Common Fears 01 Fear: How to Help Your Dog Overcome It - VeterinaryPartner.com - a VIN company!
THE CANINE BEHAVIOR SERIES, By Kathy Diamond Davis, Date Published: 1/18/2004 1:24:00 PM
Several things seem to haunt the minds of a great many fearful dogs. Let's look at some of these, why they may develop, and hints for working through them. Vacuum Cleaners and other Household Appliances
Vacuum cleaners make weird noises. Their use involves a person thrusting the thing around the room in gestures that wouldn't make any sense to a dog. The concept of cleaning a floor, other than by eating any food spilled on it, would also be foreign to a dog's way of thinking. There's not much about a vacuum cleaner for a dog to like! The occasional herding dog will chase it because it moves, and some dogs will "attack" or threaten it because it isn't acting right!
Adding treats to vacuuming time can work through this fear. If the dog is really traumatized about the device, you may need to start with setting up the vacuum cleaner and giving the dog treats in the next room. Over several sessions you can move the treat-giving closer, never faster than the dog's comfort level can handle. Do the process with the vacuum off, next with the vacuum cleaner running, and finally with the vacuum cleaner moving. While going through this program, put the dog in a different place whenever you vacuum so as not to undo all the good conditioning by scaring the dog again.
To condition your dog to appliances that merely make noise without lunging around the room, use the same process. For these appliances as well as the vacuum, you can use not only treats, but also meal times (place the dog's dish increasingly closer to the scary thing, a little closer with each meal) and games. Dogs who like to fetch have a real advantage, because retrieving is so motivating to dogs.
The dishwasher is an interesting case. Dishwashers that open with a big movement can cause dogs to dash out of the room. But if your dog likes to try to sneak a lick off a dirty dish when you open the dishwasher, there's a built-in treat. Some of these enterprising dogs love dishwashers. That makes it your job to avoid hurting the dog with the dishwasher door, or letting the dog eat spoiled food. Dishwasher soap can be toxic.
The dishwasher would be a case for teaching the dog to calmly remain in the room but back from danger. Reward the dog for keeping his head OUT of the dishwasher!