Natural ways to keep flies off of dogs – Tricks to try at home

Natural ways to keep flies off dogs include spraying an apple cider vinegar mix around your yard, planting fly deterring plants in your garden and keeping your yard clean. Flies can visit our yards in the warmer months so our best natural defense for our dogs can be important to save their ears from fly bites.

It is heading into Spring here in Australia and my poor dog is absolutely getting attacked by flies.  It has got to a point where we keep him inside on his bed on these warm humid days to save his ears. This really isn’t a great solution as he loves being in the backyard.  So this got me searching for a better way.

So here are natural ways that I have found to keep flies off of dogs. For a protective measure you can use petroleum jelly to protect their ears. Although not entirely natural this does stop the flies landing and biting your dogs ears without nasty chemical repellents.

Top natural ways to deter flies from your yard

  • Apple cider vinegar and water mix spray
  • Plant fly deterring plants in your garden
  • Keep your yard clean

An apple cider vinegar and water mix can work to spray around to deter the flies and you can also plant fly deterring plants in your garden.  Keeping your yard clean is also a must so you don’t create an environment that flies love. So let’s talk about each of these methods and how they can work to deter those nasty flies.

Check out this easy homemade fly repellent recipe.

As far as fly repellents go, I have been avoiding using chemicals around my home and slowly transitioning to a low or no chemical household over the past year.  I definitely want the same for my pets, partly for Cooper’s health (that’s my dog) and partly for my family’s health.

We all pet and cuddle him so any chemicals that we put on him will also get on us.  They could also potentially leach into the environment so to be safe, I wanted to avoid anything that could be harmful. So that led me to search for natural alternatives to this problem.

I think it also helps to look at natural ways to keep flies away in general.  If the flies can be kept away from an area, then they could be kept off of my dog. I’m not into killing flies as such.  As much as they can be annoying, they are part of the ecosystem and are a valuable food for other insects. So the main goal was to save my dogs ears, I don’t mind shooing a fly away when I’m outside.

Just as an FYI I am not a veterinarian so please consult a professional before you try any remedy on your pet. If your dog has fly bites, made sure you get your dog seen by a veterinarian and get it treated.  This article is mainly covering ways to keep the flies away altogether, not treatment of fly bites.

Natural ways to keep flies off dogs

After doing some reading lots of articles were recommending to use apple cider vinegar as a fly repellent.  Recipes show a 1:1 mix of apple cider vinegar mixed together and sprayed around to help to keep the flies away.

The other main recommendation, especially if your dog’s ears are being attacked by the flies, was to apply something to block the flies from landing there and biting to begin with  Most recommended was a petroleum jelly which isn’t harmful to dogs but will protect their ears.

For my dog I did give this a go and long as the cream is on there, the flies keep away.  I noticed that it does seem to disappear after about half a day, so it just need to be reapplied.

I haven’t actually used the apple cider vinegar yet, but bought some to try. I think however, if the petroleum jelly keeps the flies off I will stick to that.

Why is it important to keep the flies off of your dog?

It is actually really important to make sure that your dog doesn’t get attacked by flies.  Frequent fly bites to one area can cause a wound and potentially an infection. Once flies bite a certain area, they tend to attract more flies, which target that area because the skin has already been broken.

Not only that, dogs find the flies really annoying.  I know that if I had flies constantly landing on my ears and biting me I would be really grumpy. Same goes for your dog. To keep them happy and healthy you need to deal with the flies that are bugging them.

Keep your dog away from the flies

One of the best ways, if you can to avoid the flies all together is just to let your dog inside during the worst part of the day for flies.  That is usually in the warmest part of the day, midday to afternoon. For us however we find that the flies come out from quite early in the morning until the sun goes down.

For our dog we don’t want him to have to be inside all day, but if the flies aren’t as bad in your area, you could keep them in during the worst of it.

Make your yard unfriendly to flies

The next best method after keeping your dog inside is to make your backyard as unattractive to flies as possible.  That means, make sure you clean away any dog poo as quick as possible, make sure your compost bin is covered up to that the flies are not attracted to your yard.

If you grow your own veggies and fruit, clear up any that may have fallen off and are laying and rotting on the ground.  Making sure that there is minimal food for flies which will mean less are attracted to your yard.

If your dog doesn’t wolf down their food like mine does and lick the bowl clean, make sure you give their bowl a quick rinse after dinner.  Flies will be attracted to the food leftover in your dog’s bowl so take a quick minute to clean it out with water (after your dog has finished of course).

Plants that repel flies

If you have space for a garden or even some pot plants, there are great plants that you can try out that can repel flies.  Lots of them are also delicious to eat so they can serve a dual purpose.

Sweet basil

Is one that is great, it grows over summer so can be planted in and around your tomatoes. They pair great in a salad but the smell also helps to keep those pesky flies away.

Bay Trees

These great plants are both great as a herb but also can keep the flies from your backyard. They smell great and can be used in cooking both dried and fresh.

Remember that these trees can grow huge, so it is best to keep them in a pot unless your yard is big and you want a large tree.  They are slow growing however so can be kept to a small size with regular trimming.


Lavender is a great plant for poor sandy soils.  It can tolerate a hot mediterranean climate. The flowers will give off a strong smell that will help keep away those pesky flies.  They also look great in any garden or pot.


Both delicious in cooking and looks great in your garden Rosemary is a great plant to deter flies from your yard.  The strong smell should send those flies packing.

Why are flies on my dog?

What I kept asking myself as I saw the swarm of flies around my dog was why are they so attracted to him?  We bathe  him regularly and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

When I thought about it more I think one of the main reasons he is under attack is just that he is outside pretty much all of the time.  I noticed as I stood outside flies would head towards me and I would wildly shoo them away.

For my poor dog being outside all of the time just made him a better target. It is also really hard for dogs to defend their ears.  Shaking their head and using their paws never really seems to do enough to keep the flies off for good.

Dog’s ears are also really sensitive and a target for the flies. My dog has a coarse coating of fur over all other areas except his ears so the flies probably find it easiest to bite him there.  

When do flies come out?

I find that around my house in spring flies are coming out earlier and earlier.  It seems that as the weather warms up they are starting to come out quite early in the morning.  

Flies really do start appearing in early spring, it is strange to me that they aren’t around in winter or cooler months, so where do they go? Well according to BBC Earth there are lots of flies around actually all year round we just tend not to notice them as much.

What we do notice are the bigger black flies that fly in our face or get on our dogs.  These guys hide out over winter in little cracks and crannies they can find and then come out in spring when the weather warms up. They hide under leaves, branches on twigs or tree trunks.  They hide out at night in these places too. Then, when it warms up, out they come.

Because of this it is generally safer for your dog outside in the early morning and later evening after the flies have disappeared. It may be more practical however to try some of the fly deterring tips instead of keeping your dog inside all day.

I know for me, I am finding great success with petroleum jelly to protect my dogs ears.  I will use this until the flies disappear again. Hopefully that will be soon!