Dogs can be wonderful companions, but if you choose a breed that is blacklisted by insurance companies, it could be difficult to find an insurer who will sell you a home insurance policy.
Home insurance typically includes liability coverage for members of your household, including pets, but insurance carriers have become increasingly particular about which dog breeds they insure. Large, powerful breeds frequently are excluded by insurers who fear dog-bite claims, says Kenneth Phillips, a California attorney who specializes in dog-bite law. Small dogs may be just as likely to bite, he says, but they lack the same ability to cause serious injuries.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite cost per claim in 2012 was $29,752. Phillips says in cases of serious injuries, that the figure can be much higher.
"I have had cases where a dog bit the person's face and the nose was ripped off," he says. "The judge said the damage was worth $750,000."
If your dog is blacklisted, you may be able to purchase a separate umbrella liability policy from your insurer. These typically give you $1 million in coverage for about $150 to $300 per year, Phillips says.
The following breeds are among those that frequently are excluded from policies.
1. Chow chow
Chow chows need discipline and careful training or they may become hard to manage. The breed is known for being aloof and standoffish, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that out of 238 dog-bite deaths in which the breed responsible for killing was known, chow chows caused eight deaths.
Erin Vejar, a professional dog trainer in San Diego, says the chows she has worked with are exceptionally smart. However, she adds "like any dog, they need some structure and careful training," she says.
2. Perro de presa canario
Often used as a watchdog, the perro de presa carnario is territorial. According to the Presa Canario Club of America, this dog is obedient and docile with family members, but it can be suspicious of strangers.
The breed, which can weight in excess of 100 pounds, was developed for dog fighting. Presa Canarios gained notoriety in 2001 when Diane Whipple, a lacrosse player living in San Francisco, was killed by two large perro de presa canarios that attacked her in the hallway of her apartment building. DogsBite.org, a public education website, holds that fighting-breed dogs pose a significant threat to public safety.
3. Great Dane
The Great Dane is a giant in the dog world. It's not unusual for the weight of full-grown males to exceed 150 pounds.
Often praised for gentleness by owners, the Great Dane's size and strength make it potentially dangerous if aggressive behavior surfaces. In August 2013, law enforcement officials in northern Indiana reported that a toddler was bitten in the face by a Great Dane after accidently stepping on the animal's foot while petting it.
In the CDC's report on breeds involved in deaths resulting from dog bites, the Great Dane ranked eighth, just behind the chow chow, causing seven U.S. deaths between 1979 and 1998.
These dogs are very playful, but can be distrustful of strangers. Signs of dominance and aggression should be immediately corrected to maintain control over these dogs.
In August 2013, a Philadelphia police officer reportedly shot two boxers that had been used as guard dogs, after they attacked a man who was walking home from a grocery store. The victim was treated for numerous injuries.
Powerfully built, boxers originally were developed as fighting dogs and to chase down large game for hunters, according to the AKC. Adult weight may reach 65 to 80 pounds in the male. The breed gets its name for standing on its hind legs and batting at other dogs with its paws, appearing to box.
According to the Akita Rescue Society of America, Akitas are inherently aggressive towards other animals and should never be allowed to roam in public without restraints. The society advises owners to exercise their dogs without a leash only in areas where they are unlikely to come into contact with other animals or people.
In November 2012 a police officer in Murrieta, Calif. reportedly shot and killed an unattended Akita after it attacked two dogs and charged the officer.
Akitas originally were used in hunting over snow and rough terrain. Vejar says the Akitas she has worked with are watchful, alert and intelligent.
6. German shepherd
According to the CDC, German shepherds were involved in 17 deaths during the 20-year dog bite study. Among the breeds most involved in human deaths, the German shepherd ranked third, behind pit bulls and Rottweilers.
German shepherds may grow to weigh more than 80 pounds. Vejar says they are intelligent and learn easily. The dogs originally were used to guard sheep.
Rescue Every Dog, a support group for animal shelter workers based in the state of Washington, says German shepherds need to be trained to socialize, so they don't become prone to biting. They also should be securely contained when not supervised by an adult.
Want to learn more about blacklisted breeds? Check out our video on dog bite liability and your home insurance rates.