#General      #Health      #Training      

Why My Dog Hates The Vacuum Cleaner!

Does your dog tilt his head from side to side listening to something behind a cabinet door? Does he hang his head and lay down in another room when you vacuum, only to come back out and try to attack your cleaning device of choice that uses a motor? Does he bark at seemingly nothing late at night? Instead of scolding him- here is a brief tutorial on why your dog may be doing these things, and what you can do to help him.


First, a brief anatomy lesson:


Ears contain a special sensory organ that develops in response to an outgrowth of the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial eighth nerve) and allows the dog to both hear and have balance or knowledge of where its body is in space (proprioception).


The ear can be divided into three chambers.


  • The external ear canal transmits sound waves from the environment to the ear drum- the tympanic membrane.
  • The middle ear contains the three small bones that are interconnected and transmit sound waves from the tympanic membrane, which they rest against, to the round window of the cochlea.
  • The inner ear contains the specialized nervous system receptors for hearing and balance. The cochlea is the receptor that transduces sound waves into nerve impulses which are subsequently transmitted to the brain by the eighth nerve to the brain.


Measuring hearing can vary.  Tones (high/low) at varied frequencies are measured at Hertz/Kilohertz. Volume intensities (loud/quiet) are measured by decibels. Humans hear between 64-23,000 Hz , while dogs hear 67-45,000 Hz . That’s why dogs often hear higher pitched sounds inaudible to people. This may be the reason dogs are often restless at night - they hear mice and game animals and at a greater distance. The ear shape, upright and rotational- as in German shepherds, or hanging down- as in Bloodhounds, can effect hearing ability also.


Sound waves, motor vibration, and engine pitch can ALL be uncomfortable for your dog. Desensitization can start shortly after birth with CD’s containing different sounds-from doorbells to lightning to fireworks. This helps to familiarize the dog with Tone and Volume. It does not take into consideration the disturbance to the air movement sound waves/inner ear vibrations that abrupt, sharp noise create. Desensitization should occur with the dog and handler engaging in a fun play or training session with familiar toys and exercises. High quality food treats are great to use as long as you are careful not to reward fearful behavior, such as body language that makes him smaller like dropped ears, tail tuck and head lowering. Increase the reward as long as the dog continues to engage with you through the noise stimulus. Keep noise/vibration exposure training sessions short and positive. Progress slowly, and ALWAYS end on a positive behavior from the dog. In the beginning a dog may startle a bit, but a calm presence from you, along with the enticement of canned fish or chicken is usually enough to help him over it. Dog trainers look not at the startle- but how quickly, and to what degree, the dog is able to re-approach/recover.


A short note- it is never fair to give a correction or yell at a fearful dog. It only means you must start from a place where the dogs is comfortable, and slowly progress from there. On their schedule-not yours. 


Example 1- vacuuming briefly around the whelping box while the pups are still quite young- as long as the Mother is very comfortable!- is a great way to introduce motor pitch, volume and vibration.


Example 2- Having the puppies fenced outside, playing with their favorite toys or new chew treat while mowing the yard a good distance away.


Example 3- using a starter pistol once or twice outside in the yard, while the pups are inside the home/building, eating a meal. This is a more advance experience.


The ultimate goal is to have the pups think of these noises as a matter-of-fact part of life. Their own genetic temperament has a good deal to do with how confident they may start out- but A careful, thoughtful approach to desensitizing the dogs to a loud sound not always immediately identifiable, and somewhat uncomfortable, can prevent your dog from fleeing in panic when the neighbors car backfires pulling up the driveway. Or a balloon pops. Or you drop a metal pan on the kitchen floor. Or the Vacuum comes out.

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