How to Stop Your Dog From Being Scared of the Vacuum

Cleaning day is here and you have diligently pumped yourself up for the task. Sweet Bella is lounged with her squeaky toy – seemingly unaffected by your chores. But as you reach for the vacuum, Bella’s eyes zoom in and the Jaws theme softly plays in your head. The second you flip the switch, Bella transforms from this sweet pup into a voracious lunatic!

If this dog vs. vacuum fiasco sounds familiar, then it’s time to understand why and how to stop your dog from being scared of the vacuum and other noisy household items.

What your dog is actually experiencing is a common condition known as, ‘noise phobia’. Not to be confused with casual normal fears; noise phobia is described by DVM360 as,

“A sudden and profound, nongraded, extreme response to noise, manifested as intense, active avoidance; escape; or anxiety behaviors associated with the activities of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Behaviors can include catatonia or mania concomitant with decreased sensitivity or responsiveness to pain or social stimuli. Once fully developed, repeated exposure results in an invariant pattern of response.”

Examples of noises notorious for triggering this phobia are: vacuums and thunderstorms, hair dryers and smoke detectors, doorbells and fireworks, just to name a few. While noise phobia can be genetic, it’s important to note it is typically developed within the first 2 years of life and can become serious. Usually, if your canine friend has a phobic aversion to one noise, they will almost certainly have more. Ignoring or disciplining your dog when they react to these stimuli will ultimately cause the behavior to worsen over time and damage nerve cells. Some common signs that your pet is experiencing noise phobia when introduced to the aforementioned noises can include:

  • Chewing

  • Uncontrolled urination

  • Freezing in place

  • Trembling, cowering or hiding

  • Drooling or panting

  • Whining, barking or attacking

The first crucial steps in changing their behavior is to identify the triggers, recognize the signs and avoid rewarding their fear by coddling them. As much as it may pull on your heartstrings, consoling your dog by lavishing your attention upon them only reinforces the bad behavior. Rather, consult with a canine behavior specialist to begin desensitizing exercises. Additionally, try a few of these positive calming methods. (We say a few’ because every dog is as unique as the given circumstance.)

  • Provide a quiet room to relax or, play soothing music from “Yanni” or something from to calm them and drowned out the stress inducing noise.

  • In the quiet room or a towel covered crate, give them an appropriately sized treat filled Kong®.

  • Try a Thundershirt® or a gentle massage using continuous pressure

  • Homeopathic solutions like Herbsmith Calm Shen are available – consult with your veterinarian.

The bottom line is that noise phobias should be taken seriously. Remember to NEVER punish or taunt your dog for their phobic behavior. Suggestions that we have made here are but a few. Speak with one of our professional dog trainers or your local veterinarian for more solutions.

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