Does your otherwise fearless pup turn into a scaredy cat the second they see a vacuum cleaner? Here’s why the vacuum cleaner seems to elicit such fear, and how to help your dog overcome their phobia.


Vacuuming can be a gruelling enough task without having to concurrently manage a nervous or upset dog. Fear not, it’s relatively common for dogs to be phobic of vacuum cleaners, and in most cases the phobia is manageable, if not completely curable.

Understanding where your dog’s fear stems from is half the battle, and while we can’t know exactly what’s going on inside their little head, here are a few common reasons that dogs experience vacuum cleaner phobias:

  • Lack of exposure: This is the number one reason most dogs are scared of the vacuum cleaner – it’s loud, big, threatening and looks as though it’s attacking you. If your dog hasn’t been introduced to a vacuum cleaner in a gradual, non-threatening way, you can understand that it would be terrifying.
  • Bad experience: If a dog has been startled by a vacuum cleaner, this can possibly turn into a phobia over time.
  • Fearful temperament: All dogs come with their own unique disposition, and some are genetically more fearful than others. These dogs are quite shy and nervous generally, not only around vacuum cleaners.
  • Droving instinct: It’s possible that what appears to be fear – barking, and chasing the vacuum cleaner – is actually your dog asserting its herding instinct. Your vacuum cleaner might appear to be a disobedient sheep that needs to be taught a lesson.

Signs your dog is afraid of the vacuum cleaner

  • Hiding under furniture
  • Drooling
  • Urinating
  • Pacing
  • Barking
  • Destructive chewing
  • Attempting to escape from the vacuum cleaner.

How to treat a vacuum cleaner phobia

There are methods of desensitising your dog to the vacuum cleaner. Depending on the severity of the phobia it’s worth trying to gradually expose them all the while offering them praise and rewarding them with treats. First try putting your dog in the same room as the vacuum cleaner while it’s turned off. Gradually you’ll need to up the ante – try placing a treat on the vacuum cleaner and making your dog take it off, and slowly progress to turn the vacuum cleaner on while your dog is in the room. This will take time, and while it can be frustrating, it’s important to remember not to punish your dog as it will only make them more distressed.

If gradual exposure doesn’t work, it’s worth seeking further advice from your nearest Greencross Vets, as there are some natural products, like pheromones, that can be used to reduce stress in pets that are severely phobic.

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