Vacuum vs. Dog

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August 4, 2010
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Does your dog or puppy hide from, bark at, chase, bite, your vacuum cleaner?  It seems there are a group of dogs who pretest our efforts to clean up or think the vacuum is a monster and must attack it as moves around on the rug. Sometimes it can be funny to watch your dog go nuts but most times it’s a headache and a behavior that needs to be curbed.

There are a few things you can try to stop this unwanted behavior such as spraying your dog with a water gun or saying, “No” whenever he barks and tries to bite the vacuum but this often spirals into a never-ending battle and is negative in how it modifies or doesn’t modify behavior.

Positive reinforcement works well with any dog and training sessions can be fun and enjoyable for you and your dog.

1: Put your dog in another room or in its crate. That usually stops the barking and random running attacks but some dogs aren’t that easily deterred and will bark and try to get out of the room.

2: Try cleaning when the dog is in the yard or out on a walk but there may be times when your dog isn’t able to be out of the house and you need to clean up.

3: Teach your dog to have a “go to” place such as a doggy bed and reward the behavior. Let your dog know that when he’s at his “go to” place he can relax, watch, but can’t leave and can’t bark or protest.

The “go to” place may be the best method for curbing your dog’s unwanted behavior in many situations such as when preparing food, having guests over, or when you need your dog to be calm and quiet. The idea is to expose your dog to various sounds and things that may make them excited but when sitting on his “go to” place he must relax and not react.

Once you’ve conditioned and rewarded your dog for going to the “go to” place, you’re ready to teach your dog how to relax when you’re vacuuming. The following steps are small doses of exposure that will desensitize and train your dog to understand that the vacuum is not a monster, the sound is not something to be afraid of, and attacking it is not necessary.

Bring the vacuum into the room where your dog has his “go to” place and plug it in. Do not turn it on. Tell your dog to “go to” his place. If he goes to his place and looks at the vacuum and does not bark, give him a treat. You may have to do this a few times over the course of several days if your dog is a real fighter and has a huge vendetta against the vacuum.

Once you’ve passed this step, reach for the handle and if your dog is quiet, toss a treat and praise him. Do this three or four times in one session to reinforce the behavior. Next, try pushing the vacuum a few inches without it being on. If your dog watches and is quiet and on his “go to” place, reward him. Repeat this a few times as well. If things are going great, try moving the vacuum a few feet and pretend you really are vacuuming. If he’s still sitting pretty and hasn’t tried to kill your vacuum, that elicits a treat.

This part of the exercise may take a few days of training to get down since your dog’s old reactions may kick in or he may be unsure and conflicted between attacking and sitting nicely on his spot. Don’t punish him if he makes a mistake. Just start the exercise over and always end it on a fun note.

Next try turning the vacuum on. This part can take a while. Repeat this exercise a few times and reward him every time he does not bark, attack, or get off his “go to” place. Gradually increase the time the vacuum is on and the amount of floor you cover. After a while your dog won’t be trying to save you from the horrible vacuum.

If this sounds terribly daunting and something that may not ever work, think about the other situations that you want your dog to listen and be calm such as holidays when people are over or when the doorbell rings. Having the “go to” place isn’t just handy for vacuum aggression but in any situation where your dog’s excitement level becomes too high and creates some form of craziness.

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