Why Are Dogs Scared of Vacuums and What To Do About It

Vacuums are among the top sounds that dogs hate. Dogster has tips on desensitizing your dog to the vacuum and other loud sounds.

Dog afraid of vacuum cleaner
Desensitizing your dog to the vacuum can calm his fear resonse to the loud sound. ©igorr1/Getty Images

Does your dog run and cower when you bring the vacuum out? Or maybe he lunges and barks at the vacuum? Vacuums are among the sounds dogs hate. Professional dog trainer Marj Ediger explains why dogs are scared of vacuums and what to do about it.

Why Dogs Are Scared of Vacuums?

Vacuums are loud, have a strange odor and are large moving objects inside a dog’s home, explains Marji, which is why dogs bark at vacuums. If you think a vacuum is loud, imagine being a dog. They hear high pitches, that humans can’t, coming from vacuums and other loud appliances. Their barking or cowering is a fear response. In fact, this UC Davis study found that sudden, loud noises are a top trigger for fearful behavior in dogs.

For some dogs, the unpredictability of a moving vacuum may kick in their herding tendencies.

What Can You Do To Stop Your Dog From Being Scared or Barking at a Vacuum

Desensitization is key, says Marj. It’s easier with a puppy, but not impossible with an adult dog. Here are Marj’s tips to help your dog get used to the vacuum:

  • Start by putting the vacuum in the middle of the room, unplugged, at a comfortable distance from the dog. Give a treat when the dog doesn’t react.
  • Move the vacuum slowly back and forth, still unplugged. Give your dog another treat for no reaction.
  • When your dog is comfortable with this, start the vacuum in another room. Come back and treat, treat, treat. Make it a pup party!
  • Slowly open the door and if the dog is ready — not reacting — do the Hansel and Gretel method of tossing treats in the direction of the vacuum. If the dog’s body language is projecting fear — ears pinned, tail tucked, etc. — then take a step backward and don’t push it.
  • If your dog is older and has already ingrained a strong fear of vacuums, have him chill in another room or even outside. The key here is to not let him get any more practice at reactivity.
  • If the sound of the vacuum, even in the other room, is too loud, find vacuum sounds online and play them at low volume. As your dog gets used to the sound, increase the volume gradually.

Since the noise if often the main reason dogs don’t like vacuums, quieter vacuums can help.

Other Sounds Dogs Hate

Dogs not only hear higher pitches than us, but also at lower decibels, so they often hear things we cannot. Anything we think is loud is ear-piercing to a dog. Other sounds dogs hate include:

  • fireworks
  • blenders
  • lawn mowers
  • large delivery trucks.

Use Marj’s vacuum tips to help desensitize your dog to other noises in her environment.

While getting your dog used to noises in her everyday life is necessary, remember that part of the reason our four-legged best friends hate vacuums is because they are so loud, it hurts their ears. If possible, keep your dog out of the room where you are vacuuming or using other loud appliances. This is will save your dog’s hearing and make her a happier housemate!

1 thought on “Why Are Dogs Scared of Vacuums and What To Do About It”

  1. I ask my husband to take my dogs out for a walk whenever it's time for me to clean the house. The first and last time that we turned the vacuum on when they were in the house was when they nearly toppled the trophy case.

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