Pepper spray is one of the single most effective and versatile defensive implements you can carry…
Pepper spray gives you range, multiple applications, and a high level of effectiveness with a good chance of stopping a fight before it starts if you get a good shot off. Plus, is highly unlikely to leave any lasting injury. There’s no doubt that it works against human attackers.
Decades and decades of police use have proven that. But can it protect you from other physical threats, like animals? Does pepper spray work against dogs?
Yes, pepper spray tends to be highly effective against dogs. Dogs have extremely sensitive noses and are highly vulnerable to the capsaicinoids in common pepper sprays.
Pepper spray also happens to be one of the single best defensive weapons against aggressive or attacking dogs. A little shot is usually more than enough to send even the meanest, mangiest dog packing.
And even better news is that it’s highly unlikely to cause permanent injury to the dog, meaning if it belongs to somebody, maybe one of your neighbors, you can avoid a war over the incident.
There’s a lot more you’ll want to know before you commit to pepper spray as your primary dog defense, so keep reading.
Will Pepper Spray Instantly Stop an Attacking Dog?
Not necessarily, but it has a high likelihood of doing so. Pepper spray works by causing searing pain to mammals. It accomplishes this through the application of very concentrated oleoresin capsicum or OC, basically the same stuff that makes hot peppers hot.
If you’ve ever been to a chili pepper that was way too much for you to handle, you already know what it does: intense pain, watering and closing of the eyes, coughing, gagging, mucus and saliva production, the whole bit.
Now, as sensitive as people are to this stuff, imagine how much worse it would feel to the incredibly refined, sensitive noses of dogs!
That’s right, truly terrible! Pepper spray is effective enough and fast-acting enough to shut down a dog in moments, most of the time.
That being said, there is no guarantee that it will work on dogs, especially on very aggressive, trained, or sick (read: rabid) dogs. You always need a plan B for a close encounter, but pepper spray is a great plan A.
Is Pepper Spray Permanently Injurious to Dogs?
Typically not. As bad as pepper spray hurts and as severe as the reactions that it tends to cause, it rarely inflicts any permanent injury. At least, it rarely inflicts it when typical formulations are used…
As a rule of thumb, if you use any spray against a dog that is formulated for self-defense against humans, it’s unlikely to cause injury though not out of the question owing to how sensitive dogs are to irritants.
What About Special Dog Sprays? Are they Better or Safer?
If you have a genuine concern about pepper spraying a known problem dog, and would rather avoid even a slightly elevated risk of permanent injury or side effects, you might consider obtaining specialty dog spray.
Sold by Sabre and some other major manufacturers, dog sprays differ from typical pepper sprays only in the strength of the formulation: most dog sprays only have about 1% major capsaicinoids whereas products designed for defense against humans typically have a stronger concentration.
In terms of effectiveness, this is still more than powerful enough to deter any but the most berserk, motivated, or trained dog.
That said, if you already carry typical pepper spray as part of your EDC, there’s no reason to get a specialized dog spray for the occasion
How to Use Pepper Spray Against an Attacking Dog
Using pepper spray against an attacking dog is basically identical to using it against an attacking human. You’ll need to draw your spray assuming you don’t already have it in your hand, access the activation button or trigger, aim, and then fire, aiming for the mouth and eyes of the dog.
But considering how quickly dogs move, it’s better to start shooting a little bit earlier than you would with a human attacker. If you wait until the dog is in ideal range, by the time the spray impacts them and, hopefully, starts to take effect the dog will already be on top of you.
Keep in mind that you might need to defend yourself physically for several seconds as the effects of the chemical start to intensify and hopefully shut down the attack.
It can be worthwhile spraying ahead of an advancing dog if you have a fogger or wide-angle stream because it can let the dog move into the cloud, but as always you must be very cautious of wind conditions so that you don’t accidentally contaminate or spray yourself!
What Should You Do After Pepper Spraying a Dog?
Your first priority after pepper spraying a dog is to get away from danger. Grab your pet, your kids or your partner, and get to safety.
This could be inside of a vehicle, inside a nearby building, or just as far away from the dog as you can – assuming it has disengaged. There’s no telling what it will do when it regains its senses, so don’t hang around.
If you were attacked by a stray or feral dog outside of a residential area, consider reporting it to animal control. If you are attacked in an area where you have reason to believe the dog belongs to somebody, don’t hang around looking for the owner. Instead, call the police and file a report.
If you pepper spray a dog that you know for a fact belongs to someone, usually identified by a screaming owner nearby, don’t hang around waiting to sort things out with them.
Get to safety, call the police, and wait for them to arrive. Only try to sort things out once the situation is defused and the animal is under control.
Can You Get in Legal Trouble if You Pepper Spray a Dog?
Yes, although you certainly have a right to defend yourself from an aggressive or menacing dog with pepper spray pretty much everywhere that it is legal assuming you may be in legal possession of pepper spray or other self-defense implements.
However, it’s certainly possible that if you pepper spray someone’s pet, no matter how dangerous or aggressive it is, you could be sued so do keep that in mind.
Under no circumstances should you use pepper spray on any dog, for any reason, that isn’t threatening you or someone else.
Can You Use Spray to Correct Bad Behavior in Dogs?
No, you psycho. Spritzing a dog with pepper spray isn’t the same thing as misting them with water from a spray bottle. It’s going to cause a dog, any dog, prolonged agony from even the most transient application.
Again, pepper spray should only be used on a dog in cases of legitimate self-defense, either yourself or someone else. Never as a prank, never as a punishment, never as a corrective tool.
Doing so is animal abuse and a crime.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.