Vacuum or Monster: Why Are Dogs Scared of Vacuums


Regardless of whether or not you’re a clean freak like me, vacuuming upwards of two times a week, you might have noticed that when you do pull out your vacuum your dog may become a little leery. 

This phenomenon has always been of interest to me. I have had three dogs in my life, not to mention the countless others that I have been around, and the wide array of reactions to vacuuming that the dogs have expressed has always intrigued me. For example, my first dog, Coco, couldn’t be bother by vacuum cleaners but he was terrified of storms. My current two dogs, Layla and Koda, are quite different. Layla HATES cleaning days— to the point where she actually used to try to bite the vacuum, even when it was off. Koda, on the other hand, doesn’t like it but is less reactive; he simply distances himself from the vacuum. 

Try as I might, with the wide array of interactions from each of my dogs, I could not figure out what it was; and, I came up with some whacky theories. My favorite of which being that vacuums eliminate a dog’s scent and depending on how territorial a dog is their reactions may accordingly vary. My mom still makes fun of me for the absurdity of that conjecture. 

Upon talking to my vet and doing research, I found that the answer is much less complicated than my above hypothesis. 

Vacuums are subjectively scary. 

That’s it. Each dog is different; therefore, each dog will react differently to different sounds, sights, smells, and objects, including, but not limited to, vacuum cleaners. 

That isn’t to say there isn’t a way to help, though. Now, if your dog is skittish around vacuums, keep reading and I’ll break it down for you. 

Just us humans have different triggers or fears, so do our pets. But, because of our more advanced reasoning capabilities we may unintentionally minimize the fears of our dogs. Being scared of vacuums is actually common in a lot pets and it isn’t necessarily the vacuum itself, but rather the strange sounds, and smells associated with it.

A dog’s sense of smell is his strongest sense; so, while we may not notice the distinct scent that our vacuums release our dogs can pick up on it immediately. Additionally, dogs also have acute hearing that loud vacuums may upset. 

Hopefully, we’re all aware of the signs that our pets give off when they’re scared, but if not here are some possibilities: barking, hiding, accidents, and freezing in place.

Essentially, any hyperawareness or change in your dogs normal behavior can be a potential warning that he or she is frightened.

Those are more overt actions, but analyzing your dog’s body language may also be telling. Koda has cute little triangle ears that stand upright; however, when he’s nervous or excited he pins them back. Other signs are tucked tails, stiff posture, and lip licking. 

Just be aware of your dog and his usual  habits that way you can better notice when he is uncomfortable. 

The best way to remedy a dog’s fear is to desensitize him. In other words, similar to how we have to face our fears, we have to help our pets do the same. As easy as it sounds, this may be a bit of a lengthy process, with vets recommending you start the process as soon as possible (preferably while the dog is still a puppy, even).

Vacuuming is usually not an everyday occurrence so your dog may not have enough time to investigate and become familiar with it. I saw one person even compare a vacuum to a monster that hides in a closet. To counter this take the vacuum out, even if you don’t intend on using it, and let your pet sniff around it and see it. Then maybe plug it in and turn it on inactively. This allows your pet to become familiar with the scent and sound of it while it is stagnant and less threatening. 

Some sources suggest simply playing youtube audio clips of vacuums to help acclimate your pup to the idea of them. Another helpful hack is to take out the vacuum and leave it unplugged but put a dog treat on or near it. This allows your dog to associate positive feelings with the vacuum, thus making it less of  a threat to them. 

If after a couple months of this sort of training you don’t notice difference, you can always allow your dog playtime in another part of your house or apartment while you vacuum one room and then switch. 

Like most living things, dogs are scared of the unfamiliar, so it makes sense that they get jumpy around a loud, smelly machine they only see once in a while. With that being said, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Training your dog out of his or her fear is always an option so long as you use positive affirmations and techniques like the ones mentioned above!