Flies are nasty little creatures – they are annoying, buzzing, and hard to get rid of. In simple words, flies are a nuisance. However, even if you have insectophobia, you will not find them scary, only bothersome. So, it may come as a surprise when a dog is thrown in panic mode by the presence of a fly.
Why is my dog scared of flies? As silly as it sounds, many dogs are afraid of flies despite the huge difference in size. The reasons for this vary, from instinctual drives and lack of socialization to negative experiences and overly sensitive hearing senses.
This article will talk about the different reasons dogs are scared of flies and explain each in detail. We will also give tips on how to help your dog overcome these pretty irrational fears.
WHY IS MY DOG SCARED OF FLIES?
There are a number of reasons for dogs being scared of flies – some are rational, others are weird, and some are disgusting. Let’s go through the different reasons so you can understand your dog’s unusual behavior around flies.
Reason number 1: Natural instincts
Dogs are naturally inclined to perceive insects as enemies. Namely, most insects are potentially hazardous for the dog’s health. Flies, in particular, are not quite dangerous, but since differentiating between different insect species can be hard for dogs, nature made them wary of insects in general.
Reason number 2: A cause of discomfort
The two most common types of flies are the house fly (Musca domestica) and the bush fly (Musca vetutissima). The house fly’s main interest are foods it can find inside the house, while the bush fly likes sucking on secretions found on the skin of human and dogs. Since dogs are covered with hair, these flies usually land on hairless body parts – belly, underarms, groins, and anal region. Because of the hair, absence dogs are overly protective of these body parts and can feel discomfort when flies invade them.
Reason number 3: Nasty insect bites
One of the most common reasons dogs are scared of flies is a traumatic biting experience. Namely, a dog that sustained a painful insect bite is likely to be scared of insects. In most cases, the bite is inflicted by something other than a fly – a bee or wasp. However, from the dog’s perspective, all flying insects are immediately classified as threats when they get near your pooch. Some insect bites can go away without causing any visible clinical signs and symptoms (except the dog’s pain). This makes it even harder for the owner to understand why the dog suddenly develops a fear of flies.
Reason number 4: Negative experiences
Unhappy memories occurring early in life can have consequences later on. For example, dogs with troublesome pasts (living outside on chains, spending time in animal shelters, or coming from irresponsible breeders) are likely to be scared of flies because the environments they used to live in were riddled with flies (low and inadequate hygiene level often result in fly infestations). In such cases, a fly entering the home is a reasonable stress trigger as it wakes up bad memories.
Reason number 5: Lack of socialization
Another cause of fly fear in dogs is poor socialization. Dogs need proper socialization starting from an early age. The lack of socialization leads to a series of behavioral issues – some more serious than others. One of the most frequent issues in poorly socialized dogs is the irrational fear of everyday things and events. Therefore, a dog lacking socialization is likely to be scared of flies.
Reason number 6: Flies wreak havoc on the dog’s ears
It is no secret that dogs have superior senses compared to humans. That superiority includes the ears too. Dogs can hear sounds twice the frequency and four times more distant than humans. They also have 18 different muscles moving the ear and helping its receptors catch sounds. Now, imagine how annoying you find the buzzing of flies and multiply it with your dog’s hearing powers – nerve wreaking, right?
SIGNS MY DOG IS SCARED OF FLIES
The telltale sign your dog is afraid of flies is tucking the tail between the hind legs and hiding when a fly enters the room. Some extra fearful dogs may even refuse to go out when it is hot and swarming with flies. Plus, dogs with fly fears can resort to aggressive behaviors in the presence of flies, even if they are generally calm and mellow.
HOW DO I HELP MY DOG STOP BEING AFRAID OF FLIES?
From what we explained, a dog’s fear of flies is not always irrational. Therefore, instead of laughing at your dog the next time it gets scared of a tiny fly, you need to get proactive and help it overcome its fears. Luckily, there are several things you can do to help your dog.
Tip number 1: Acknowledge your dog’s fears
First things first, you need to acknowledge your dog’s ears. You must understand that your dog is not acting out of a whim – it is genuinely scared and needs proper help. Leaving traumas untreated can lead to phobias and even panic episodes. Plus, it harms the dog’s mental health in the long run.
Tip number 2: Never scold or punish your dog
Once again, your dog is not playing or pretending – it is simply scared. Therefore, you need to be mindful about how you react. You must never scold, punish, or yell at your dog when it runs under the table or hides between your legs. If you act improperly, you are only adding to the fear and making things worse.
Tip number 3: Teach your dog to catch flies
This may sound silly (and it definitely looks silly), but it works for some dogs with fly fear. Namely, when a fly comes in, instead of swatting it away, you should pretend to hunt it. Your dog will soon join in on the activity, and if they manage to catch the fly, you should reward them with a treat. This will insteal positive reinforcement so they become braver around flies.
Tip number 4: Create positive fly-related experiences
If a fly enters the house, you can take the treat jar instead of letting your dog be afraid and start giving your dog tasty treats. If your dog is not food-motivated, you can start playing a game – the goal is the help your dog associate the presence of the fly with positive experiences.
Tip number 5: Plan outside meals or activities
Instead of waiting for the flies to come inside, you and your dog can go outside. This technique works best during the summer months when flies are widespread. To desensitize your dog to flies, you can serve its meals outdoors or spend a couple of minutes outside playing fun games.
Tip number 6: Limit your dog’s exposure to flies
If creating good memories and desensitizing your dog does not work, you should minimize the chances of exposure. You can put fly shields on the windows or use repellents. If your dog is overly scared, you should also practice evening walks when the chances of fly encounters are low.
ARE FLIES REALLY HARMLESS TO DOGS?
The truth is flies are not as harmless as we often perceive them. They are more than a nuisance and can have adverse health effects on dogs.
For example, flies are attracted to dogs’ feces and urine and can lay eggs in caked coats. They can also lay eggs in open wounds. Eventually, they will turn into maggots and start feeding on the dog’s tissues causing permanent damage.
Another hazard is the black horse fly. Black horse flies bite, and despite the name, they attack animals other than horses as well. A horsefly bite is extremely painful, especially if biting the dog on a sensitive area.
Finally, certain types of flies transmit diseases. The sandfly transmits leishmaniasis and the Tsetse fly parasites that cause potentially fatal diseases in dogs and humans.
SUMMING UP: DOGS AFRAID OF FLIES
From the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Great Dane, all dogs can be scared of flies. It is not uncommon for dogs to find these pesky little pests more than a nuisance. And the truth is, dogs are right – flies can be more than just bothersome and buzzing flying pests. Luckily, the most common flies you can find in your home and garden are relatively harmless, and with time and effort, you can teach your dog to get used to their presence.