Dogs are as unique and individual as we people are, and every dog will have their own likes and dislikes, preferences and favourites, and things that they find alarming or upsetting. However, one of the most common fears or triggers of problems in dogs is the vacuum cleaner, and few dogs will simply sit or sleep happily in the same room as a vacuum that is in use. Some dogs find the sound of the hoover alarming and will display an almost phobic aversion to it, even before you switch it on-others might view it as a foe to attack, or a source of entertainment to spar with!
If you have ever wondered why your dog finds the vacuum cleaner alarming, entertaining or otherwise out of the ordinary to the point that you have to close your dog outside when you hoover or have to fend off your dog’s attacks while you do it, this article will answer your questions.
Read on to find out why dogs are usually wary, phobic of or aggressive with your vacuum cleaner, and if there is anything that you can do to curb their behaviour!
There are a wide range of factors that can lead to out-of-character and out of proportion reactions to the vacuum, to the point that the behaviour becomes habitual and so ingrained that your dog will even begin to act out when you touch the hoover before you even turn it on. The reasons for this behaviour are usually multiple, and it is usually the combination of elements that leads to your dog’s odd reactions-whatever they are and however they manifest.
The first and perhaps most obvious issue is the sound the vacuum cleaner makes-they are loud, rumbling devices that are jarringly noisy to even us as people, and the noise can be alarming if you are not expecting it-and even if you are! The sound issue is even more acute for dogs, who have a different range of hearing attenuation than people.
Dogs can hear noises of much higher frequencies than people can, which often means that they hear sounds that we are not even aware of-this is after all the principle of “silent” dog whistles. Vacuum cleaners usually make high-pitched sounds when in operation as well as the deep sound that we can hear, which your dog will hear and that can affect them.
The noise might be annoying, confusing or even painful, depending on the frequency that your dog hears, which will make them view the vacuum with suspicion and even concern, particularly if their owner is wielding it and they don’t know what is going on, or why you are not finding it unnerving too.
Most hoovers are large or at least tall, and invasive in that they are designed to move around and get into all of the corners of the room, whilst also having a large physical presence, making a loud noise and moving quickly and sometimes unpredictably. Additionally, because the vacuum will usually be stored away in a corner and only be used every few days and in short bursts, your dog may view it as an invader or a threat in your home that not only unsettles them, but challenges their position as a defender of the household!
The threat that your dog perceives from the hoover may manifest as deep avoidance of it, to the point that your dog will greatly overreact and display fear and panic and a strong desire to leave the room (or go outside) when you use the hoover, or they may see it as a challenge that they have to face in order to defend their home!
You will be able to identify your dog’s views on things by how they react-if your dog runs out as soon as you wheel the hoover into the room and avoids it as much as possible, making sure it has definitely gone before they come back in, they are probably fearful of it.
However, if your dog starts psyching themselves up, snarling at the hoover and jumping at it or attempting to bite it, this type of threat display and disproportionate reaction indicates that your dog has decided to take the monster on and try to see it off! Your dog is apt to continue to do this until you have either moved onto another room or finished hoovering and put the vacuum away, which reinforces your dog’s behaviour and makes them think that they successfully beat the vacuum, giving them more confidence to go about the whole process again next time you want to clean up!
It can be very hard to train your dog to tolerate the hoover without either becoming afraid or aggressive towards it, because conditioning a dog to tackle fears and problems relies upon slow, gradual exposure and familiarity with the threat-which can be achieved up until the point that you actually turn the hoover on.
The noise of the vacuum isn’t something that you can turn up or down or build up to gradually-it is either on or off-and so often the path of least resistance is to shut your dog out of the room when you vacuum. However, ensuring that you do not reinforce your dog’s behaviour by pandering to their fears or telling them off when they start “fighting” the hoover will help, as will spending some time getting your dog used to being around the hoover when it is switched off, but showing it to them and even pushing it around while not plugged in!