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Did You Know Your Family Pet Could Be A Liability

Take steps to make sure your dog isn’t a safety liability

In 2016, dog bites and other dog-related injuries composed more than a third of all homeowners liability claim costs, according to a study by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. Those incidents included knocking down children, older people and cyclists, and attacking deliverymen, including postal workers. Dog-bite claims rose 18% from 2015 to 2016, according to the study, and the average cost per claim was $33,230 in 2016.

Prevention is key, because even sweet dogs can respond aggressively in certain circumstances.

An obvious safety measure is to keep dogs on a leash or behind a fence that is in good repair, but there are other steps you should take to prevent injury to visitors, others off your property and neighbors’ pets. For example, if you know you are having a repairman or other visitor, consider keeping your dog behind a closed door or muzzling it. Muzzles, used properly, are not cruel, and — through quality training and rewards — dogs can become accustomed to their application. In fact, training is the primary component in overall dog safety — from walking on a leash to coming when called or halting when instructed.

Know your dog’s triggers. If you have a nervous animal, be aware of the warning signs it is frightened and remove the dog from the situation promptly. Remember, even if a dog doesn’t bite someone, it can be accused of causing harm if it is threatening. In some cases, growling, baring teeth or charging at something — or someone — can be considered a Level One or Level Two attack.

Socialize your dog from puppyhood. Dogs that are isolated or insulated from interaction with random humans can become very protective and respond negatively when introduced to strangers. If you get your dog as a puppy, make the time to socialize it to other animals and people. If you adopt an older dog, find out its history and talk to a veterinarian about methods to increase its ability to interface with others.

Does neutering help? In male dogs, neutering can help with aggressive behaviors, but often an alpha dog will continue to be assertive, or even aggressive, despite being neutered. A female in heat or post partum may also display aggressive tendencies. It is important to respect her natural inclinations while also assiduously protecting others. Keeping her away from others during these times is the best method.

Here are some signs of imminent offensive aggression offered by PetMD:

  • Becoming “frozen,” staring directly, or having an immobile face.
  • Growling or snarling.
  • Snapping.
  • Head or tail up.

Remember that dogs that are spoiled, ignored, cruelly punished, teased or abused in other ways can become aggressive or fiercely dominant. Additionally, some breeds are naturally inclined to be protective, to kill small game, or to run or jump like crazy. Pick your pet carefully to correspond its genetic makeup to your lifestyle. And consult your Trusted Choice® Independent Insurance Agent to be sure you have adequate homeowners or renters liability insurance that doesn’t exclude your dog in case a costly event does occur.

sean clark