We love our pets like we love the human members of our family, but did you know that furry family members also play a significant role in your home insurance policy? According to the American Pet Products Association, more than 54 million U.S. households own at least one dog. As one of the most common types of household pets, dogs are also one of the riskiest for home insurers.
We may think we truly know Buddy or Bella. But let’s face it, dogs are animals. It’s important to be prepared and understand dog bite insurance coverage in case your dog – or a guest’s dog – reverts to his or her canine instincts.
Are Dog Bites Covered Under Florida Home Insurance?
In 2015, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all home insurance liability claims, costing more than $570 million.
Most home insurance policies cover legal and medical expenses relating to dog bite incidents, with certain liability limits in place. However, to limit their exposure to dog bite-related losses, some insurance companies restrict liability coverage for dogs with a prior bite history.
According to Trusted Choice, an umbrella policy may be your only protection if you own certain aggressive dog breeds or if injuries, damages, and losses exceed the liability limits of your homeowner’s policy.
Preventing Dog Bites At Home
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people fall victim to dog bites each year. Over half of these incidents occur at home.
While you can’t guarantee that your dog will never attack, there are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk:
- Socialize Buddy early on by introducing him to other people and puppies – or other types of pets, for that matter. Let your dog socialize at his own pace and don’t force him to be around someone or something that makes him feel scared or uncomfortable.
- Make sure Bella is up to date on her vaccinations and routine check-ups.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks old. Spayed or neutered dogs tend to be less aggressive.
- Enroll Buddy in training courses right after his first set of vaccinations. This establishes a fundamental communication between you and him that will help encourage good, obedient behavior.
- Never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog. Teach your children to be gentle with Bella, treat her with respect, and give her space and time to rest.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late. If your dog displays aggressive behavior toward another dog or human, seek professional help from a certified applied animal behaviorist, a veterinary behaviorist or a qualified, certified professional dog trainer to help prevent a more serious accident from happening in the future.
Keeping Your Dog Happy During the Holidays
Dog bite insurance liability incidents typically increase during the holiday season. Added stress from disrupted routines, constant commotion and less exercise can cause even the most mild-mannered dogs to become aggressive and lash out.
Give Your Dog Space
Your dog needs alone time, too. Designate a quiet space for Bella to relax and play with her toys, away from the constant commotion of houseguests. You may want to consider doing this before guests arrive so she can get used to the routine.
Communication is Key
Communicate with guests about how to safely interact with your dog. For example, some dogs don’t like to be petted, while others enjoy the love and attention. Ask guests to not play violently with your dog, as that kind of activity may trigger an aggressive reaction.
Stick to a Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit and may get stressed when their routines get turned upside down. During the holidays, try to continue the usual routine for your dog to provide peace of mind.
Avoid Putting Multiple Dogs in One Room
More dogs in a confined space increases the risk of aggressive behavior. Dogs are territorial by nature, and may compete for attention, food and even resting spots. If there will be multiple dogs at your holiday gathering, create separate spaces where each can go to relax and enjoy meals.
Know the Signs
Since dogs don’t talk, they have other ways of letting us know when they’re feeling stressed. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs to help avoid a dog-bite dilemma:
- Turning head or body away
- Pulling ears back
- Whites of the eyes are showing
- Stiff body posture
- Growling, showing teeth, barking
- Dilated pupils
- Resistant to commands
With these tips in mind, you can help prevent your next gathering from resulting in a dog bite insurance nightmare.