For thousands of years, dogs have forged a special bond with humans, making them our oldest animal companions. By providing protection, hunting assistance and companionship, dogs have proved their loyalty time and time again, leading to the well-deserved moniker of “man’s best friend.”
There are hundreds of breeds of dogs in the world, ranging from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive English Mastiff.
Some homeowner’s insurance policies won’t cover certain breeds of dogs, citing them as potentially aggressive or destructive. A recent survey estimated more than 63 million dog-owning households in the U.S., making them the most popular pet in the nation.
Ancient domesticated dogs were widely used for hunting assistance and transportation, as well as companionship.
Modern domesticated dogs are most commonly used as companions, however, there are modern canines that are put to work as well. Hunting dogs such as beagles and Labrador retrievers accompany hunters on their outings, though it’s usually more out of sport than survival in current times.
Dogs are also used as service animals for a person with a disability, such as guiding blind and visually impaired individuals through their environment, protecting them from harm. Medical alert dogs are trained to recognize the onset of a medical issue, such as a seizure or low blood sugar. Therapy dogs are commonly used in environments such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools to lend comfort and support to residents, patients and students. Police dogs are trained to assist police officers in the line of duty. They are often able to sniff out illegal substances and chase down suspects who may run from law enforcement.
Military working dogs are trained to assist members of the military in detection, tracking and more. Military dogs can also take part in search and rescue efforts. According to a 2015 article in the Washington Post, director of the North American Police Work Dog Association guessed there were around 50,000 active police dogs in the U.S.
These working dogs prove that canines are a beneficial attribute to modern society, but most of the dogs in the U.S. are solely friendly companions to their human owners. They have their own benefits, too, however. A comprehensive review of studies published between 1950 and 2019 showed dog owners had a lower risk of death, according to an article published by the American Kennel Company. Dog owners are also likely to be more active, spending nearly 300 minutes every week walking with their dogs and an additional 200 minutes walking without their dogs, according to a 2019 article in the New York Times.
As many benefits as there are to having a dog, one obstacle you may run into is whether or not damage or injuries caused by your dog are covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. The liability portion of your homeowner’s policy typically covers these perils, however, some insurance companies may not cover damage from certain breeds of dogs. Breeds that have a reputation for aggression, such as Dobermans, Rottweiler’s and pit bulls, present a bigger risk for the insurer and may not be covered.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved pooch for a place to live. If your insurance company refuses to cover your breed of dog, dog-specific liability insurance is an option for protecting yourself and your home.
Restrictions can vary from state to state, but some of the most common breeds listed as potentially aggressive include:
• German shepherds
• Pit bulls
• Chow chows
• Doberman pinschers
• Staffordshire terriers
• Alaskan malamutes
• Siberian huskies
• Presa Canarios
• Great Danes
• Wolf hybrids
Often singled out on this list are pit bulls, wolf hybrids and rottweilers. These breeds are more likely to have a severe restriction or be prohibited outright. If you own one of these breeds, your insurance company could potentially increase your rates or cancel your policy. Some U.S. cities have restrictions or bans on certain dog breeds, making it nearly impossible for you to own one of the banned breeds legally. If you’re planning a move, it’s important to check your prospective city’s breed restrictions and bans if you’re an owner of one of these breeds.
According to a nationwide ValuePenguin analysis, if a policyholder is found to have a breed of dog considered aggressive by some insurers, their rates went up 1%. If you’re the owner of one of the more singled-out breeds, such as a pit bull or wolf hybrid, you are more likely to have to agree to an exclusion, according to ValuePenguin.
The Insurance Information Institute reported in a 2021 analysis that insurance companies paid out roughly $854 million for liability claims pertaining to dog bites and other dog-related injuries.
Homeowners insurance typically will cover dog bites, as long as your breed is not on the restricted breeds list.
However, filing a liability insurance claim to cover expenses caused by your dog could lead to higher rates in the future. Damage caused by your dog, such as chewed-up couch cushions or a knocked-over television, will likely not be covered. There may be some exceptions, and having a public insurance adjuster on your side could be to your advantage in these cases.
When considering an insurance company, some insurers are more dog-friendly. State Farm, for example, focuses on whether or not the dog has a bite history rather than its breed. If you have a mixed breed dog, a DNA breed test could be beneficial to prove your dog is not actually a restricted breed. Breed tests can be purchased online, or your veterinarian can administer one.
Dogs are found in millions of households in the U.S., so finding a policy that works for you is certainly possible, it just may take a little bit of research. But for most dog owners, their furry friends are worth the time.
K-Factor Advocates is a public adjusting firm that specializes in insurance claim negotiation, policy language and interpretation, and claims estimating. K-Factor’s team of public adjusters work on behalf of the policyholder. Coverage areas include Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.