Become The Alpha Dog

Dogs & Vacuums

Vacuum: Household cleaning tool…or awful, scary monster? For many of you, pulling out the vacuum can send your dog running to the other room. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could, at the very least, vacuum your carpets without sending your dog into a frenzy? Even better, what if you could take the task of vacuuming and turn it into an opportunity to work on some dog training skills?

For many of you, the idea of being able to place your dog into a down-stay for any duration of time as you vacuum around him seems pretty unrealistic. If you have a dog that is afraid of the vacuum, try these steps first to desensitize him to the vacuum.

1. You’ll need to remove your dog’s ability to escape. You can do this by using gates to keep your pup in the general area you plan to vacuum or by tethering him in the room. If there are two of you, one can work the vacuum while the other has the dog on leash.

2. You’ll want to start creating good associations with the vacuum. You can do this by placing treats around or even on the vacuum. It’s usually a good idea to start with the vacuum OFF so that your dog has a chance to break any negative associations he has with the vacuum.

3. Next, you’ll want to repeat the exercise of placing treats next to or even on the vacuum with machine in the ON position. This may be a bit more challenging for your dog, so make sure those treats are favorites.

4. If there are 2 humans and a dog, you can try this exercise: Person One will handle the dog and Person Two will be in charge of working the vacuum. Person One will have the pup on leash and will put the dog into a down stay while Person Two slowly moves the vacuum around the dog. Person One will praise the dog only when he behaves calmly and remains in his down stay. If the dog breaks his down stay, Person One will need to place the dog back into position. Also, if the dog starts to whimper or panic, Person One will STOP petting until the dog becomes calm. This is important. We get what we pet and we don’t want to reward the dog for being fearful. Person Two’s job is very important. Person Two is looking to see how close they can get to their dog before he gets overly anxious. Person Two will move the vacuum closely enough to improve his skills without pushing too hard or setting him up to fail. Initially you may only be able to get within a few feet of the dog. That’s alright. Over time you’ll work your way up to the point where your pup could care less about the vacuum. That is the goal. For more challenging cases, you may choose to begin this exercise with the vacuum in the OFF position.

Practicing these exercises on a regular basis will eventually desensitize your dog to the vacuum. Eventually, you’ll find this is a great way to do your chores and practice your dog’s down stay. Not only will mastering this exercise be great for you, it is a great way to train your dog through his fears.

If your dog has severe fear or aggression around the vacuum, you may want to call a professional for some assistance. Poor timing, improper techniques, etc. can increase unwanted behavior. There is an art to understanding how quickly to progress and you should never correct the dog for being fearful.

To watch a video demonstration of this exercise, click here to view a short video training clip. For more dog training information, visit Thriving Canine.

-Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals with Thriving Canine

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Posted under Dog Training Tip

This post was written by assistant on February 13, 2011

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