Q: My dog is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. He comes up really close as if he's going to bite it, then backs up quickly with his mouth still open. Although it does make a chore more entertaining, I wonder if he truly thinks he is rescuing me from a monster. How can I help him adjust so I can vacuum without feeling like I am torturing him subconsciously?
A: There is much speculation about pets' reactions to the vacuum cleaner. Some behave as if the world is ending and others barely bat an eye. But, unless pets can suddenly speak, we'll have to focus on a solution regardless of the problem's origin. First, gauge whether it's the sound or movement that bothers him more. Put a treat on the vacuum while it's off and encourage him to eat it. Next, do the same thing but move the vacuum around (still off), stopping to let the dog get the treats. If he's fine with both of those, continue by turning the vacuum on, placing treats on it, but not moving it. You should remain near the vacuum through this whole process, bending down on your pet's level and talking in a calm, reassuring voice. Yelling "no" or "stop" while he is barking at the vacuum will likely stress him out even more. Repeat this process with lots of praise and rewards. Eventually, your pup (or cat) should become desensitized.
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