It's the age-old battle that most dog owners are all too familiar with. Your pup vs. the evil vacuum cleaner. Dragging the machine out to get your housework done is troublesome enough on its own. Add in the task of battling an anxious pup and simple vacuuming becomes downright dreadful. At some point, you may even try to schedule your vacuuming when sweet little Fluffy is out for a walk. If this sounds like you, just know that you are not alone. Many dog owners face the same struggle. But what is it exactly that makes your dog want to attack the vacuum cleaner? And how do you help your furbaby learn the vacuum is not the enemy?
The Root of the Behavior
Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that your pup has had a bad experience with a vacuum cleaner in their past. If you adopted or rescued your dog, it is hard to know what they have gone through before you. There are those out there who may have used the vacuum as a sort of torment, actually threatening your sweet little furbaby with a loud vacuum. Over time this repeated negative exposure may have caused a phobia in your dog when it comes to vacuum cleaners. If you have a pooch that you adopted as an older dog, it may also be that he or she has never been exposed to a vacuum cleaner. This lack of exposure to something so loud and foreign can understandably make your pup uneasy. Not to mention that to a dog, vacuum cleaners can seem as though they attacking you. Your pup's protective instinct could lead them to attack the vacuum in your defense.
Even if your dog is not the most protective natured animal, their personality can have a lot to do with their aversion to vacuums. Some dogs are more genetically fearful and nervous than others. Something as loud and aggressive as a vacuum cleaner would certainly be quite threatening to a dog of this nature. And we all know that some dogs can become aggressive when they are afraid. So it would make sense that if the noisy machine frightens your pup and he or she may seemingly attack it to make it go away. Another natural instinct that could explain your pup's assault on the vacuum is droving. Many breeds have been used to herd livestock and it is something that comes naturally to them. If they perceive the vacuum as a disobedient animal, your pup may go into herding mode. Asserting this instinct to herd can lead to what appears to be an aggressive attack. Barking and chasing unruly creatures is what some dogs have been bred to do.
Encouraging the Behavior
Vacuum cleaner phobia and aggression from your dog can not only be inconvenient for you, it can also be very upsetting for Fluffy as well. There are options that can make your pup's life around vacuums more bearable. One of which is to control their environment. This could simply be sending your dog out to play when it's time to vacuum. Which can also lead to a positive association when your pup sees the wheeled beast brought out of the closet. Alternatively, you can work on desensitizing your dog when it comes to the vacuum cleaner. Things such as gradual exposure or making the vacuum into a treat dispenser have both been known to aid in counterconditioning your pup's fear of vacuums. With gradual exposure, you should start by introducing the vacuum while it is turned off and just park it in the middle of the room. Once they are used to it, you can try turning in on for a few moments and calmly reassure them with petting and affection. By incorporating the help of someone else, you can make your pup think the horrible vacuum is actually a treat dispenser. Start with parking the vacuum away from your pup and have treats laying beside it. Once they seem comfortable your helper can hold Fluffy on a leash while you move the vacuum back and forth, tossing treats as you approach them.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Whatever method you decide to attempt, you should talk with a local trainer or behavioral professional for assistance. Your vet will also be a great source of aid when addressing phobias displayed by your dog. If the desensitizing doesn't seem to work, talk with your vet about possible medicinal alternatives. There are all natural products, such as pheromones, available that are used to reduce stress in our pets. Seeking the advice and guidance from these professionals can help you better understand your pup's fear and figure out the best method for your particular canine. It's important to remember that you never want to punish your pup when they attack the vacuum. This can lead to additional undue stress.
No matter how you decide to handle the Fluffy vs. the vacuum situation, always make sure your pup has an escape route. Making sure your furbaby is happy and healthy is one of the most important things we can do as pet owners. With a little time and patience on your part, you will figure out what works best for all involved.