Pet Gear, Product Reviews

How to Desensitize a Dog to Vacuum Cleaners: Tips and Tricks

Your supposedly fearless dog turns into a timid cat when you pull out your pet hair vacuum cleaner and the sound of the twirl of your vacuum motor starts whirring? You really want to know why your dog is afraid of and help your dog overcome this fear? Read on!

Why Your Dog is Afraid of the Vacuum

One thing not all dogs share in common is their personality; every dog has a unique personality. However, there are some peculiarities that seem to be universal with dogs. All dogs love a great outdoor run or a toy or ball thrown across the lawn, and most dogs are terrified by the vacuum.

Well, the phobia our canine friends have for vacuum cleaner is understandable. Theoretically, they are bulky and noisy. Your dog could see them as territory invaders.

There are many other reasons your dog could develop a phobia for a particular object. Most times, your dog is just frightened at the sight of something it is not familiar with, like a Christmas tree for example. Dogs can become frightened by the noise coming from certain objects.

Signs That Your Dog is Afraid

Here are some signs that hint at your dog’s state of fear:

  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Barking
  • Running in circles around the object
  • Heavy panting
  • Howling or whining
  • Shaking
  • Attempts to hide

Being able to understand the cause of your dog’s fear means you’ll have half the problem solved.

Common Causes for Phobias in Dogs

Terrible former experiences

If your vac cleaner has frightened your dog once in the past, it could turn into a major phobia after some time. Cleaners are a scary objects for some dogs, majorly because of their loudness. And if they are that loud to us, it means they are much louder to our dogs because of their hearing sensitivity.

Inadequate Exposure

This is the major reason your dog is frightened by the loud, big looks and threatening sound of your vac. If your dog hasn’t been accustomed to the cleaner in a regular and non-threatening way it would be frightened at the sight of the it every time.

There is a period in a puppy’s life from week 4 to week 16 called the Socialization Period, during which a dog learns about its environment and people around it. Your dog will definitely react to anything it was not familiarized with during the Socialization Period, ranging from children to skateboards, to semi-trucks, and to vacuum cleaners.

When breeding dogs, it is important to expose them to loud appliances such as cleaners, washing machines, and other loud home appliances, this will help them feel comfortable in the presence of these appliances.

The Smell the Vacuum Gives Off

Another reason your dog could be afraid is due to the smell your cleaner gives off. Dogs do not only have a powerful sense of hearing, they also have a strong sense of smell

Try lifting your vacuum cleaner to your nose after cleaning and take a sniff. You will discover that it gives off a very distinctive, burnt smell as it heats up.

The dirt and debris your cleaner removes from deep within the carpet can stir up scents and this could mean sensory overload for your dog, particularly if it has been a while since you last used it. Actually, it is not only the smell that the vacuum gives off that affects your dog but also the scents that the vacuum takes away.

As you clean the house you gradually remove all the markings and scents that your dog has placed everywhere by rolling and shedding, this makes your dog feel threatened and gets it agitated.

Your Dog Has a Timid Personality

Dogs come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They all have their distinctive personalities; some dogs come across as bold, adventurous, playful, and inquisitive. While some are, shy, fearful, and careful, these latter types of dogs would not only be afraid of a cleaner but also be timid at the sight of new objects of new environments.

With these types of dogs, their temperament will always be a limitation to how confident they can become. Such a dog may stay fearful to some extent.

How to Desensitize Your Dog

The initial days of a puppy’s life is very crucial, and you determine the kind of dog your puppy will grow into if you introduce them early enough to different sensory stimulation.

If your puppy does not get to smell, see, or hear something within their formative years when their brains are like sponges, they may have exhibit serious distrust or fear as they become older. The same goes for bad experiences they have at this period. If your puppy convinces itself at that stage that something is dangerous, they will take it on to adulthood.

A desensitization program is needed to help any dog overcome fearfulness, and this program will do exactly what it says; desensitize your dog. A good desensitization program introduces the object of fear in a slow and steady manner so your puppy begins to familiarize and feel comfortable around the object, person or animal.

Here are some measures to take to desensitize a dog:

Get Your Dog Familiar With the Noise

The first thing to rid your dog off is the fear of the sound of a vacuum, there are two ways to this you can either record the sound of your cleaner or find a YouTube video with that sound, and then play it loudly for your dog.

Play the sound repeatedly for your dog, increasing and decreasing the volume until you can put up the sound of the cleaner and there is no reaction of fear from your dog.

Get Your Dog Familiar With Seeing the Vacuum

Hide treats within your cleaner and cover it, then bring into the room where your puppy is. Don’t put it on yet so your puppy could be bold enough to come to sniff at it.

As your puppy sniffs and finds out that it is actually a source for good rather than pain. Do this repeatedly until your dog shows no reaction at the sight of the vacuum cleaner.

Get Your Dog Familiar With the Noise and Sound

After your puppy has become accustomed to the noise and sight of it, it is time to get it accustomed to the two at the same time. Take the vac into a room where your puppy is, but don’t put it on yet; rather play the recorded noise of the vacuum cleaner, your puppy would realize the noise isn’t coming from the vacuum. Give your dog a treat reward when he is calm, repeat this often.

Get Your Dog Familiar With the Switched On Vacuum Cleaner

Do you feel your puppy is ready and has no fear being in the same room with the recorded noise of the cleaner playing loudly? Then on to the last step. Take the vac into the same room with your puppy and switch it on, but do not move it around, reward your dog for calmness during this period.

As soon as your puppy shows signs of calmness repeatedly then you are ready to start moving it around.


Does your puppy still show signs of fear? Go back to the last step and continue again from there. You should also realize that the phobia your dog has for vacuum cleaners would not vanish in a day. Consistency and patience is most important! Always keep in mind that once your dog is comfortable with your vacuum, you’ll be able to free your home from dog hair and other dirt as much as you want.