What could a broom represent to your dog? Housework? Maybe not, but an enemy perhaps. Your dog could pick up on the idea that a broom is not a friend of yours if you dislike housework. The broom could trigger your dog's prey drive or if your dog is still young and playful the broom may represent the start of a game. Perhaps you swept closely to your new pup. He thought, this is fun and so began the game of "lets chase the broom." Brooms are swishy and sweep across the floor in front of your dog representing different things in his mind’s eye. He may see a spiky villain that is going to attack you. He may be reminded of a bad experience as a pup or he may just be curious because he never saw a broom before. If your dog’s response to the broom is aggressive then some de-sensitizing exercises will be helpful. If your dog’s response is one of playfulness, that you encouraged, then it will be a challenge to deter Fido’s enthusiasm to the "hunt the broom" game.
The Root of the Behavior
Prey drive is a very strong instinctive behavior in many breeds of dog. It was prey drive that motivated them in the wild to hunt and catch small animals to feed on and to bring home to the pack. A jerky movement within your dog’s range of vision could just be the trigger that says the hunt is on. While you continue to sweep with the broom, and its bushy end, the drive to catch that critter will be foremost in your dog’s mind. Perhaps frustration caused you to push your dog out of the way with the broom. Now your dog thinks he is being attacked by the broom. In an animal’s mind, this is going down the fight or flight mode of reaction and before you know it you have a dog that fears the broom and needs to attack. Most reputable breeders will have desensitized the pups in the litter towards intrusive household objects before sending the young ones to their new homes. This important socializing period between three and six weeks is the time when the litter can be exposed to different sounds and later different objects, that they may fear, if not handled correctly.
It is important to never force a dog into a situation he is fearful of. If your dog fears brooms and decides to attack them, it might be advisable to get help from a behaviorist with suggestions on how to familiarize your dog with brooms and sweeping. Some dogs may just see the broom as another plaything and fancy a game of tag or tug of war. If you don’t want to encourage this playtime activity, then it is best not to start something you don’t want to continue. Remove your dog from the scene and continue to sweep without him. Several different reactions to brooms could be on your dog’s agenda. Curiosity, if he has never seen one; suspicion if he thinks it may attack; and fear if he feels the sweeping movement is out to get him.
Encouraging the Behavior
Fear of the broom attacking could also be linked to concern over your role as the pack leader. Fido may think you are not in control here and this is the time he needs to step in and defend you against the broom monster! Your dog may want to dominate the broom that is now clearly in your space. You are holding the broom and moving the broom in a disturbing way. Your dog may think a few nips on the broom will end this relationship the broom has with you. Although brooms do not make a noise like vacuums, they do represent an intrusion in the house.
The broom is not around all the time and every time it arrives on the scene it is not part of friendly activities. Your dog will not normally see you stroke the broom and call it nice names! You can lay the broom in the middle of the floor and slowly desensitize your dog to the presence of a broom. Start with a few treats that draw your dog closer to the immobile broom. Slowly and quietly your dog may go closer to the broom and see it is not to be feared.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Sometimes it is hard to understand why your dog would be afraid of an inanimate object like a broom. It just depends on how your dog first encountered a broom or other cleaning devices. Dogs have memories and added to that, some dogs are more fearful than others. Defending the pack will always be on their minds. Hunting and providing food will also be a priority even if two square meals a day are provided, and all home comforts given. Instinctive behavior often outweighs learned behavior. Training, early socializing, and an understanding of your dog’s motives will help in any situation, especially if the behavior is interfering with the harmony in your home.
Do you find you have a sense of ‘road rage’ as you drive your broom around the house? Your dog could easily pick up on your feelings of anger. It is not unusual for dogs to sense our senses and worry about our change of mood. Your dog sees all sorts of familiar smells being swept out of the door by someone who is clearly not having a good time. Perhaps a waltz around the room with the broom will assure your dog that you are not dancing with the enemy. It could just make housework more fun after all.