Believe it or not, owning a dog can make a massive impact on your homeowners insurance. It might seem unfair, but a dog makes your home riskier to insure thanks to something called “liability coverage” that comes standard in most policies. Liability coverage will pay for medical or legal costs in the event a visitor to your home (or even just on your property) is injured — including dog bites, unless your provider deliberately excludes them. Every year, dogs bite more than 4 million Americans according to the CDC, and the Insurance Information Institute reports the average cost for a dog bite-related home insurance claim was a staggering $39,017 in 2018, so you can see why insurance companies get a little worried about Fido.
The good news is that some providers — like State Farm — no longer ask about the breed of your dog, just whether or not you have one. But even some of the best insurance companies will ask you to specify the breed during the quote process because they have an unofficial list of restricted breeds — including a few that could result in denied coverage. In 2014, an Allstate representative told Psychology Today that “based on what we know, the dogs on our ‘uninsurable list’ pose a higher risk,” and that dog bites “accounted for more than one third of all homeowners insurance liability claims” the company paid out that year.
Reviews.com doesn’t ascribe to the belief that certain dog breeds are inherently dangerous, but some insurance companies do, based on their analysis of statistics. According to our research, here are the 10 most common dog breeds that home insurance companies include on their restricted lists.
- Pit bull
- Alaskan malamute
- Chow chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- Wolf hybrids
- German shepherd
- Siberian husky
Insurance companies have been wary of certain breeds since at least 2000, when the American Veterinary Medical Association released a study of fatal dog attacks by breed between 1979 and 1998. “Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these deaths,” the study found. It’s worth noting the AVMA itself advised against breed-specific restrictions in that same study, and stressed that fatal attacks are a small percentage of overall dog bite injuries in the U.S.
Owning one of these breeds doesn’t necessarily mean a homeowners insurance company will deny you coverage. Just know that if they ask about your dog’s breed, the price of your premium could be higher than someone who owns, say, a Labrador retriever. Some insurers might also decide to exclude your dog from your policy’s liability coverage, or ask you to sign a liability waiver. Another breed not listed above (because they aren’t very common), the Presa Canario, is also likely to be deemed too risky by some insurance providers thanks to the highly publicized death of a San Francisco woman who was attacked by two Presa Canarios in 2001.
Some providers are more lenient than others when it comes to dogs. As we noted above, State Farm doesn’t even ask for your dog’s breed. If you own one of the breeds above, you might also have good luck getting coverage with Amica, Nationwide, and USAA — they claim to solely consider your dog’s personal “bite history” when determining coverage instead of just the breed. On the other hand, Allstate, Farmer’s, and Liberty Mutual are more breed-conscious.
If an insurance provider denies coverage because you own a commonly restricted dog breed, there are a few things you can try.
- Ask your agent if they’ll grant an exception for a dog with a Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club (your dog will need to pass a 10-step test in front of a professional evaluator).
- Ask if you can exclude your dog from your home insurance policy completely. That means the insurance provider won’t be liable for any medical or legal costs if your dog bites a visitor. If you exclude your dog from your home insurance, definitely consider alternate coverage for dog bites, like a “canine liability” or “dog liability” policy from a specialty provider, or even a broad “umbrella liability” policy that will cover a variety of things a standard policy doesn’t.
Note: Home insurance liability coverage (the part that covers dog bites) only extends to visitors who are injured by your dog on your property. It doesn’t cover damage to your property by your own dog, like scratching up your walls or chewing up your furniture. In fact, even the best pet insurance won’t cover a pet’s damage to your own home. For that, you’ll need one of those “dog liability” policies and a detailed, up-to-date home inventory.
- See our picks for the best homeowners insurance providers and see what questions they ask about your dog during the quote process.
- Don’t forget about pet insurance — it can save you tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.
- For other home insurance questions, see our extensive homeowners insurance buyer’s guide.