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How to Pepper Spray: Human Vs. Dog Vs. Bear

Man with pepper-spray

I get asked all the time: What’s the most effective self-defense style or technique? And the answer I always give is, there is no such thing. All hand-to-hand combat requires months if not years of training to use effectively in an altercation. 

Your best bet? Pick up a legal, non-lethal, easy-to-deploy weapon system that can be used at a distance to gain the momentary jump you need for escape. Pepper spray is always a number one choice. Stun guns are worth considering because the noise a stun gun makes will scare most animals, especially a dog. Many prefer to carry a stun gun baton because of the sound it emits and the use of it as a defensive weapon and should be considered.

You just purchased pepper spray

So you’ve gone ahead and ordered Pepper Spray, feeling armed and ready to defend yourself against would-be attackers. And sure, it could be as easy as “point and spray” and run. But after 25 years in the self-defense industry, I hate to report that nothing is ever quite so simple when it comes to self-protection. That’s why it’s crucial to learn proper techniques with any weapon you carry for self-defense, and the same goes for learning how to pepper spray someone.

Does pepper sprays work on animals?

Yes, most commercially available pepper sprays will work on animals. The active ingredient in pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum (OC). OC is a natural oil that is derived from chili peppers. It causes an intense burning sensation and temporary blindness when it comes into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.

How does it work?

When OC comes into contact with mucous membranes, it causes the eyes to close and the breathing passages to constrict. This reaction is caused by a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that gives them their heat.

Can pepper spray stop a dog?

Yes, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all dogs will react the same way to being pepper-sprayed. Some may become more aggressive, while others may back down. It’s also important to remember that just because a dog is small, it doesn’t mean it can’t do serious damage.

Do bear sprays work on humans?

Yes, bear spray is a type of pepper spray that is specifically designed to be used on bears. However, it can also be used on humans in self-defense situations. Bear spray is more potent than standard pepper spray, so it should only be used as a last resort.

You will have to know how to use pepper spray in these different scenarios, as they each have particular requirements. So here are some tips for using non-lethal spray deterrents against men, dogs, and—that’s right—bears.

How to Pepper Spray Someone

First thing’s first: with any self-defense weapon system you carry—be it a firearm, a Taser, or a can of Mace—you need to get comfortable deploying it, holding it, and firing it. So practice a bit. Get comfortable holding the pepper spray in your hand. Rehearse the deployment scenario: withdraw it from your purse, pocket, or briefcase; unlock and lock the safety; point and simulate a squeeze. While you pretend to squeeze, squint your eyes, and hold your free hand over your nose and mouth. This is proper positioning for your pepper spray attack. 

When you’re comfortable withdrawing and holding the can, and your position is correct, find a safe target to practice on. Draw a human silhouette on the target if possible, with two life-size eyes. Create a safe distance, and give the target a quick spray. As soon as you spray, step back quickly so as to A) not get affected by the spray and B) practice your escape.

Determine and get used to how powerful the spray stream is, and how accurate you can be at various distances. Make sure you are hitting the target around the eyes. You may even want to buy a second can, so you can practice with one. If you only have one can, don’t spray too much—you’ll need enough juice for the real thing. Remember these important points:

  • Get comfortable deploying and holding the weapon
  • Keep a safe distance from the target
  • Squint your eyes and cover your mouth and nose
  • Aim for the eyes
  • Step away and escape as soon as you spray.

How to Pepper Spray a Dog

For those of us who have encountered dangerous stray or loose dogs before, we know how scary a canine can be. That’s why they’re deployed by police and military as weapons themselves. So if you’re concerned about aggressive dogs, whether because your job takes you door-to-door or you’re a neighborhood jogger, you’ll want to pick up some dog pepper spray for protection.

Using pepper spray on a dog is very much the same as with a human, with a few caveats. First, I highly suggest you take the above steps as you would for pepper spraying people, and just PRACTICE! However, with a dog, you’ll want to use special pepper spray, typically containing no more than 1% oleoresin capsicum, which makes it an effective yet humane deterrent. After all, we don’t want to permanently injure our canine brothers if we can help it. 

Also, I would highly suggest you practice your step away and escape portion (see above) quickly and more exaggerated for dogs. Initial sprays might not stop the dog, or it might take a few seconds or longer for the dog to recognize the pain and stop the attack, especially if it’s extremely agitated or aggressive. So keep in mind:

  • Practice as you would with regular pepper spray
  • Move quickly and far away immediately after and even during the spray
  • Look for anything to climb up on to elevate you above the animal, in order to wait for the pain to kick in, so you can escape

How to Pepper Spray a Bear

Finally, we get to one of the animal kingdom’s most vicious and feared kings of the forest: the bear. I like to camp, as do many other adventurers. And if there’s one thing I’m worried about in the wilderness, it’s the presence of a bear. That’s why if you aren’t carrying a firearm in the woods for protection, the next best thing would be bear pepper spray.

bear pepper spray

Employee using an active can of bear spray. The active spray travels a greater distance than inert bear spray because of the mass of the pepper oils. Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2009–3018, April 2009

Now, in addition to practicing the deployment and use of liquid bear repellant, it’s important to note the unique features of pepper spray used specifically for bears, as opposed to those used against humans or dogs. A bear is like a larger version of a dog, which means it will be coming at you with more momentum and force, and so it will be slower to deter or stop. That means you’ll have to use a lot more spray with a very powerful stream that can be effective at a greater distance.

You will want an EPA-approved animal repellent with a high rating (around 2.0% Capsaicinoids) that can spray at least 30-35 feet. Additionally, you’ll need more repellent than you would for a man or dog. Look for 250- to 260-gram units that can spray empty quickly, preferably in just a few seconds to unleash the entire can. So again:

  • Practice deployment
  • Practice aiming and shooting at a distance and
    while moving away from the target, as you will
    need to be moving and spraying simultaneously in a real attack
  • Look for any large objects you can use as barriers,
    like vehicles, trash dumpsters, or big trees
    (don’t climb—most bears are great climbers)

There you have it. Practice accordingly, keeping in mind the kind of target you might be encountering. This way, you can stay protected with pepper spray, whether you’re in the city, a neighborhood, or deep in the woods. Get the best in human, dog, and bear pepper sprays at The Home Security Superstore.

Good luck and stay safe!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is pepper spray?

Pepper spray is a self defense product made of a combination of "oleoresin capsicum" which is an oil taken from peppers, such as chili peppers, and is combined with other chemicals to give it a consistency that coats the throat and causes a burning sensation that can disable an attacker leaving their eyes swollen shut and gasping for air.

How long does pepper spray last?

The effects of a pepper spray can last as long as one hour or as little as 30 minutes depending on how potent the spray is. The more potent a spray is the linger the effect generally last, additionally the delivery method such as whether it is a stream or fog can affect this as well. For example, fog sprays are inhaled and can last longer in the respiratory system while stream sprays spread on the skin and eyes causing intense irritation and swelling.

Shop Products Featured in This Blog

SABRE® Red Protector Flip Top Dog Pepper Spray 1.8 oz.
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars
45 Reviews


Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent Pepper Fog 9.2 oz. w/ Holster
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars
21 Reviews


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