New Puppy Series: When Vacuums Attack! How to Help Your Puppy Overcome Fear
Did you recently bring home a new puppy? This blog mini-series is for you! In this post, we go over how to help your new puppy overcome fear. The new puppy in the pictures is Logic, the newest addition to the Zurborg family!
Logic’s New Fear
The day Logic turned three months old, he suddenly noticed the vacuum. We had previously been vacuuming around his pen while he was in it or while he was outside.
One day, we pulled out the vacuum and he was loose. Logic decided to investigate what it was.
As he moved towards it, he suddenly stopped, jumped backwards, froze, and then barked several times. He was showing a lot of fear about this weird alien creature that had invaded our house!
If I had done nothing at all, Logic probably would have calmed down after a few minutes. However, his reaction was so strong and I had not even turned on the vacuum yet! I knew his fear would most likely accelerate and could potentially lead to more barking or trying to bite the vacuum.
This is definitely not the type of behavior I want from my new puppy. It can become a household nuisance and creep up on me in other similar situations in public.
How to Handle Fear
So what did I do? I grabbed the clicker and his lunch and did some counter-conditioning, of course! Counter-conditioning is the process by which a trainer helps the dog to create a new emotional response to what used to be a fearful trigger. Here is a video of our session.
I started by clicking whenever he looked at or moved towards the vacuum. Tossing the treat on the ground helps reduce fear and sets up the next clickable moment. This is something you can replicate at home with your new puppy, whether it’s the vacuum scaring them or something else entirely!
We captured a lot of great behaviors in this session. Logic was stepping on it, walking over it, bumping it with his nose, and moving the vacuum. Not all dogs will be confident enough to be so operant with their behavior.
Building his confidence up now is going to pay off big time in the future. It also lays the foundation to focus and work through situations that might create a lot of excitement or fear.
At the end of the video, I put him outside when I turned on the vacuum. He just wandered off to sniff and ignored the vacuum.
During our next session, I will introduce a mat in order to capture a calm down behavior. Then, we will turn on the vacuum when he is in the room. With a lot of rewards and plenty of patience, he will nail the vacuum challenge!