Couple Tests 'Punishing' Their Vacuum So Their Dogs Won't Be Afraid Of It

Is treating your Hoover like a bad dog the key to soothing anxious pups? Probably not. But it is hilarious.

dog afraid of vacuum Igor Normann / Shutterstock

If you've ever had a dog, you've likely dealt with their fear of the vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, or any other household appliance that's obviously not an animal but makes weird noises like one.

So, what's a pet owner to do? According to many on the internet, treating the vacuum like it's another ill-behaved dog will do the trick. But one couple got very mixed — and hilarious — results.

The couple tried punishing their vacuum so their dogs wouldn't be afraid of it.

According to several folks on the internet, "punishing" household appliances plays some kind of Jedi mind trick with dogs. The theory seems to be that it convinces them the vacuum is not a threat — that you've put it in its place, and now it will behave.


Absurd as it sounds, many online have claimed to have success, like one woman whose dog is totally over its fear of hair dryers.

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So the Weishaar Family took to TikTok to put the theory to the test and really give their vacuum what-for to see if their two adorable doggos would chill out around the thing.

They scolded the vacuum cleaner, calling it a 'bad dog' and telling it to 'sit.' But their dogs weren't buying it.

"Bad vacuum! Stop that!" Mr. Weishaar yelled at the vacuum in the video as Mrs. Weishaar laughed behind the camera. The scene is patently absurd from the start, made all the more chuckle-worthy by two of the couple's dogs, Bear and Ellie, seemingly as unsure of what to make of this as we humans are.


We saw something that said if you discipline your vacuum your dog won’t be scared of it anymore 😂😂

♬ original sound - Weishaar Family

"Tell it to sit!" Mrs. Weishaar then suggested, and Mr. Weishaar obliged as the two dogs patiently stood by. But when he bent the vacuum into its cleaning position — hilariously yelling, "I said sit!" — all bets were off. Bear and Ellie instantly alerted their dad they were not having it with this seeming act of vacuum aggression and started getting aggressive with the appliance.


They then tried the opposite, praising it as a 'nice vacuum.' The dogs were not convinced by this either.

Okay, so scolding the vacuum was not the rousing success they'd hoped for. But what about praising the vacuum? After a commenter suggested that tack instead, the Weishaars gave it a go. And well…

It didn't really work, either. Bear did seem a bit calmer, and sort of intrigued by the vacuum rather than scared. Ellie on the other hand? She followed Mr. Weishaar down the hallway trying to bite off the vacuum's wheels. As any good girl worth her salt would!

They finally tried one more suggestion — Mrs. Weishaar used the vacuum on Mr. Weishaar to show them it was harmless. This was an even bigger failure, as it just sent Bear and Ellie darting around the room, preparing to intervene. But hey, at least they know where their dogs' loyalties lie!


So why didn't these tricks work? And what works better? According to veterinarians, it's all about positive reinforcement.

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Dogs are afraid of vacuums because they are incredibly loud and stinky to them, so experts say desensitization is key.

The reason dogs are so afraid of things like vacuums and hair dryers is because of their extremely keen senses of hearing and smell. A vacuum cleaner is loud enough for us humans, so just imagine what it's like for a dog, who can also hear frequencies we can't. 


Jack Russell dog afraid of vacuum pixelshot / Canva Pro

And that musty smell vacuums have? Not only does that stink of all kinds of weird odors to your dog, but as you pass it over the carpets, that releases even more scents. Wrap it all together and it's sensory overload. You wind up with a dog who's anxious and stressed.

So what's the solution? According to vets and pet behaviorists, like TikToker Dr. Annie, it's all about desensitizing them to the experience and giving them positive reinforcement that they can link to the vacuum in their brains.

@annieknowsanimals can “punishing” the vacuum cleaner make your dog less afraid of it? 🤔 #dogsoftiktok #dogbehavior #dogtraining vc: @candacce ♬ original sound - Dr. Annie | pet behaviorist

She explained that the act of "punishing" something like a vacuum could be effective due to some dogs' and cats' capabilities with what is called social referencing — basically, the ability to interpret and glean meaning from your behavior in a certain situation.

However, she referenced a study that showed dogs and cats both respond better to positive interactions with inanimate objects than negative ones. This means dogs are more likely to be more fearful of something you're responding negatively to than the other way around.


dog looking at vacuum Valeriia Boiko / Canva Pro

So instead of "punishing" the vacuum, she said to act like you really like it. You can take this to another level by using training treats to reward your dog when approaching the vacuum or sniffing it, rather than cowering away.

Over time, this will help your dog tolerate the stinky, loud, weird thing you bring out every weekend to clean the carpets — no verbal abuse toward the vacuum needed!


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.