Every dog has a unique personality, but some quirks seem to be fairly universal among our canine companions. All dogs love a good run around the great outdoors, most cannot resist the siren song of a squeaky toy or a ball that has been hurled across a park – and many dogs are afraid of the vacuum.
On paper, it’s easy to see why a canine may be a little skittish around such tools. Vacuum cleaners are cumbersome, they’re extremely loud, they are dominating a pooch parent’s attention when they could be playing, and they’re poking around your dog’s territory. Even brooms, while comparatively silent, get in the way of where your dog decides that they must be sitting at that moment in time.
Sadly, cleaning apparatus is a necessary evil – and that goes double for homes that house a shedding dog, lest we end up drowning in loose fur. Thankfully, it’s possible to coach your dog to tolerate the vacuum cleaner so they no longer treat it as their mortal nemesis, even if they’ll never be able to grip it between their front paws and push it around themselves.
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Why are Dogs Scared of Vacuum Cleaners?
As we have already mentioned, the noise of a vacuum is the prime reason for it giving your pet the heebie-jeebies, and PetGuide provides more insights into why this is the case. So, let’s take a closer look at the reasons.
First thing’s first – we need to remember that a canine’s sense of hearing is roughly four times better than that of a human. Put that into perspective for a moment; how many times in the past have you been enjoying a lazy lie-in on a Sunday morning, and been shaken awake by an ear-splitting cacophony coming from somebody vacuuming downstairs?
Imagine that sound magnified. It’s come out of nowhere, and you’re not quite sure what the purpose of the device that is making the noise, and it keeps poking its way into your business. You would be forgiven for jumping out of your skin and worrying that you are about to live through a home movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.
There’s more to a dog’s aversion to the vacuum cleaner than just the volume it produces, though. The device will also emit a very high-pitched frequency that we cannot hear as humans – but for a dog, it’s torturous.
What’s more, if you use a dog whistle for training or warn your dog of danger (when they’re at risk of running into the road, for example), then they will understandably believe that the vacuum is something to be feared.
Have you ever lifted the vacuum cleaner to your nose after cleaning the house and had a good, long sniff? Probably not – it’s hardly normal behavior. However, if you do so, you’ll realize that your vacuum gives off a very distinct, burning smell as it heats up.
Much like a dog’s hearing is vastly superior to ours, their sense of smell is astonishingly strong. They will be able to detect a vacuum from miles away, and that will instantly trigger a fear response in the canine brain.
Of course, it’s not just the smell that a vacuum gives off that will concern your dog – it’s the scents that it’s taking away! As you clean the house, you’re steadily removing all the markings and smells that your dog has very carefully placed all over the place by rolling around and shedding. As you push a vacuum around, your dog may worry that you are trying to delete any trace of their presence, one room at a time.
Finally, there is the feel and experience of a vacuum cleaner. As we know, if we touch the suction head of a vacuum it feels powerful and sucks back. We know what that means, but your dog doesn’t.
If they are exploring this strange device with their nose by sniffing their way through the home and it tries to suck them in, it will scare the life out of them. One final reminder – your dog does not understand what your vacuum is, and why you are using it. All they know is that they sniffed something, and it sniffed right back at a considerable volume and with a great deal of ferocity.
Of course there, could be other reasons based on your dog’s circumstances. Maybe they had a bad experience with a vacuum cleaner (such as hurting themselves with it fell upon them while playing, or getting a paw trapped into the suction). Maybe your dog is just nervous and fearful in general, and it doesn’t take much to get them panicked.
How Do I Know if My Dog is Afraid of the Vacuum Cleaner?
This should be pretty obvious, especially if you know and understand your dog and their body language.
However, according to Petbarn, some of the key indicators that your pet is running scared of a vacuum include:
- Loss of bladder control.
- Excessive drooling and slobbering.
- Hiding beneath furniture.
- Barking and whining.
- Pacing around the house.
- Running away.
If your dog exhibits any of these behaviors, skip straight to our segments on how to desensitize a puppy or an adult dog to the vacuum. The sooner you teach your pet that the hoover is not something to fear, the sooner you will all have a more relaxing time in the house.
Be kind, be tolerant, and ensure that your dog receives a great deal of affection, reassurance, and cuddles if they show any signs of fear. There is another thing that you’ll have to be careful of, however; some dogs will launch themselves at the hoover in an attempt at scaring off this unwelcome foe.
My Dog Attacks the Vacuum Cleaner
Not all dogs that are afraid of the vacuum will display classic fear behaviors. Some pets will respond to their terror by switching to the front foot, and deciding that attack is the best form of defense. This means that your dog will battle the vacuum like an intruder in the home.
This can be awkward at best, and dangerous at worst. Your dog could hurt themselves by shoving their paw or nose into the suction end, or if you bring somebody unfamiliar into your home to use the vacuum (like a cleaner), your dog may even end up attacking them. This will not end well for anybody.
Another reason why a dog could attack a vacuum, as Wag Walking explains, is that herding instincts are taking over. If your dog thinks that your vacuum is an animal that refuses to do what they are told and will not fall into line, they’ll keep attempting to coerce them into the appropriate action.
Stopping your dog from attacking a vacuum follows the same approach as teaching them not to be afraid. It may be easier said than done, but if you display patience and understanding, you’ll be able to find a solution.
Should I Stop Using the Vacuum So That I Don’t Upset My Dog?
This is hugely counter-productive for the following reasons:
- Your dog will never get used to the sound if they never hear it.
- You’ll struggle to maintain a clean environment for your dog, placing their health at risk.
- You’ll end up with fur all over the place if your dog is prone to shedding.
- Your dog will start to believe that if they make a fuss over something they don’t like, you’ll get rid of it. That’s a dangerous precedent.
- If your dog brings fleas into your home, their eggs will lay in the carpet. Without vacuuming them up, you’ll be left with an infestation in no time. Take a look at our guide to what to do when your dog gets fleas for more information.
All of this adds up to one conclusion – you will need to get your dog used to the vacuum cleaner, and gently help them understand that it’s here to stay. If you apply some appropriate training and techniques, your dog will soon learn to love the hoover – or, at the very least, grow indifferent toward to it.
How to Get a Puppy Used to a Vacuum Cleaner
The earliest days of a dog’s life are critical, and you can have a significant impact on what kind of canine your puppy will grow into if you introduce them to all different sensory stimulation from their earliest days.
If your puppy doesn’t get to see, smell or hear something within the first four months of their life when their brains are like sponges, they may display a great deal of fear or distrust toward it as they grow older. The same also goes if they have a bad experience with something at such an age. If a puppy convinces himself or herself that a vacuum is dangerous or scary at the very beginning of their life, it’s a belief that will carry on long into their adulthood.
The easiest way of helping your pup grow used to the hoover without forcing any experiences upon them is to give them a crate in a room such as a kitchen (see also ‘Why Is My Dog Licking His Crate All The Time? How Can I Stop This?‘). You may want to have a second crate (maybe with a crate cover) in the bedroom if your pup is a nervous sleeper and you prefer not to be kept up at night by barking, whining or howling. If your pup spends plenty of time in the kitchen, they’ll soon grow used to all of the everyday activities that you get up to throughout a typical day – including vacuuming.
Your puppy may be a little perturbed at first, but they’ll soon adapt. Pups tend to be more inquisitive than fearful in their earlier days, so they’ll probably want to play with the vacuum. This, in itself, becomes something of a balancing act.
If you allow your puppy to believe that vacuums are fun and it’s part of a game, they’ll continue this behavior into adulthood – and it may be a little less fun when you have a full-sized Labrador barreling across the room and getting in your way while you’re trying to clean.
However, if you shoo your puppy away and scold them for getting in your path, they’ll struggle with the vacuum later in life. Walk that fine line, not reacting to any interest that your puppy shows in the vacuum, and they’ll quickly stop showing much interest either way. You may even find that they sleep through your vacuuming.
How Do You Desensitize an Adult Dog to a Vacuum Cleaner?
This can be answered in two words – exposure therapy. As we have discussed, your dog will never get used to a vacuum if you shield them from it entirely.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should tie your dog down and force them to watch you hoover all day. Start small – turn the hoover on for a few seconds at a time, without using it. Very gradually start to clean small corners of your home, ideally those that your dog is not in, and increase that area over time.
Make a note of how your pet reacts to this too, and factor this into your cleaning. If your dog is fine until the vacuum starts to approach them, you should keep your distance for as long as possible. Always leave a clear and direct path to the door in case they want to beat a hasty retreat.
Also, any time your dog fails to freak out or have a meltdown when you clean the house, reward them with a treat, so they start to think of the vacuum as a positive thing. Just make sure you do it while the vacuum is still on, so your dog makes the association, and don’t treat them while they are acting fearful. That will reinforce the behavior.
If none of this works, you may need to make an appointment with a professional canine behaviorist. Although it’s likely that they’ll give you the same advice as above, and charge you a great deal of money for the privilege (we’ll gladly take a check if you’re looking to throw that cash around in exchange for information.)
As always when coaching unhelpful behaviors out of an anxious dog, patience is vital and slow and steady wins the race. Take this approach, and you will eventually see an improvement in how your dog reacts to the vacuum, and you’ll be able to clean the house in peace.
My Dog Loves to be Vacuumed
Of course, there is an exception to every rule. Not all dogs remain afraid of the vacuum forever, and some even embrace it as a friend. Vacuuming a shedding dog can be an alternative to brushing them and making a mess, and if your dog actively enjoys the activity, it can be great for bonding.
Always follow the follow golden rules when it comes to vacuuming a dog, though:
- Only use a vacuum on short- or medium-haired breeds, and pick up a specialist dog attachment for the vacuum.
- Keep the vacuum away from your dog’s nose, mouth, genitalia, and rear end.
- Protect your dog’s ears from the volume. If possible, purchase a low-volume vacuum in the first place.
- Use the vacuum on low power.
- If your dog shows any sign of discomfort or no longer enjoying the experience, let them go immediately.
- Run the vacuum over your dog’s back, legs and belly, in that order – ideally with two cycles on each area.
- Clean the vacuum after you’ve been using it on your dog. Hair can clog it up.
- Avoid using a vacuum on your dog if they have been romping around the woods, as mud and rainwater will damage your hoover.
If your pet does take a shine to this activity, you could implement it into their grooming routine once or twice a month. Before you know it, your dog will be approaching you and asking for another once-over with the vacuum – which means that they’ll no longer be afraid when you push it around the house. Of course, they may still approach you when you’re doing so in anticipation of their favorite activity, but that’s still better than the alternative.
Why are Dogs Afraid of Brooms?
It’s not just vacuum cleaners that many dogs display a natural aversion to; some canines hold just as much distaste for a humble broom.
There could be many reasons for this, which include:
- They have never seen a broom before, and are afraid of something new.
- Broom heads are attached to large sticks. If your dog has been mistreated in the past, this could trigger a very real fear response.
- Brooms pick up familiar objects to your pet and move them to a new location, making a mockery of their love of routine.
- The sound if a broom is strange to your dog. It’s making a scratching noise that is setting their teeth on edge.
While a broom is not necessarily as likely to elicit an immediate, visceral reaction as a vacuum, it could provoke an altogether different response. Over time, a vacuum may end up blending with a dishwasher, washing machine, and other electrical appliances – a broom is in a league of its own.
If you’re keen to coach your dog is into feeling better about your use of a broom, follow the same advice that we discuss in our guide to vacuums. Also, don’t just leave a broom out of the way in a closet and only bring it out when you’re going to use it – exposure therapy, remember?
Leave a broom standing innocuously in a safe place, and let your dog have a good sniff of it when it’s not in use. This, coupled with regular treats when they calmly approach the broom, will soon teach your pooch that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Why Does My Dog Attack the Broom?
Much like a vacuum, a canine born with hunting instincts may see a broom as a moving target. There’s also the fact that a broom has bristles, which may be mistaken for fur.
Perhaps your dog thinks that another animal is attempting to muscle into their territory, and is trying to scare them off, or maybe the movements of the broom – which will be sudden and jerky, and likely to capture the peripheral vision of a dog – will instantly provoke a predatory response.
Finally, if your dog doesn’t seem to like you sweeping up the mess with a broom – especially when you’re all outside – they may consider you to be intruding upon their territory or messing up their carefully arranged den. That pile of leaves that you just swept into a corner without a second thought? Your pet spent a long time getting them just so, and into the perfect arrangement for rolling around in.
If your dog insists upon attacking a broom – whether that’s in the house or out in the yard – follow the same steps as we have discussed with a vacuum. It may seem harmless and even amusing at first, but brooms may be a reasonably commonplace sight when you’re out on walks, and that could get awkward.
Dogs and vacuums are natural enemies, but it doesn’t need to be this way. With a little training and patience, you’ll be able to help your pet to embrace these essential items. Just try to see things from your dog’s perspective, and limit their exposure to the vacuum. Just because they start to tolerate your hoover, it may be too much to ask for them to learn to love it.