Is Pepper Spray Effective Against An Attacking Dog?

As many a postal and utility worker knows, it’s far more than just people that can be a real threat to a person’s safety. Animals, both domestic and wild, are perfectly capable of doing real (and potentially irreparable) harm to the average person.

In this case, we’re going to look at the efficacy of using pepper spray against an attacking dog.

Now, within this context, it’s not my intention to discuss the exact legalities of when you can defend yourself against an attacking animal.

After having done some research on the subject, it does feel like every state, locality, etc. has very different and big opinions on when one can defend themselves from anything, animals included.

People can even have their own opinions on when and when not to harm an animal, even in self-defense. I get that — I adore pretty much every domesticated animal that’s not an arachnid or snake.

In this situation, we’re going to assume that there is a pressing need for you to defend yourself against a canine attack, and you are legitimately and extremely concerned for your well-being.

Even with that premise, I’m going to give you three caveats before we go into anything, here:

  1. You can’t lose a fight if you avoid it in the first place.
  2. You can’t go instigating a fight and then claiming self-defense, and you can’t go traipsing around avenging old wrongs or acting peremptorily.
  3. I’m the managing editor of a concealed carry website — I am not a lawyer. Nothing with my name on it is ever intended to be legal advice.

Got it? Good. Some variation of those caveats tends to attach itself to each of these types of articles, but it’s important to all be on the same page.

According to R. John Presutti, D.O., around 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, the majority of which are unprovoked.

That’s no joke — and one of the things sources report as being extremely effective against those attacks is the use of pepper spray.

“As legions of USPS employees as well as runners, walkers and others can attest, pepper spray is extremely effective on dogs as a humane, short-term safety solution,” Sabre said. “It offers an affordable, portable and dependable extra layer of protection against dog attacks.”

It’s important to note that Sabre also sells defense spray, so there’s an element of inherent bias, there.

Still, other sites echo that assessment.

“Pepper spray is carried by many people as a self defense weapon,” said PSS Defense.

“Most people assume they are at risk of being approached by a human attacker. However, there are also joggers, mailmen, meter readers, and other people who are frequently approached by loose dogs and carry pepper spray for their personal protection. One shot of pepper spray will disable a human attacker and a canine attacker just the same!”

There are those who object to this assessment, however. At least one person seemed concerned that the use of pepper spray would engrage, rather than deter, the attacker.

“I’ve sprayed dogs with pepper spray when being chased by street dogs in Mexico,” Kayla Fatt of K9 of Mine wrote. 

“The effect on the dogs was instantaneous and intense. The dogs were clearly miserable, and though they backed off, they actually seemed more upset than before. 

“Reflecting back, I worry that they’ll now be more aggressive towards other joggers. As for myself, I got a bit of blow-back on myself, causing me to cough for the rest of the run. Residue from the canister also got onto my hands and clothes, making my whole body burn until well after my jog had ended. Additionally, the pepper spray only sprayed about 5 feet, meaning I couldn’t keep the dog at a distance that felt comfortable.”

In conclusion, based off of some limited research, it appears that using pepper spray against a canine attacker will absolutely be effective against them — but how they react to that sensation and how they behave towards you down the line is a legitimate question.

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