Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It may or may not surprise you to learn that not all homeowner's insurance companies cover all dog breeds. Did you know that prior to reading my sentence?  I sure didn't know it prior to owning a house and subsequently purchasing a "dangerous breed".

Dobermans, among others I'll list below, are considered to be "dangerous dogs".  There's a varied amount of politics and a small amount of statistics that goes into what makes or breaks a breed's reputation.  Actual bites and attacks are one of these things, obviously, especially against children.  The fact that all dogs have a mouth full of big pointy teeth is another, with varying PSI of bite pressure ability is another, though I don't think most people think too hard about that.

It's an issue.  I'm not saying it isn't.  But can you guess who I think is to blame?  Poor dog owners, bad breeders, and people (yup, that includes kids) who don't know how to act around dogs.
My above statement is controversial on its own, as I confess my language was rather "victim blaming".  I'll clarify: I think a lot of children get bitten by dogs because nobody has taught them how to approach dogs or behave around them.  Does this mean I think the kids deserve it?  No.  I'm sure there's a small percentage who do earn what they get, by maliciously teasing a dog that decide it's not going to put up with it any more, but that is a small minority.

So, what's the chain of responsibility here?  It starts with the owner.  If you decide to buy a dog, do your research.  If you want to buy a dog from a breeder, look into what health testing is acceptable to have healthy dogs.  Look at the breeder, and see if their dogs are tested, and if their dogs have titled in a conformation or sport field.  Look at how the breeder raises puppies; are they socialized to people and animals?  Are they exposed to toys and different floor surfaces and car rides and regular household functioning?  If you aren't buying a dog from a breeder, but adopting from a shelter or rescue, visit with the dog.  Bring all the family members.  Ask about temperament testing done at the facility.  Ask about the dog's physical well-being, and whether blood tests and thyroid panels were done.  A lot of "behavioral issues" can actually come from a thyroid problem, in dogs as well as in humans.

Okay, now you're a dog owner.  Next step: train your dog.  Your companion pet doesn't need to be a robot or ready to compete for obedience titles, but there should be a baseline of acceptable behavior that your dog can follow.  No jumping, for instance, no biting, even in play.  Take your dog out in the world, so that she knows what goes on there, and gets an idea of the weird things that people do.  Teach your dog how to be calm, and teach your dog a default behavior if she's uncomfortable with a situation, such as a Sit.  Teach your dog to look at you.  Keep your dog on a leash when you're out in public.  The AKC's Canine Good Citizen exam (and title) are aimed at people who want to have good dogs who react well to a variety of public situations).  Teach your kids how to behave around dogs, starting with "Gentle" when they're babies, to "no running and screaming around dogs" when they're old enough to understand sentences like that.  If you have an itty bitty baby, NEVER leave the dog alone with the baby.  Depending on the baby's noises and motions, and depending on your dog's prey drive, that's asking for a tragedy. 

Make sure your dog it occupied and exercised.  And by "exercised", I don't mean tie them out on the porch or leave them in the fenced backyard.  A tethered dog can be a very frustrated one, who can never reach what she's after.  A constantly fenced and isolated dog can become a problem barker, or develop "barrier aggression", where she'll go nuts when something is on the other side of the fence, and take a piece out of somebody who reaches over it.  Take your dog for walks.  If you can find a safe, legal, fenced in area, take your dog there to run around and chase a frisbee or ball and blow off energy.  Teach your dog tricks, even pointless and funny ones, because engaging their brains helps their reasoning power, and uses up their energy as well.  Certain people say a tired dog is a good dog, and that might be true, but I think a tired dog is a happy dog.  A tired dog has been engaged physically and mentally, and is not bored, and not full of pent up energy.

Is being a responsible dog owner all it takes to keep dogs from being dangerous?  Unfortunately, it's probably not that easy, but I'm sure it goes a very long way.  Some dogs are just nuts, be it bad genetics, bad things happening when they're puppies, or a wire crossed in the brain.  

But, the list of "dangerous breeds" is as follows, and it varies depending on who you ask, and what insurance company.  These are just ones that come up a lot:

1. Pit Bulls (and this is a tremendous catchall term.  There is the "American Pit Bull Terrier", yes, but also around forty breeds or something that are considered "pit type dogs".  Besides the fact that it's not as easy as you'd think to pick out a pit bull.  In fact, give it a whirl, I can wait: Find the Pit Bull)
2. Staffordshire Terriers
3. Doberman Pinschers
4. Rottweilers
5. Chows
6. Presa Canarios
7. Akitas
8. Alaskan Malamutes
9. German Shepherds
10. Siberian Huskies
11. Wolf Hybrids
12. Combinations of the above

Obviously, as my Doberman has never savaged anybody, I don't think she's a dangerous dog.  All dogs have the potential to bite; the size of some lends itself to the amount of damage they can do.  The CDC has a web page regarding dog bites, and has a PDF of dog breeds involved in fatal attacks, but not a PDF of dog breeds for reported bites that did not result in fatalities.  

So far as homeowner's insurance, we have New York Central Mutual, though they did charge around $30 more based on Elka's breed.  Our original carrier, Sterling, would not cover a Doberman.  My understanding is that State Farm insurance will cover everybody (depending on state).  I don't know if they charge more, but they do go by bite history rather than just blanket breed assumptions.  "Blame the Deed, not the Breed" is the slogan that's been gaining popularity among people who own dogs people assume are dangerous or aggressive.  I think it's a good way to go.



  1. is that a banana sticker on her nose?

    IS ELKA PART BANANA????!!!!!!!


    (also bestest picture ever. even if it means my death)

  2. Are you saying my dog really is dangerous? Certainly not in the way people may have thought!