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Why Are Some Dogs Afraid of Flies?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
April 1, 2021
5 min read
Why Are Some Dogs Afraid of Flies?
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Some dogs can become terrified of flies and related insects that invade the home during the more temperate months. As a matter of fact, certain canines can seem more annoyed by flies than their human owners. Why is that?

Some dogs are afraid of flies for a variety of reasons. Still, the main culprit is typically a traumatizing event in the dog’s memory associated with a fly. This could include being stung by a flying insect, such as a wasp, when the dog was a puppy.

There are many other reasons dogs could be afraid of flies, including a canine’s innate hyper-sensitive hearing. In this article, I will go over some of these less common reasons for a fear of flies and give dog owners some helpful tips for telling if your pup is fearful of flying insects.

If your dog is experiencing debilitating stress related to flies, I feel your pain. This article will also examine several solutions to help your best friend get over this hurdle. Before long, your dog should stop allowing flies to dominate its headspace.

Reasons Dogs are Afraid of Flies

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There is no one absolute reason why dogs can be afraid of flies. Some dogs remain calm or even exuberant when a flying insect enters the home, while others bark in terror.

It can be challenging for dog owners to understand why their best friend has developed a debilitating fear of these frustrating bugs. Here are some of the most common reasons flies may be causing your dog unnecessary stress.

Traumatic Biting Experience

Your dog may have had a traumatic experience with a flying insect in the past. Though common houseflies do not sting, bees and wasps certainly do. Some fly species, such as black flies, have been known to bite dogs’ underbelly and groin, causing pain and discomfort.

It is entirely possible your beloved pooch was stung or bitten sometime in the past and has developed a traumatic memory response.

Please note, this event could have happened well before you were the dog’s owner, so the inciting incident may be impossible to track.

Bad Shelter Memories

The fly-associated trauma may have nothing to do with being bit or stung. Some dogs develop a fear of flies due to unhappy memories from earlier in their life. Living in a cramped shelter, surrounded by other dogs and with no personal space, can do a number on a canine’s mental health.

These shelters are often poorly maintained and can experience fly infestations. A fly inside your home could simply be a memory trigger. Rescue dogs are often kept in filthy and cramped conditions.

Sensitive Hearing

It is common knowledge that many of a dog’s senses greatly exceed that of a human. As a matter of fact, dogs can hear almost twice the frequencies of people (up to 45,000 hertz), and they can hear sounds up to 80 feet away. Additionally, dogs have an easier time differentiating between different sounds than humans due to a long ear canal and multiple muscles throughout the ear itself.

What does this all mean? A fly buzzing about the home could be a minor nuisance for us and can easily be ignored. However, to a dog, the vibrations of the fly’s wings could be highly annoying and a severe interruption to the dog’s daily life.

Dogs may also be fearful of a fly swatter hitting the wall, which could present itself as a fear of flies. Many dog owners agree that the sound of a fly swatter may remind a dog of punishment it received earlier in life. The sudden hand movement that accompanies the use of a fly swatter could also be a trigger for the dog.

Painful Bites

Black flies bite the groin and underside of dogs. Horseflies bite the skin of dogs to feast on blood, similar to that of a mosquito. Maggots can nest in the skin folds of older and relatively inactive dogs. Your dog may be afraid of flies because there is an infestation in the home or in the yard, and they are repeatedly getting bit.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Afraid of Flies

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Some dogs may make their fear of flies noticeable by yelping and attacking the insects every chance they get. Other dogs can be subtle in their dislike of flying insects. Here are some warning signs to look out for.

Hiding Whenever Flies Enter the Home

If your dog tends to hide with its tail tucked between its legs whenever a fly enters the home, that is a sign your dog is fearful of the insects. Fearful dogs can hide underneath tables, inside piles of clothing, or behind couches.

Do not scold or punish your dog for this behavior, as this fear can be debilitating and causing your canine significant discomfort.

Fearful dogs have been known to shake for up to fifteen minutes or even vomit, in addition to experiencing symptoms in line with a human panic attack.

Aggressive Behavior

Suppose your dog has suddenly begun to exhibit aggressive traits, such as snapping at visitors or barking uncontrollably. In that case, this could be a sign that the pup is afraid of flies and one has entered the home.

However, sudden aggressive behavior could be a sign of a medical disorder, so I recommend taking the dog to the vet.

How to Help a Dog That is Afraid of Flies

If your dog is terrified of flies and related insects, there are some steps you can take to ease your dog’s suffering and bring peace to your home.

Teach Them to Catch Flies

Dogs can be taught to catch and eat flies, which could significantly ease their fears. The process is quite simple, though somewhat silly.

  1. Open up a window, allowing multiple flies to enter the home. It may help to close any doors leading to this room, so flies do not roam throughout your house or apartment.
  2. Once the flies have accumulated, bring the dog into the room. Do not swat the flies. Instead, mimic the act of catching and eating flies repeatedly. This requires you to jump up and down as you open and close your mouth.
  3. Reward your dog for repeating your behavior. When your dog has begun to understand what you are doing, it may also start jumping up and down as it opens and closes its mouth. Give your dog a treat, even if it isn’t actively trying to catch and eat flies yet.
  4. Keep undergoing this mimicry process until the dog begins catching and eating the annoying insects. It may take several tries, but eventually, your dog should start to see flies as a tasty treat and not an interloper to be feared.

Create Positive Memories Outside

Some dogs can be afraid of yards if there are too many flies afoot. To combat this fear, try to create some positive memories with your dog while in the yard. Buy some new toys and take the time to play with your dog outdoors. This can include a new ball, new treats, or a juicy bone.

The point here is to create an irresistible experience for the dog that overrides its fear of flying insects. It may take several days to stick, but the fear should evaporate with time.

Eliminate Flies from the Home

If all else fails, you should try to severely limit the number of flies and related insects that enter the home or travel to your yard. This can be done in many ways. Please talk to your vet before allowing your dog to interact with any chemical or substance:

  • Check windows and doors to ensure no apparent cracks, rips, or tears, with special attention paid to any opening large enough for a fly.
  • Use petroleum jelly (Vaseline). If you find that biting flies are attracted to a particular area of your dog’s body, apply petroleum jelly to the location. This should dissuade flies from biting.
  • Use DIY Repellents. There are many dog-safe insect repellents you can make at home using common household items. Try mixing apple cider vinegar and water or lemon and water. These DIY repellents do not kill flies, but the scent can be enough to drive them away. Some herbs, such as basil, bay leaf, mint, and rosemary, can also be used to repel insects.
  • Use over-the-counter insect repellents. Many insect repellent products are available for purchase at stores or at online vendors. Some of these repellents are meant to be sprayed or left out throughout the home and yard. Others, such as Farnam Repel-X, can be safely applied to your dog. Before using it, please read all labels carefully and follow the provided instructions.

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Dog BehaviorsDog Training

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