I had to pepper spray a couple of dogs. Here’s how that went

Today, I had to pepper spray a couple of dogs to protect my chickens (and to protect the dogs from the roosters). Long story short, it was effective and there’s a mostly happy ending. It was definitely a happier ending than if I had to shoot them or if a rooster had clawed them.

Check out our guide to the best pepper spray.

I was in my office working on an upcoming guide when my wife burst in and told me there were dogs outside messing with our beagle. I grabbed a gun and ran outside to find two nearly identical, very large dogs looking down at my beagle as she barked her head off at them. They looked like some kind of Collie mix.

I walked up to them and started yelling at them to “git.” They just stood there staring at me. I had the gun trained on them in case they were aggressive, but I saw collars on them and soon realized that they were harmless. Regardless, I still didn’t want them around my dog, and I definitely didn’t want them getting near my chickens.

I kept yelling at them until they finally got the message and took off down the road. But a few minutes they were back, in the woods across from our house.

I was worried they would come around to the other side of my yard and go after the chickens, so I parked my oldest son at the window to stand watch. Having written our guide to pepper spray, I decided that if they came back for the chickens, my can of POM would be a better deterrent than shooting them, and they clearly didn’t respond to verbal commands, so I slipped a can in my pocket.

Sure enough, after a few minutes he started yelling that they were near the chickens. I was sort of prepared, but not enough, slipping my bare feet into my Crocs and taking off running in the snow without a hat or jacket.

I have two chicken tractors, which are just movable wire cages. One has my old ISA Brown hens while the other has my Australorps, including two roosters. The dogs were circling the Australorp tractor and the birds were panicking. They’d knocked their waterer and feeder off their hangers and the hens were bunched up behind the roosters. If the dogs had breached the tractor, I’m not sure which would have had the worst of it: the dogs or the chickens. Those roosters frequently peck and claw at me, and I’m the one who feeds them (and yes, Napoleon, the chickens DO have large talons).

I already had the can of POM in my hand, so when one of the dogs approached me I sprayed it directly in the eyes. Or at least tried to: the wind was blowing a bit so not all of it connected. The dog didn’t seem to respond so I sprayed it again. It apparently took a second to register. After that, the dog’s nose started to twitch and it ran off to just over my neighbor’s property line.

The other dog had hid behind the tractor with the ISA Browns and it was looking for a way into the tractor. I gave it a good spray as well, because I had to make it clear that the chickens are not to be messed with. It learned a bit faster than its sibling and ran off to join it. With both dogs rubbing their noses in the snow, I was satisfied that they would leave the chickens alone.

To cut a long story short, we got in touch with the owner, who understood why I had to spray them, and they brought the dogs home. At least for a minute, before they got away again. I hope they don’t get around the chickens again, because I may have to take more drastic action.

Here’s what I learned from the experience:

1. If you keep a gun for self defense, you should also carry pepper spray. If I didn’t have pepper spray, I would have had to shoot them or hit them with sticks or something, because they clearly weren’t listening to me. I might could have lured them away with treats or meat, but that risked making them return customers.

2. The pepper spray was surprisingly silent. The can made no noise and the dogs didn’t either. I expected yelping or barking or something.

3. I should definitely get a belt holster for the pepper spray so I can keep it at the ready. The can has a pocket clip, but I’m not crazy about carrying it that way.

4. I also should invest in some bear spray. The fog would be more effective against dogs, and we do have the occasional bear sighting now. (Bears are more of an East Tennessee thing, but some have migrated to Middle Tennessee.)


  • Comments (11)

    • 8

      Crazy story! I hope the dogs learned a lesson too and won’t be coming back. And i’m glad your beagle and the chickens are safe.

      Next time, instead of pepper spray,  you may have to go with some good old ‘merican flag pants to get them away. (also a napoleon dynamite reference)


      Good idea on the pepper spray holster. Mine has a clip and i’m not the biggest fan of that either.

    • 9

      I once had a bull terrier dog run aggressively at me. I had time to get my aerosol can of dog repellent out, which uses citrus instead of pepper. Dogs hate citrus apparently. 3 times this dog charged at me, 3 times I sprayed him in the face, and 3 times the dog ran up and down the grass footpath trying to rub the spray off his face. The dog then gave up and ran away.  Dog was very lucky we can’t get a ccw here in Australia,  or it would have got a 125gr hollowpoint from my glock 17. I love dogs, but have zero tolerance for any animal that thinks it can attack a human without provocation. 

    • 7

      I’m sorry you had to deal with that stressful situation, Josh, but it sounds like you did just about everything right and things worked out for the best.  There are always valuable lessons to be learned from situations like this, thanks for sharing!

    • 6

      I’m glad your chickens weren’t hurt Josh. Were they able to calm down after the dogs left or did it take a while?

      • 5

        It took them a little bit but they eventually calmed down.

    • 4

      I am wondering about possible dog encounters. In one comment below, the person was charged three times before the dog got the message. And Josh had to spray a dog twice before the dog ran off. That sort of scenario makes me wonder about the idea of using the kind of walking cane that has a taser in it, for a last resort if the dog does not respond to either an air horn or dog spray. Does anyone think that something like a lightweight metal vest would protect from bites to the core? It sounds like I am going to purposely walk into a pen of aggressive dogs, but I am just trying to think through various scenarios. More people seem to own large, perhaps aggressive, dogs than in the past, especially in my area. We are supposed to prep for any possibility, so I am imagining some unpleasant “what if” scenarios and how I could respond, and how to be aware and prepared enough that I could head off an attack before it got that far. A firearm would be theoretically wonderful, if an attacking animal were on my property, stayed still enough to be fired at, and there was nothing beyond the target, wherever that ended up being, since an attacking dog is probably a moving target at best. A really close one.

      • 3

        My wife goes out walking twice a day and carries a walking stick with her. Twice a week she confronts a dog off leash roaming loose that comes up and barks at her. She’s had to tap two on the nose so far that have gotten too close. She likes the stick as a first defense to create distance and she can swing that between them.

        The first step with a dog encounter is that you have to face them and cant show fear. If a dog is truly dominant aggressive you can be hitting them as hard as you can or spraying them with pepper spray and they will lock on and not give up or back down. In that situation you don’t want to pull them away from you as that will just make them latch on harder, but pull upwards on the scruff of their neck. If that doesn’t work then go for the eyes or nose.

        As you are walking away from a loose dog, make sure you face them and don’t turn your back to them until they have turned around and walked away. 

        There are coyote resistant vests you can get for small dogs:


        Or these spikes that can be applied to various dog coats


        A more low key option could be a dog tactical vest that will add a couple layers of thick canvas and reduce the depth of punctures. 


        A thick dog collar could give some neck protection as well.


        Know your neighborhood and avoid those places where aggressive dogs are. Don’t have your headphones in your ears which will cut off one of your warning senses.

      • 2

        I was actually thinking about a tactical vest for ME (LOL?) but it turns out I might be acquiring a smallish dog, about 1/7th the size of one I encountered (making me wish I was a 200+-lb person) that got me thinking. I have to admit the dog tactical vest looks really cool! We do have coyotes as well, even though I have never seen one. If I do, it will possibly be rabid. I have seen rabid skunks and something that was probably a rabid half-wolf. Looked exactly like a wolf but we do not have those here as part of the typical fauna.

      • 2

        Oh for you? Maybe one of those dog collars would still look good on you. haha 

        For humans I imagine the most likely place to be bit would be the arms and hands. Those would be what you would stick up in defense to protect yourself against an attacking animal. Wearing a heavy fabric coat would be your best form of armor that is readily accessible.

        Now if you knew there was an aggressive dog out there and you had to go confront them to scare them off, having some soccer shin guards on your legs and forearms or even taped paper magazines around your arms would give some good protection. Bring out a long stick to create distance and maybe banging some loud pots and pans would scare them off.

        A rabid skunk would be terrifying! Dangerous on both ends but so cute.

    • 4

      Ugh! That’s stressful. Dogs off leash have pack mentality and a mind of their own. 

      I live in an area where encountering dogs off leash and ownerless is not uncommon. I have pepper spray and bear spray but have been reluctant to use them because I worry about the wind blowing back on me / my kids / my dogs. 

      When I walk, I’ve been carrying a taser. It’s just a simple, $10, hand held stun gun. You’d have to make contact with the dog for it to shock them. I’ve been charged or had a dog a little to interested in me about 3-4 times and each time  zapping the air has been a sufficient deterrent. It’s really loud, it sparks, and it seems to scare the crap out of the dogs (without any harm to them) and I can do it while I have my dogs and kids without chaos erupting.

      Just another tool for the tool belt. 

    • 2

      Oh wow. This is a classic example of how much I learn from this Forum. I personally never saw any need to own pepper spray and you have made me rethink that. We have lots of raccoons, foxes, and the occasional nutso dog around our property and it occurs to me that if any of them had rabies and/or were just incessantly aggressive, I would prefer a non-lethal way of dealing with it.  I’m so glad it all ended well (enough); thanks for sharing.  

      Also, those TINY details – like running out into the snow without a jacket – are also things that really make me think. Like – I should have a warm coat by my back door to grab on my way out.