Why do dogs hate vacuum cleaners? + Tips to Make Them Love Them

We all know that when the vacuum cleaner comes out, the dog will soon either creep nervously into another room (which is what my dog does) or start to growl and bark at the vacuum cleaner, even trying to attack it at times.

Some herding dogs will try to “round it up.”

But have you ever wondered: why do dogs hate vacuum cleaners?

Vacuuming can already be an annoying but necessary task, and so having to deal with a loud, barking dog at the same time can make it even more stressful.

Why do vacuum cleaners bother dogs so much?

It’s true that not all dogs are afraid of or combative towards vacuum cleaners, but unless they were properly exposed to them as puppies or are just naturally very calm, many are.

There are a few obvious reasons why dogs would be nervous around a vacuum cleaner – put yourself in your dog’s place, and you’ll soon recognize them yourself. Vacuum cleaners are large and loud, like some kind of wild animal, and your dog sees you moving around with it in a strange way, perhaps struggling with it from his or her point of view.

Note: If you want you can buy quiet Vacuum Cleaners like the Electrolux UltraSilencer EL6986B Canister Vacuum here (Amazon Link Ad). This way you can vacuum without scaring your pets too much. 

To see us moving around with this loud, bellowing beast, maybe being attacked, but remaining calm and unphased, must look very bizarre to a dog. In addition to not understanding this “weirdness,” our canine companions have much better hearing than us and could be hearing a frequency emitted by the vacuum cleaner which we can’t that could be hurting their ears.

In any case, dogs certainly don’t have the same concept of making the floor clean that we do, so it’s going to be hard for them to understand what exactly is going on here. Many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms just because of the loud noises. Add a large contraption that could appear like some kind of animal from your pet’s point of view, and put it inside your house, and it’s easy to see why your dog can become so agitated when the vacuum cleaner comes out.

Why are some Dogs afraid and others not?

Many dogs have not been exposed to loud noises from a young age, and so this can make them more easily afraid or combative. Some reputable dog breeders will train puppies not to be afraid of loud noises, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or the vacuum monster, by using treats and praise.

This will ensure that they know how to cope with noise before they go off to live at someone’s home, and even be excited when the vacuum cleaner comes out. Also, some dogs can inherit a fearful or cautious disposition from their parents, which can help explain why some dogs are nervous or belligerent around the vacuum cleaner and some hardly even notice it.

Herding Dogs

As mentioned briefly above, if you have a herding dog (such as a Border Collie, a German Shepard, or a Sheepdog), they may not be afraid of the vacuum or think it’s an enemy, but instead be trying to “round it up” just as they would with a herd of cows or sheep. They tend to do the same thing with other moving objects like bicycles or cars.

Can you train your dog not to hate the vacuum cleaner?

Is it possible to train your dog to not hate the vacuum cleaner?

The answer to this question, fortunately, is “yes.” You can teach your dog to habituate to the vacuum cleaner, so they know it’s not a threat.

As with all ways of training your dog, the best way to do this is by using treats. You could get your dog to sit in a room with the turned-off vacuum cleaner and give him or her a treat for not barking at it. You can leave it in the room for a couple of days, from time to time placing treats around it.

Treats = Vacuum Cleaner

You want to teach your dog to associate the vacuum cleaner with treats so that he or she actually anticipates it instead of being worried about it. Then, you could even put a treat on top of the vacuum cleaner, getting your dog to take it off of it.

Start moving the vacuum slowly, inch by inch, moving it in the same way you would when actually vacuuming so your dog understands that it’s okay for you to be “struggling” with it. After this step, try turning it on and give your dog treats so that he or she associates the noise with treats. Finally, start moving the vacuum around while it’s on and have a friend give your dog some treats.

The dog will end up associating the sight, sound, and movement of the vacuum with treats. Build up slowly until you can eventually get your dog to remain more calm around the vacuum, or at least not to bark ferociously at it. This is what’s called graduated exposure and is a slow process which will help in the long-run; make sure to consult a professional dog behaviorist to do this the right and optimal way.