If someone asked you to guess what is one of the biggest sources of homeowners insurance liability claims, you might be shocked to learn it's dog bites! Yep, $600 million worth of them every year. And the claim rate is rising alarmingly -- up 18 percent in the past year alone, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). And -- get this -- the average compensation payout is more than $33,000!
While almost any dog may deliver a nasty bite -- depending on its personality and the situation it's in -- the top 10 list of nippers, according to Puppy Lover News, looks like this: Chihuahuas, Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, German and Australian Shepherds, Lhasa Apsos, Jack Russells, Cocker Spaniels, Bull Terriers, Pekingese and Papillons.
Whatever the breed, what can you do to reduce the risk of your pet biting someone? The sad thing is that the cause of many dog bites is often down to shortcomings by us humans -- for example, poor training, irresponsible ownership and bad breeding practices.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following tips for minimizing the risk of dog bites:
- Ask a professional about suitable breeds for your family, household and neighborhood BEFORE getting your pet.
- If you can, spend time with the animal before making the final decision on buying or adopting.
- Have the animal spayed or neutered. Non-neutered dogs are three times more likely to bite.
- Play games that avoid over-excitement and aggression. "Tug-of-war" type games encourage aggression whereas "go fetch" will exercise the dog without it becoming anxious.
- Look for cues that your dog is becoming agitated -- for instance in new and unfamiliar situations -- and act to calm it down.
- Seek professional advice if you see persistent, aggressive behaviors.
And, of course, you should be extra-wary if you have young children, especially if they seem to be frightened of the animal. Don’t leave youngsters alone with a dog and don't let kids disturb the animal when it's sleeping or eating.
Also, make sure you understand the laws on dog bites.
The III explains: "Dog owners are liable for any injuries their pets cause in the following instances: if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; if a state statute makes the owner liable, whether or not the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; or if the injury was caused by unreasonable carelessness on the part of the owner."
And, if you're a dog owner, make sure you're properly insured. You don't want that $33,000 coming out of your pocket!