Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Protection from Loose Dogs: What I Carry


Citronella Dog Deterrent Spray

When I walk or hike, I carry defense of one kind or another. My favorite that sits in my training bag, glove compartment and fanny pack is the belt-clip citronella spray shown here. If I need, I’ll be glad I have it. If I don’t, it takes up little room.

I know of too many people who have had dogs injured or killed by loose dogs. My beloved Pip is not tough around strange dogs. She’d be another dog’s lunch and I would be hurt, too, as I would inevitably dive in to help her even though I “know” better. I know me and the only thing I’ll be pondering at that moment is saving my dog.

So, spray it is.

Never had to use it. Yet. But will always have it.

I choose the citronella spray because, while annoying, it isn’t damaging to the animal. The packaging says it goes to a range of 10 feet but it disperses the farther it goes. The intended use, for me, of any spray is close range defense.

If a dog had Pip, I would spray their face and if I could, at that extreme moment, spray it directly up the dog’s nose or into their eyes I would. Any strong odor up a dog’s nose is a trump play most of the time. I have never had to use any spray in that way, but I would, without hesitation or apology, if Pip was being hurt.

I have, for years, used breath spray in various ways but now, with the advent of the dangerous xylitol, I leave it to everyone to make their own choices there. That said, a blast of peppermint up a dog’s nose will overwhelm and therefore stop most companion dogs.

Another option on the market is pepper-based spray. Sabre SRP-MK3 Protector Dog Deterrent with a belt clip or, with a velcro wrist/hand band SABRE RED Police Strength Pepper Spray – Runner Model with Hand Strap.* This product contains capsaicin, the stuff that makes hot peppers hot. Shot into the face at close range this will stop just about anyone but only you know what you are willing to use or can use safely. Some people have the “yes, I’d do anything to save my dog” attitude and other’s “I could never knowingly hurt a dog” soft heart. Know yourself and get what you will use. If the time ever comes, and I hope it doesn’t, a second of hesitation could make a difference. Do not spray into the wind as it can blow back into your face and your dog’s face.

Also note, pepper spray is probably equally effective sprayed from behind onto any sensitive membranes, butt you didn’t hear that from me. (I once used a sore muscle cream with capsaicin on my inner thighs after riding and I can attest that the sensation is, um, riveting.)

Another option, either instead of spray or as an adjunct to it, is a micro, auto open umbrella. Some of these are truly tiny but, with a single push of a button, a surprising shield pops open in front of you. I’d use this when the dog was still at a distance, if possible but, regardless, it gives you something to place between you/your dog and the other animal, obscures the view of your dog and gives you something to push back with.

Popping one open and shaking it back-and-forth while making some noise will deter many a dog (and would probably deter me, too).

I hope you never, ever, need this info but I also hope that, if you do, this blog will be of use to you and your dog.

Now you know.

* Wise words from Gwen WeisgarberJust an FYI – the pepper spray canisters I use should be stored upside-down; you should also shake them regularly and periodically give a short test spray to keep the nozzle de-gunked (that is a technical term). Also, always spray with the wind and do not store in a hot car or you could find your day extra spicy.


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