Here’s a little video I made of my dogs’ response to the vacuum cleaner. Hurray for classical conditioning! As soon as any dog comes into my home, I start pairing any potentially scary sounds of human life with great stuff. Two of my dogs weren’t scared of the vacuum in the first place, and taking this action greatly decreased the chance that they ever will be. (Sound sensitivity can appear as dogs mature.)
Zani, my smallest dog, is potentially sensitive to quite a few noises, but we have turned her attitude around on most of them with desensitization and counterconditioning. It worked great with the vacuum.
Vacuums can be a double whammy for some dogs, who are also sensitive to the motion. You can work on that separately if that is the case.
I joke about my dogs getting underfoot in the video. If that were a problem, I could convert the sound of the vacuum cleaner (since they all think it’s a good thing already) to being a cue to go on their mats, or I could just verbally cue them to do so when necessary.
In the future I’ll be posting some videos of the process; this is just to show what a little proactive training can do.
In the meantime you can check out my page on desensitization/counterconditioning resources, and also my Pinterest board that has carefully vetted videos of the processes and results of DS/CC.
Also, Maureen Backman of Mutt About Town just published a great post about treating noise phobias with DS/CC, and it includes three videos showing methods and progress:“Noise Phobia in Dogs: Coping Skills Are Key.”