Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Are Bugs Driving Your Pooch Insane?
Bugs are not only a nuisance to people, they can really be hated by virtually any animal on this planet. Many dogs dislike bugs, even if they have not had a negative experience such as being stung by them. This behavior is therefore quite understandable; bugs can ultimately be extremely annoying and they can also hurt! It is not unusual for bugs to drive some animals insane; you may see horses bucking, cows running, ultimately causing a stampede, and humans swearing as they smack their bodies to get rid of these pesky beings!
But what can be done with a dog that is terrified of bugs? What if your dog no longer wants to stay outdoors because of all those critters trying to bite him? Don't be surprised as there are many dogs who cannot tolerate bugs and they will angrily snap at the air, stare at their butts, and finally get overwhelmed, crying to be left safely indoors again. If your dog is no longer willing to tolerate bugs, consider that he may ultimately be right. Why would he want to be there among hundreds of bugs when humans cannot tolerate such circumstances as well! The following is a behavior modification program that may help your frantic pooch love the outdoors again.
How to Help a Dog Terrified of Bugs Using Desensitation and Classical Conditioning
A good way to get your dog used to bugs and enjoying quality time outdoors again would be keeping him exposed to them (de-sensitation) up until he learns that bugs are more an annoyance than anything else, but this is really risky business since a sting or a tiny innocent bite will only confirm in his mind that insects are bad and he must avoid them at all costs!
So the best course of action to put your pooch up for success would be investing in a good insect repellent. Bugs can at time cause serious issues such anaphylactic shock in those dogs allergic to stings, not to mention creating the ideal trigger for hot spots to surface, and other annoying skin irritations from all the scratching. You also want your dog to feel good about being outside without worrying about being pestered by all those bugs all day long!
So the ultimate best strategy would be investing in a good insect repellent and feeding your dog outdoors so he can be classically conditioned to associate being outdoors with bugs with something positive as being fed his favorite food. When he is not being fed food, toss a nice Kong stuffed wit treats or give a long lasting bone such as a bully stick. He needs to learn that being outdoors is no longer a bad experience but this will need a bit of effort on your side.
There are some good insect repellent products on the market such as Farnam's Flys-Off Insect Repellent for Dogs or if you prefer products that are natural and non-toxic, you can invest in a product like Dr. Dog Bug N'Out.
So try to keep your pet safe against pesky mosquitoes (which also cause heart worm, by the way), black flies, chiggers, horse flies, and more while making the outdoors look like a successful and rewarding experience. With less bugs in the way, your dog will be better able to face its fears (since some bugs will still be around eventually) but without being overwhelmed to the extent of being asked to come back inside.
SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on June 07, 2011:
Great tips. My dog is a little afraid, but we will see this summer.