Nobody enjoys being frightened in real life, especially when it is something that is out of our control. We try to avoid those situations, but if they do occur, it may elicit what is known as the “fight or flight” response. In other words, our natural reaction is either going to be to fight or flee, and sometimes, it may be a little of both.
Perhaps thinking of it from our own perspective can help us to be a little more understanding when we think about what our dogs go through when we pull out the vacuum cleaner. It may not be frightening from our standpoint, but to a dog, it takes them out of their comfort zone very quickly.
I think that most people with a dog in their house who also use the vacuum regularly have a story about how their beloved pooch loves to attack the vacuum cleaner. Some people find it frustrating, other people may find it adorable, but to a dog, it is anything but cute. As far as they are concerned, they are in a fight for their life against a loud, frightening and unknown foe.
Fortunately, if you do have a dog that is afraid of the vacuum or perhaps attacks the vacuum regularly, it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. There are ways you can turn the tide and help to make them more comfortable while you are cleaning with that large, scary machine. Here are 9 things to do.
1. Introduce It Quietly – Rather than suddenly flipping the switch and turning the vacuum on in front of them, introduce it to them while it is across the room and in the off position. After they are accustomed to seeing it, you can turn it on at a reasonable distance and reward them as they stay calm.
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The problem is likely to occur when the vacuum begins to move because suddenly, as it becomes a real threat to them. If you introduce the vacuum to them slowly, it gives them the opportunity to get used to having it around and your treats can actually turn it into something positive.
2. Distract with Behavior – One thing that you can do to help keep your dog keep calm while the vacuum is running is to redirect their focus. Using a familiar command, such as sit or down, while the vacuum is moving can help them to refocus and change their behavior.
Keep in mind that your dog may appear as if they are the boss of the vacuum, but in reality, they are reacting out of fear. If you give in to that fear and turn the vacuum off, they are rewarded and feel that they have had success. Rather than putting them into that endless cycle, distract them from the beginning and it may help.
3. Get Positive – When you have the vacuum out, it may be a negative signal for your dog, but giving them something positive can help to replace the anxiety with something they appreciate. This is especially true if your dog reacts to loud sounds in other ways.
When you are vacuuming, make sure that your dog has plenty of good activities, treats, and toys around. Perhaps you can even turn a vacuuming session into a fun play session with a game of fetch.
Some dogs are not going to approach the vacuum, regardless of what you do. Allow them to be comfortable from a distance and reward their good behavior.
4. Investigate – Give your dog an opportunity to investigate the vacuum before you turn it on. Introduce the noise and movement of the vacuum gradually and it may help.
5. Move and Treat – If your dog enjoys little treats, try tossing treats in their direction as the vacuum is running. Perhaps you can even toss them far to have them move away from the vacuum.
Any transitions you make are likely to add additional stress. This can include moving from carpet to hard floor or retracting the cord. Make these transitions slow so they are less threatening.
6. Allow Play – When your dog shows behavior that is worthy of reward, take a moment to reward them with some positive play. You can help manage their fear in this way.
7. Body Language – Get to know your dog’s emotions by the body language they show. When you watch their physical behavior, it can show you how they are feeling emotionally and it gives you the opportunity to reward them when they are displaying the proper behavior. If your dog starts to get stressed out, give them some extra distance, and when they are acting relaxed, give them a treat.
8. Shape-Shifting – If your vacuum has attachments, it can become more threatening as you add them. Rather than simply snapping a nozzle onto the vacuum and making it appear more threatening, turn off the vacuum and reward your dog as they remain calm during the attachment process.
9. Remove the Threat – Another threatening part of using your vacuum is winding things up. This could include winding the cord or rolling it across the floor to put it away. Make sure that your dog stays calm during this process and get them accustomed to the changes.
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