by Jeff Patenaude
(Coleman WI USA)
I have a 13 week old black lab pup. It is deathly afraid of the vacuum cleaner, my 4-wheeler my snowmobile and my snowblower. She runs and hides every time I use any of these. After I find her, she is very sheepish. I would like to break her of this but do not know how. She was NEVER chased or forced to ride any of the above mentioned. PLEASE help!!!!
This is pretty normal for a puppy, she has no idea what these huge noisy monsters are and so runs and hides!
Of course, as they're things she's going to come across again and again in her life (not to mention all the other noisy machines we humans love to operate!) you're right to want her to learn to be comfortable around them.
The good news is that it's perfectly possible for her to learn not to be afraid of these things, the bad news is it takes time :o)
Many puppies that are raised indoors are familiar with household appliances, but a snowmobile or snowblower can be very intimidating I imagine. You will need to familiarize her with these things slowly and carefully, making sure that she's never in a position where she feels 'cornered' by them, or threatened.
Let's use the vacuum cleaner as an example -
Leave the vacuum out in the house where she gets used to seeing it and can sniff and explore it at her own pace. Don't make a big fuss of it, just act like it's no big deal. Once she's okay with it when it's NOT running, move onto this...
Let her get used to hearing it from a safe distance, and for very short periods. Maybe have someone else turn it on while you sit with your puppy at whatever distance she can tolerate (start further than you think is necessary and work inwards). Run it in a stationary position for maybe 30 seconds, meanwhile you can talk reassuringly and matter of factly to your pup and offer her a treat or two. The turn it off and ignore it for a while.
Repeat this scenario maybe twice or three times a day until she's fairly relaxed about it, then slowly start making the sessions closer and closer to the vacuum. Don't rush it or scare her as you'll ruin your hard work. Depending on how nervous she is it could take weeks of work, but once she's comfortable with the vacuum noise when it's stationary you can begin to push it around while she's watching from wherever she feels safe. After a while you'll find she accepts that this noisy monster isn't going to hurt her and she'll either ignore it or try to attack it (that's pretty common too), once she's doing that you're okay!
You'll need to do something similar with the four-wheeler, snow-mobile and snow blower. Just let her get used to the noise first, from a safe distance, and then build up to having her tolerate the noise and movement together. Patience and consistency are key in all this, so bear that in mind.
Always make sure that her experiences around these things are positive, with a reward thrown in now and then, but don't 'baby' her or talk to her in a way that could reinforce her opinion that they're scary. Just be matter of fact and breezy and she'll learn to take her cue from you.
Best of luck.