How to Keep Flies Off Dogs

Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to enjoy the great outdoors with your pup. But depending on where you live, spending time in the great outdoors can result in annoying and itchy mosquito bites, and fly bites too!

In today’s post I’ll be going over 6 different methods you can use to help keep flies away from your pup’s belly, ears, and more.

To be honest, I never knew that fly bites would be something I’d have to think about while taking my dog Limone out with me on adventures – until we had a particularly annoying stable fly bite encounter at Long Point Provincial Park’s dog beach. My poor girl was snapping everywhere when the sun started setting.

Did you know?
There are 3 different types of flies that bite dogs in Ontario. Learn more about which types of flies bite dogs in Ontario, recognize which bites belong to which flies, and how to treat them.

6 Ways To Protect Your Dog From Biting Flies

Since some flies rely on visual cues more than scent, and others rely on scent more than visual cues, some methods may be more effective than others depending on the type of biting fly you encounter. 

If you’re heading somewhere where you think you’ll encounter both, chances are you’ll need to utilize a combination of methods below to protect your pet from these pesky biting flies. 

1. Fly Repellent or Fly Sprays for Dogs

If you’re mostly concerned about protecting your dog from the common black fly and mosquitos, then consider purchasing a fly repellent or fly spray made specifically for dogs, horses, or ponies.

Most fly-repellent sprays are made up of a combination of animal-safe essential oils and use scents to repel smaller biting insects.

From what I’ve searched, you won’t find fly repellent sprays in local pet shops like Petsmart, Ren’s Pets, or Pet Valu, but you’ll certainly have some luck sourcing some from horse supply shops!

Pleasant Ridge and Natural Pet Foods are two Ontario stores that I found that sell fly-repellent products for dogs/horses. From what I’ve researched, the most popular fly-repellent product is called – Absorbine Ultrashield Green Natural Fly Repellent and can be found on Amazon in huge refill bottles. 


  1. Don’t expect to spray this only once during the day to protect your dog. You’ll need to thoroughly cover their bodies and fur AND apply it multiple times a day to keep the insects away. 
  2. Ironically these fly repellents aren’t effective against stable flies, horse flies, or deer flies (biting flies that rely on visual cues more than scent). 
  3. If your dog is already suffering from open wounds, has sensitive skin, or is suffering from other health issues – use caution and always ask your veterinarian ahead of time before applying anything on your dog.
  4. Most repellents are not recommended around your dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth area as they can irritate. You’ll also need to keep a watchful eye to prevent your dog from licking or grooming themselves after application 

2. Dragonfly Clip / Dragonfly Wingman

100% the absolute cutest, most adorable option on this list! If you’re looking to scare or deter horse flies or deer flies naturally, then consider clipping on one of their natural predators on yourself and your dog to keep them away!

Designed in Canada, and tested in Ontario cottage countries, the Dragonfly Wingman is a clip-on fake dragonfly that mimics a real dragonfly to fool the horse and deer flies away (remember these types of flies are visual hunters, so a dragonfly visual is certainly a great deterrent!)

I’d recommend checking out Canadian Tire to purchase a 2-pack (one for yourself and one for your dog!) – it’s the cheapest purchase online when compared to Lee Valley, Amazon, and strangely enough – even from the original makers Get Your Bug. You can get a single one for a cheaper price, but cost-wise per dragonfly clip – the two-pack from Canadian Tire really can’t be beaten!

But.. if you buy the Dragonfly Wingman from Amazon – then thank you for supporting me through the small commission 💜


  1. Not all dogs love having an attachment clip added to them – some additional training may be needed before
  2. It doesn’t protect from all bites – only helps to reduce them. If you’re travelling in areas where there are a LOT of deer and horseflies, other users have reported that it doesn’t help much

3. Grease Vulnerable Areas

According to Northern Ontario Travel, oily skin makes it difficult for bugs to land and bite you, and bear grease was regularly used by indigenous people and early settlers as a form of bug repellent. Now while bear grease might not be easily accessible, other dog owners have found that rubbing a good amount of petroleum jelly or coconut oil on their dog’s vulnerable spots (think ears, muzzle, and near the eyes) significantly helped reduce the number of painful fly bites.


  1. It isn’t recommended to apply this when your dog already has open wounds as it can trap dirt and bacteria close to the wounds and cause infections
  2. Because you’re spreading something thick on your dog it’s a slightly messy affair

4. Apple Cider Vinegar Bug Repellent

If where you’re heading is mostly filled with mosquitoes and black flies (and not stable, horse, or deer flies!) then you might be able to get away with using an apple cider vinegar spray to repel some insects. Apply the vinegar to your pup’s neck, collar, torso, tail, belly, or overall coat. 

Drawbacks: You’ll need to regularly spray your pup with the vinegar spray to keep it effective meaning you and your pup will be smelling that strong vinegar scent too. For some, this scent might be off-putting enough to avoid this method. 

5. Cover Up Your Pup

Physical protection against bites can help protect your dog from fly bites and other insect bites.

During my research, I found an interesting hood by Outfox. While this mesh hood was designed to protect canines against barbed grass seed penetration, it looks like a promising option to protect a dog’s head against fly bites too!

In addition, pups can wear insecticide clothing to provide physical protection against insect bites. Brands like Insect Shield, create protective dog clothing pre-treated with dog-safe insecticide to repel and kill bugs before they bite. If you’re looking to reduce as many bites as possible looking for insect-repellent dog gear can be incredibly helpful too!

6. Bring a Bug Tent

If you’re planning on hanging around outdoors and an onslaught of insects are barraging your poor pup, consider purchasing a portable, lightweight pop-up mosquito tent.  These tents are less than 3 pounds and offer a breathable open, bug-free respite for your pet to rest while relaxing on campgrounds.

Fly Bites on Dogs at Home? How to Prevent and Reduce Fly Bites

Is your dog getting bit by flies while at home or at the cottage? Ultimately, while you can do your utmost best to protect your dog from biting insects, the best way to keep you and your dog protected is to prevent flies from coming near your home. 

Here are some tactics that can help reduce the number of biting flies (and therefore protect your pup from bites) that reach your pet and your home:

  1. Clear densely wooded and forested areas and/or avoid walking in these areas around your neighbourhood
  2. Keep your pet clean and well-groomed. Flies can be attracted to the scent of dirty fur and be attracted to any poop hanging around their bum if they’re not a clean pooper!
  3. Remove nearby food sources and attractive breeding ground spaces (damp/decaying material like decaying leaves, rotting wood near the waterfront, fecal matter, or stagnant pools of water are popular locations)

Frequently Asked Questions

To keep flies off your dog naturally, you can either opt to cover your dog with coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, or utilize a variety of physical options like the Dragonfly Wingman or use a physical barrier like a mesh tent.

No – never ever use human insect repellent on dogs. Most Off! products and human insect repellents use DEET as their main ingredient. DEET is toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, irritation, seizures and even death in some cases.

Note: Picaridin is another common ingredient in most human insect repellents. Most research has indicated that Picaridin is generally safe for dog use but – hey I’m not a vet – do your own due diligence and decide if you’re comfortable using this on your pup. Personally, I’d really only use it on a dog’s clothing or external items instead of directly on my dog’s fur since Limone does have a habit of occasionally licking herself all over and I’d love to avoid a sick dog as much as possible.

Yes, you can. While most any vinegar works, most websites that suggest using vinegar as an insect repellent recommend using apple cider vinegar. However, I’d like to reiterate that this would only help against black flies, and not necessarily other biting flies like stable, deer, or horse flies. Learn more about the different flies that can bite dogs in Ontario here.

Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 1 part water, give it a good shake and spray on your pup. Apply the vinegar to your pup’s neck, collar, torso, tail, belly, or overall coat. 

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