Bear Spray Vs. Dogs: How Effective Is It?

If only a can of bear spray stands before you and a live, 7-foot tall bear, then you know that there’s a good chance you can come out of the woods alive.  Bear sprays can be effective deterrents against bear attacks and are in fact recommended by many survival experts.  They are also non-lethal self-defense tools so they can be used safely against bears without fear of permanently harming them.  But is bear spray also effective against other animals that might attack, such as dogs?  Or does it contain a stronger formulation that might prove lethal against smaller animals including those that belong to the canine family?  We find out.

What’s in your bear spray?
Bear spray contains a chemical known as OC, which stands for Oleoresin Capsicum.  This is a compound that has irritants and inflammatory ingredients that affect the mucous membranes, such as those found in the eyes, throat and nose.  This causes tears, coughing, gagging, a runny nose and extreme discomfort.  If the substance reaches the eye area, it can even cause temporary blindness.

It is this substance that makes pepper spray a favorite not just for self-defense but also for controlling unruly crowds and preventing an animal attack.  In fact, people who own a can of regular pepper spray may even use it against an attacking animal (be it a bear, a dog or some other wild creature) to protect themselves.

Is it safe to use?
Bear sprays contain the same kind of substance found in pepper sprays.  OC is the irritant found in peppers, which belongs to a family of plants known as capsicum.  By grinding the pepper, capsaicin is obtained, which is then mixed with a natural solvent.  Once the solvent has evaported, a thick, waxy resin is left behind.  This is the oleoresin capsicum, which is then mixed with an emulsifier so it can be turned into a liquid spray.

While highly irritating due to its content, bear sprays are considered non-lethal.  They can stop an attacking bear and distract him by causing irritation and inflammation.  However, the effects are only temporary and will wear out completely in about 5 to 15 minutes.

Although slightly stronger in formulation, bear sprays are also effective on dogs.  They should not, however, be considered an alternative if you only intend to use pepper spray as a deterrent against aggressive dogs.  Bear sprays come with a slightly different formulation than that which is specifically used against dogs.  To ensure that you are safely and effectively protected, make sure to purchase the appropriate formula.

About Steve Thibeault

Steve Thibeault is the owner and President of TBO-TECH Self Defense Products. After serving 11 great years in the US Army, he started up his own business offering ways for people to better protect themselves and their families. You can follow Steve at or on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Bear Spray Vs. Dogs: How Effective Is It?

  1. N.Brown

    What about usseing bear spray on humans….is it legal? will have more/less effect on humans?

  2. Jack

    Bear spray works on mountain lions and coyotes too. Where I live we have all of them. Recently here in Colorado Springs a lady in a residential neighborhood got chased by a bear. She ran into a street where she promptly got hit by a car. Not sure that is any better.

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