How to Find Homeowners Insurance When You Have a Dog

We've been getting a lot of mail recently regarding dogs and the difficulties of getting homeowners insurance. In fact, increasingly I get anxious emails from individuals that have had their homeowners policy cancelled by their insurer, and they aren't sure where to turn.

As a dog lover myself, I tend to agree with the slogan "judge deeds, not breeds". However, I also have been exposed to aggressive and poorly trained dogs of a "dangerous" breed, and I'd have to say that it's tough for the insurer to evaluate the individual dog. While the owner should be held responsible, what if they just aren't responsible or are blinded by their love of the dog? A poorly trained miniature poodle is likely just an annoyance; a poorly trained Rottweiler could be lethal.

How could insurers better evaluate an animal? In my opinion, they could require the owner of any medium or large size breed to have completed a certified training program for the dog. While this still wouldn't guarantee a complete end to dog bite incidents, it would certainly go a long way to reducing them, and keeping the onus where it belongs -- on the owner.

In the meantime, dog lovers will continue to struggle to get insurance. Here are my tips for finding the right insurance for you, and hopefully, at the best price:

  • As always, you need to shop around. Ask others who own dogs where they get their insurance. Talk to your vet. Call your local or national breed association. Word of mouth is often your best way to find a good insurer.  
  • If you live in the US, contact your local insurance commissioner or department of insurance. At a minimum, your insurance commissioner can give you a list of all insurers in your state. Then, you can follow up with each one. When speaking with the Insurance Commissioner, you can also report any discriminatory insurance policies that you have been subjected to, and find out if this is allowed in your state.
  • Try more than one agent with the same insurance company. Sometimes the problem is the agent's bias and not the insurance company!
  • Make sure your dog has done at least one certified dog training program. Get this through a recognized source, such as your local breeding association or a reputable dog trainer that will provide you with a certificate for your dog. Send a copy of this certificate to your insurer. Provide a letter regarding your dog's behaviour from the trainer, if possible. This can sometimes get you insurance from an insurer that would otherwise deny you coverage.
  • Still having problems? You may have to buy a separate liability policy for your dogs, and show that to your homeowners carrier. Once the dog is covered separately, you may get homeowners insurance without difficulty. If you need to get a separate policy for your dog and are having problems finding that kind of coverage, your breed association or kennel association may be helpful. Finally, you may need to consider kennel insurance, even if you aren't a certified breeder; kennel insurance may provide coverage when you can't get it any other way.


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