your dog next to the vacuum.
  • You can leave treats around the vacuum.
  • When your dog is ready, start moving the vacuum and still keep feeding food or treats.
  • Then the scary part! Turn the vacuum on – do not move it. Feed treats and food.
  • When the puppy is ready, start moving the vacuum. Still give treats.
  • Eventually, ask your dog to go lay down while you vacuum.
Wag dog vs vacuum 1

Remember to take time with this! You can use these steps with a broom or anything else your puppy might be afraid of. When acclimating your dog to fearful stimuli:

  • Don’t push your dog past his comfort zone, it may increase your dog’s fear.
  • Remember that some dogs need more time than others; be patient.
  • Don’t physically move your dog toward the scary stimuli, use treats to lure him near it.
  • Spontaneous recovery can occur. You may need to go back to an earlier stage when your dog was comfortable with the scary stimuli.

Conclusion

So while some of those internet videos are funny, remember that the vacuum (or any other scary stimuli) is a very serious matter to your dog and it’s a way to help them learn and adapt to your world, ensuring that they are comfortable and content within your home. Take your time. Be patient. Be compassionate. Soon they will barely open their eyes when you pull out the vacuum cleaner.

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions