Helping an Eight Month Old Puppy Get Over His Fear of the Vacuum

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 12, 2016


Linguine is a eight-month-old Coonhound mix who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up a puppy training session with us to teach him how to listen better, get over his fear of the vacuum, stop pulling on the leash, be more obedient and stop his habit of guarding resources like bones.

Linguine was clearly excited once he realized someone was at the door. When he got down to the landing where the door was, he attempted to jump up on me a few times. I blocked him by bringing up my knee and after a few attempts he repositioned himself up the stairs a bit.

Once he was on the stairs I was able to use them to prevent him from jumping up on me by keeping him on the steps.

During the initial evaluation. I noticed that the dog was able to jump up on the couch and climb on top of his guardians whenever he felt like it. It wasn’t hard to see why he did this, each time he climbed on top of the guardian, he reached over and started instantly petting the dog.

Because dogs learn through association, anytime that we pet a dog we are basically agreeing with whatever the dog happens to be doing at the time. By petting his dog each time he climbed up on top of him, the guardian was actually training the dog that the proper way to ask for attention from a human was to jump up or climb on them.

I suggested that the guardians’ utilize my Petting with a purpose strategy of asking the dog to sit, come or lay down before they petted it.

I also recommended a number of rules that the guardians can start to enforce. When a dog does not see the humans as being in the authority position, incorporating rules and boundaries and enforcing them with good timing can help the dog learn to adopt more of a follower’s mindset.

Now that we had covered how important rules, boundaries and being aware of what is going on when we provide affection, I was ready to start tackling some of Linguine’s behavioral issues. First stop, his fear of the vacuum cleaner.

Many people simply power through when their dog is anxious or fearful about an object or situation. But this approach does not help the dog learn to adapt or develop a new behavior.

I always look for ways to incorporate positive dog training to situations like this. As you can see in the video, it didn’t take long for Linguine to stop being so fearful around the vacuum once we used some high-value treats and gradually got him comfortable with getting closer.

Of course a vacuum standing and not in use is not as intense as one that is moving or running. I spent the next few minutes discussing how the guardians can gradually progress things so that Linguine becomes comfortable with the vacuum cleaner in all of its states.

If the guardians take their time, and keep repeating each step until Linguine is completely comfortable with it, they will eventually end up with a dog who has no fear of the vacuum cleaner no matter what it does.

Next I had the guardians pull out one of the high-value Rawhide chews that Linguine had become possessive of. I was starting to explain how I wanted this exercise to go when Linguine took it upon himself to retreat to his guardian’s bed.

One of the guardians went into the bedroom to tell Linguine to get down off of the bed and that is when he started to show some of his guarding behavior. This gave me a great opportunity to show the guardians how they can utilize a leash to stop Linguine from guarding something, in this case the bed.

As soon as we removed Linguine from the bed, his aggression abated completely. We closed the door to the bedroom and brought Linguine back into the living room so that I could demonstrate how they can gradually introduce objects that he is possessive of in a structured way that helped him see the object as being in possession of the human.

Resource guarding can be a very dangerous situation and a dog will absolutely bite it’s handler or guardian if they push too far with a dog who is in that agitated state of mind.

By practicing letting the dog sample something it has a tendency to guard while retaining possession, the humans can help the dog practice not feeling possessive over the objects.

I recommended that the guardians pick up the book MINE!, by Jean Donaldson. Jean is a very accomplished dog trainer and this book is hands-down the resource to have if your dog is a resource guarder.

The last item on the list was Linguine’s behavior on a walk. Because he had been pulling to such an extreme extent, his guardian had incorporated a harness. The problem with a harness for dogs who pull is the harness makes it easier for the dog to add tension and pull against the leash.

I pulled out a Martingale collar and showed the guardians how they can add the special twist of the leash to give them more control. I also shared some leash training tips with them and the three rules I follow on what I refer to as a structured walk.

Once we got outside I took the leash and demonstrated how to properly correct the dog when I got out of position. After that, I handed the leash to one of the dog’s guardians and off we went.

Linguine protested a tiny bit at the beginning of the walk but quickly fell into line. Both of his guardians marveled at how easy it was to control him and stop him from pulling on the leash.

By the end of the session, Linguine was watching his guardians; looking for commands and corrections. He had already started follow some of the new rules we introduced and the guardians were starting to pet him with a purpose.

If the guardians are consistent in their application of corrections when the dog breaks the rules or does something they do not approve of, start petting with a purpose on a consistent basis and practice retaining possession of items that Linguine likes to be possessive of, they should be able to nip all of these problems in the bud in short order.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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