They say that a dog is a man’s best friend. Dogs can be great companions and a perfect addition to any home. Many dogs have such “doganality” (a term I came up with to describe my own little Shichon Marley’s personality). She puts smiles on my family’s faces nearly every day. Other than barking at her own shadow or getting into the trash, she’s a wonderful addition to our family.

Unfortunately, not all dogs have as mild of a demeanor as Marley. As docile as she is, it’s always in the back of my mind if she would ever snip at the mailman, other kids in the neighborhood, or even one of my children.

There are dog breeds that have been labeled as “dangerous.” In reality, every dog appears to be loyal to their owners and ready to protect their own regardless of their breed. Even normally gentle dogs may bite when they’re frightened.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability pay outs in 2014, and the average cost of  these types of claims has risen more than 67 percent since 2003. Many of these claims are more than just dog bites – some are for injuries resulting from being knocked down by a dog.

We recently recognized National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be a responsible pet owner while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.  While the official Prevention Week is over, it always a good time to review some tips for reducing the chances of your dog biting someone (courtesy of the I.I.I.):

  • Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
  • Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other animals and people.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Be cautious when exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
  • Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
  • Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists or responsible breeders if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.

If you are considering adding a dog to your family, make sure you keep the above tips in mind to ensure the safety those who may come into contact with your pet.  It’s also important to check with your independent insurance agent to see if your insurance carrier has a list of dog breeds they won’t insure. With a little  preparation and patience, you can enjoy a smooth transition to dog owner!

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