It can be quite challenging to vacuum your home when your dog is barking, chasing and even biting the vacuum. It would be great if we could just let our dog know that this loud machine will only be on for a finite amount of time but unfortunately that isn’t possible. So what is possible? We can manage to prevent it from happening or we can work on behavior modification. To manage, you’ll want to have your dog in a place where they cannot hear or see the vacuum. (Or hear it as little as possible.) Doing so will provide immediate results. This can be your long term strategy and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The best way to do it is to put them in a back bedroom or someplace similar and give them something extra special to work on to help distract and make it a pleasant experience. (If your dog finds it unpleasant to be back there in general, this may not be the right strategy for you right away because it could lead to avoidance of the room in the future.) But in general, if you can find a way to keep your dog far enough away and to distract them, it may be a fine solution. If you’re interested in helping your dog overcome this, that is possible too. There are a couple different ways to do it. One way involves “straight conditioning” which basically means that you’ll turn vacuuming into a predictor of high value treats. The other way uses the same principle but focuses more on performing a behavior and then receiving the treat. (Like lying down and staying.) Either way, it’s important to break this down into steps so that it’s as underwhelming as possible for your dog. Here is an example plan of how to break it down: 1. Vacuum comes out and stays stationary. 2. Vacuum comes out and moves back and forth while “off.” 3. Vacuum comes out and turns on while remaining stationary. 4. Vacuum comes out, turns on and moves back and forth. (Each step would involve receiving high value food.) This simple 4 step plan may be all that you need to help your dog overcome this. But, it’s also very possible that these steps are too challenging and your dog will need more steps to break it all down. Whether you’re going the “straight conditioning route” or asking for a behavior, just be sure to reward each time. “Straight conditioning” will involve having your dog notice the step first and then feeding throughout the step, while a stay plan may involve asking your dog to down and stay and then adding in the step as a “distraction” for the stay. If this is something you’re wanting to do but it sounds overwhelming, just let us know. We can put a formal plan together for you to make it feel more achievable.
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