Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Are Bugs Driving Your Pooch Insane?
Bugs are a nuisance to people and virtually every animal on this planet. Many dogs dislike bugs, even if they have never been stung or had any other negative experience. This behavior is quite understandable because bugs can be extremely annoying.
It is not unusual for bugs to drive some animals insane; you may see horses bucking, cows running and 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. They may angrily snap at the air, stare at their butts, get overwhelmed and start crying until they're let indoors again.
If your dog is no longer willing to tolerate bugs, he may have a point. Why would he want to be there among hundreds of bugs when humans cannot tolerate such circumstances either!? The following behavior modification program may help your frantic pooch love the outdoors again.
How to Help a Dog Afraid of Bugs Using Desensitization 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 (desensitization) up until he learns that bugs are more an annoyance than anything else. This is really risky business since a sting or a tiny bite will only confirm in his mind that insects are bad and that he must avoid them at all costs!
Use Insect Repellent, and Feed Your Dog Outside
Set your pooch up for success by investing in a good insect repellent. Bugs can, at times, cause anaphylactic shock and other serious issues in those dogs that are allergic to stings.
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Not to mention, the bites could be creating the ideal trigger for hot spots to surface along with 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 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 as positive as being fed his favorite food.
When he is not being fed food, toss a nice Kong stuffed with 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 heartworm, by the way), black flies, chiggers, horse flies. With fewer bugs in the way, your dog will be better able to face its fears (since some bugs will still be around, eventually) without being overwhelmed to the extent of being asked to come back inside.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on June 07, 2011:
Great tips. My dog is a little afraid, but we will see this summer.