For the loving dog owner, nothing is more troubling than seeing your loyal friend in extreme distress. There are many things in the modern world that can induce anxiety in our precious pets, but among the most common is a fear of flies. For us humans, this may seem illogical. We know that flies are a nuisance, but they’re virtually harmless. Yet these tiny buzzing creatures seem to incite terror in many dogs. If your pet reacts in this way, you’ve probably asked yourself “why is my dog afraid of flies?”
Read on to learn about the causes of a fly-phobia and what you can do to help ease your pet’s anxieties.
How to tell if my dog is afraid of flies?
If you suspect your pet might have developed this fear, observe their behavior when a fly enters the room. They may exhibit classic anxious dog behaviors, such as becoming more aggressive (i.e., barking and growling), or they may become fearful and needy, running to you with their tail between their legs or hiding under furniture.
Additionally, you may notice that your pet is hesitant to go outdoors out of fear of encountering more flies. These behaviors can be very frustrating for a pet owner but fear not! This phobia can be remedied, making life easier for both you and your pooch.
Why is my dog afraaid of flies?
The first step in tackling the fear of flies in your dog is understanding where the fear may have come from. Typically, dogs are afraid of flies for three main reasons:
1. They’ve been bitten by a buzzing insect in the past
Among the most common reasons why your dog might be afraid of flies is that he or she may have been bitten by an insect in the past and now associates flies with that unpleasant experience. While the typical housefly doesn’t bite, there are plenty of bugs that make a similar buzzing sound that may have affronted your dog without your knowledge. We know it ourselves- insect bites are extremely uncomfortable, itchy, and painful, and they affect our dogs in the same way!
Because your dog likely can’t differentiate between types of insects, he or she is now upset by the presence of any insect, as they are reminded of the unpleasant bite they may have received in the past.
2. They associate flies with past trauma
Another reason why your dog may be afraid of flies is that they associate them with some other past trauma. For instance, if your dog spent time in an unpleasant environment for a period of their life (such as a shelter or a home where they weren’t properly cared for), they may associate flies with this experience, which triggers an anxious response.
Unfortunately, some shelters can be very unpleasant places for our precious pooches. They might have more dogs than they can properly take care of, which could lead to dogs being hungry, dirty, and itchy. If your dog lived in a shelter for some time and there were flies buzzing about the place, they will likely be reminded of the anxiety they experienced in a shelter every time they hear a buzzing fly.
Additionally, if your dog ever lived in a home where they experienced similar levels of neglect, they could associate flies with this environment as well, which leads to the telltale fear response.
3. The sound upsets their sensitive ears
Lastly, your dog may be afraid of flies simply due to the sounds made by these insects. Dogs have a highly sensitive sense of hearing, so to them, the buzzing sound that we find merely annoying could be as awful as nails on a chalkboard. This could severely impact their behavior and contribute to their anxiety surrounding flies.
What can I do to help?
As you can see, there are many reasons why your dog might be afraid of flies, but there are also many techniques that you can implement to help ease their fears.
1. Don’t get angry at your dog
When trying to help your dog get past his or her fears, the most important thing you can do is remain patient. If you get angry at your dog for fearing flies, it will only increase their anxiety when one buzzes in the room, making the problem even worse. So, no matter how frustrated you may get with your dog’s behavior, always remain calm and kind.
2. Exposure therapy
One way you can get your dog to be more comfortable around flies is through exposure therapy, a classic fear-conquering technique. To do this, find a buzzing fly sound online and play it in the room that your dog is in. The first few times, they may react very fearfully to the noise, but after a few days will become quite used to it. Once your dog sees that there is no threat associated with the buzzing sound, they may be less afraid when they encounter a real fly.
3. Reframe flies as fun
Another technique you could try is reframing flies as fun. You can do this by trying to teach them to chase and catch flies. Next time a fly is buzzing about the room, make a show of trying to catch it with your hands in a playful manner. Try to get your pooch involved in the chase, showing them that this could just be a fun game! If you can get your dog to associate flies with fun, they’ll certainly be less fearful of them.
4. Reward positive behavior
When trying to teach your dog a new behavior, it is incredibly important to reward them with treats and words of praise. This will be a very clear indicator to them that they are doing a good job and a great way to ensure that this behavioral change is permanent.
So, if you can get your dog to start chasing flies instead of cowering from them, reward them with their favorite treat!
Hopefully, these tips and tricks can help you to help your furry friend banish their fly-phobia!