This article was sponsored by SABRE
Dog spray and bear spray are staple gear items for many adventurers, but what’s the difference between the two?
Carrying dog spray or bear spray gives you the confidence to adventure farther and explore more. It’s important to know how and when to use each.
I asked David Nance, CEO of SABRE Security Equipment Corporation, everything you need to know about bear spray and dog/coyote spray.
Note: Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: What is the main difference between SABRE’s dog coyote spray and the bear spray?
A: Size of the canister and range. Bear spray is 225 grams in Canada, which releases a seven-second spray similar to a fire extinguisher with a range of 9 to 10.5 metres. It’s a heavy fog with a 2.4-metre diameter. Dog spray is 22 grams, which releases in a 10-second thin stream. It has a range of three to 3.5 metres.
When a bear is coming at you, their head is moving up and down. With a firearm, accuracy can be a challenge. Bear spray is more effective at deterring a charging bear because it’s easier to hit them.
Dog spray is often used because you’re protecting your dog from an attacking dog or coyote. You don’t want to spray your own dog—only deter the aggressive dog.
Q: What do you do after you spray a bear?
A: After you spray a bear, slowly back away—don’t run. Regain your composure and then walk the opposite way.
Bear spray is psychologically incapacitating, but it's not the same as throwing a net around it. The bear's vision is taken away, but that doesn't stop the animal from charging. The best thing you want to do after spraying is to think of it like a train still coming at you... step to the side!
Both dog spray and bear spray do not leave permanent injuries to the animals. The dog will be okay; the bear will recover. It’s meant to give you time to back away slowly or get yourself and your dog away during an attack.
Q: What are the ingredients and how does it work?
A: The active ingredient is the same, but bear spray is twice the strength. There is one per cent major capsaicinoids in dog attack sprays and two per cent in bear attack sprays. Each has the maximum strength allowed by the EPA and are Health Canada certified, so you know it’s an effective and humane product.
Psychological effects that can occur are fear, anxiety and panic because the animal doesn't know what is happening. Physiologically, it makes them close their eyes because they are dry and trying to produce natural tears. It also causes a loss of breath sensation. They may sneeze and cough, which is distracting, and ultimately it does cause some pain in the eyes and nose, causing them to leave.
The effects will be similar on coyotes, moose or cougars.
Q: Who should carry dog spray?
A: Anyone with a dog, especially someone who walks in urban areas with lots of other dogs, and cyclers or runners. Dogs are like bears—they love to chase after people on bikes or people who are running. It’s in their DNA.
Aggressive dogs off-leash are a problem. Some dogs are trained to attack. One of the sweetest dogs out there is a Pitbull, but there are owner issues with the way they are trained.
Dog owners are dog lovers, so they don’t really want to inflict pain on the attacking dog, which is great, but when that attacking dog starts to get a hold of your dog, then everything changes. You could get hurt or your dog could get hurt. With dog spray, in 15 minutes, the attacking dog will go back to normal—so everyone will be okay.
Q: What possible effect could dog spray have on humans if used incorrectly?
A: Believe it or not, human pepper spray is stronger. There isn’t a government agency that regulates the strength of personal spray in the USA, where it can be carried. [Pepper spray is illegal to carry in Canada.]
If you were to spray a human with a dog spray, the effects would be similar. They might get more of a burning sensation to their facial area because they’re not protected by fur. However, if they have any sort of medical issues, they should get help if they experience any significant effects, such as breathing not being restored or pain not going away. In that case, seek medical help.
Q: What are some common mistakes people make when using dog spray or bear spray?
A: People often think you should extend your arms at a 90-degree-angle and spray, but you can actually spray over the bear’s head. You want to aim slightly downwards, more at a 45-degree-angle, because the bear will be moving closer to the ground.
Don’t wait until the bear gets too close—when it’s 10 metres away, you should be spraying. The best-case scenario is if you don’t have to use the spray at all: talk to the bear calmly and back away slowly. But distance is your friend if you have to use the spray.
With dog spray, aim for the eyes (ear to ear). This will take away the dog’s vision temporarily, granting the opportunity for you and your dog to escape.
Whether you’re a parent looking to keep your kids protected, looking to stay safe in the great outdoors, a college student wanting to stay safe on campus, just moved to a new city and are looking for some security, or anything in between; we’re here to help Make It Safe™.
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