Home Insurance and Dog Owners: What You Need to Know

Lesbian couple enjoying life together with their dog

Deciding to bring a dog into your home is a big decision. You spend time determining what type of breed is right for you or whether you’d like to choose a rescue dog. Before you bring your furry friend home, you make sure you’re equipped with pet food, toys, and you puppy-proof your home. But before you think your to-do list is complete, there’s one item that may have skipped your mind. Home insurance! For a dog? Yes. Surprisingly, many people don’t think that having a dog may impact their home insurance needs. It does, and there are certain dog breeds that may impact whether your insurer will continue to offer you home insurance.

Here’s how adding a new dog to your household may affect your homeowners insurance policy.

Why it’s important to tell your home insurer

Dogs are your property. No one wants to think about something unexpected happening, but the reality is if your dog bites or injures someone, you could be held liable. The type of liability coverage you need is covered under your home, condo, or tenant insurance. It’s a good idea to check your liability limits with your insurer. When you apply for home insurance (regardless of whether you have a dog), home insurers may ask if you have an animal in your home, so be forthcoming.

What does your home insurance cover when it comes to your dog?

Liability coverage will cover you if your dog injures someone. Some insurers may cover damages to someone else’s property, no matter where the incident occurs. Check with your insurer to see if your home insurance covers these situations.

Some provinces have additional legislation outlining who is responsible for a dog if it injures someone. For example, the Ontario’s Dog Owner’s Liability Act specifies that the owner is “strictly responsible,” meaning the victim does not need to prove intent.

Let’s talk about dog breeds

When classifying dog breeds that are likely to cause problems, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all list among insurers. Some breeds that may not be covered by your insurer include (differs by insurer and province):

  • Pit Bulls (banned in the province of Ontario)
  • Rottweilers
  • Mixed breeds where one of the above breeds are predominant
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Any breed where the dog has a history of aggressive or vicious behaviour

Tips to help prevent dog bites

So now that you have a better understanding of why it’s important to have the proper home insurance coverage for your dog, below are some tips to help prevent dog bites according to the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. According to the Globe and Mail, there are approximately 500,000 dog bites a year in Canada and three-quarters of the victims are children under the age of 10.

Safety guidelines for adults and children around dogs according to the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society

  • Never leave children alone with a dog. Babies and small children require adult supervision around all dogs, even their own.
  • Teach children how to play gently with dogs and how to gently approach them.
  • Extend your hand held in a fist for the dog to sniff.
  • Pet the dog on the side of the neck or on the chest. Avoid petting over the head.
  • Sign your dog up for obedience lessons and socialize them with other dogs and people.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when on a walk.
  • Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date, especially for rabies.
  • Be cautious around older dogs, and those with disabilities as they may easily become frightened or agitated.
  • Avoid disturbing a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies as they can become territorial.
  • Never tease, chase, or yell at a dog, and don’t play roughly with dogs, or grab their ears and tails.
  • If your dog exhibits any signs of aggression like pulling back his lips, or heavy barking, remove the dog from the situation. Never encourage your dog to play aggressively (e.g. tug-of-war games).

The only way to know for sure how your dog can affect your home insurance coverage is to talk to your insurer. They’ll be happy to discuss how much liability coverage is best for your circumstances, what scenarios you’ll be covered for if something happens, and they’ll provide you with a list of breeds that they don’t insure.

This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.