Gary Overs, the owner of Gary Overs Kenneling and Obedience, says he’s fielding calls almost daily about dog bites, but it isn’t coming as a complete surprise. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to get a dog for many people, Overs says that it can be the exact opposite. 

“It was a horrible time to socialize a dog because we are all in isolation so to speak. We're staying away from each other so puppies were not experiencing socialization outside of the home or the family,” Overs explains. 

Now that things are opening up and people are spending more time socializing outside, the number of people going to the emergency room for dog bites is also increasing. Overs says dogs will bite in these situations, not because they are aggressive, but because they are scared. He adds that dogs have two instincts when they are scared, fight or flight. 

Some warning signs that your dog is in an uncomfortable situation is the dog will start pulling back on the leash to get out of the situation, ears may be pinned back, the dog might crouch down in a submissive posture, their lips may curl back and their eyes may be dilated. 

"Dogs always give us signs of some sort. If you understand what you are looking for it is very easy to say whoa, whoa, whoa, something bad is going to happen here,” Overs says. 

Overs adds some dogs may even go into a “signature root” posture where they transfer to one side and pick up a front paw. He said this is the dog’s way of screaming “get me out of this situation.” 

Once the dog realizes it can’t run away, it will fight, and that’s when it will end up biting. 

“Once they've bit once and to get a result from it, - in other words, they lash out, the person gets bitten, pulls back - the dog was successful. So now you can bet your next paycheque the dog is going to bite again the next time it's put in that situation it will probably react even quicker."

As public health measures are lifted, Overs recommends putting a positive spin on re-introducing your dog to new people by using bait such as toys or a treat and socialize them in a controlled environment if they are prone to biting. 

As an example, he says you can plan to meet a friend or family member on the street and have the dog come to them. 

Overs cautions that you should be respectful of your dog and not put them in a scenario where someone is rushing up to them and they can get scared. 

According to Overs, the most critical time for a dog is between seven weeks and five months, so you’ll have more success with a younger puppy. 

Another way to avoid a situation where a dog is going to bite is to keep your dog on a leash unless they are at the off-leash dog park. Overs says the number of dogs running around the city without a leash is starting to get out of hand. 

“It's to the point that my wife and I won't even walk our own dogs in Moose Jaw anymore. Two weeks ago, we got rushed by a big black lab. Thank goodness he was fairly friendly, but it put my dogs in a bad spot because they are on a leash and now fight-and-flight is there." 

City bylaws state that a dog is considered “running at-large” if they are running off-leash and off its owner’s property or if the dog is not on its owner’s property but has a leash longer than two meters. Dogs are only permitted to be off-leash at the off-leash dog park.

Dogs running at large can be impounded and, if not claimed by the owner within 120 hours, can be sold to a new owner to recover expenses. The owner of a dog running at-large can be fined between $40 and $60 depending on the situation.