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Animal liability insurance with girl and her dog

The Problem with Treating Your Dog Like a Human

Most dog owners regard their furry friend as part of the family. This is healthy for the dog owner who benefits from the canine companionship and it’s also good for the dog who regards the household humans as part of its pack. However, it’s a mistake to treat a dog like a human or to associate human motives to its behavior. While it’s a remarkable fact that dogs have adapted so well to living among humans, it is still a different species with important behavioral differences. Treating it like a human can confuse it and possibly encourage undesirable behavior, including biting. Thus, an animal liability policy may be needed. Here are four common ways this happens:

Comforting Your Dog When It’s Anxious or Aggressive

Dog sleeping on owner's chestComforting someone is an act of human empathy. It reassures the person that things are OK because someone cares about him or her. This is a human reaction. Dogs react to this differently. They associate the attention and petting with their current behavior. To get more of this pleasurable attention, they repeat the anxious or aggressive behavior that caused it. Expressing reassurance to your dog encourages it to continue being anxious or aggressive in certain situations. Both of these emotional states are conducive to biting.

Punishing Your Dog for a Past Transgression

Person wagging finger at puppy

Dogs live in the moment. They lack the cognitive ability to remember and feel guilty about a past transgression. Any reprimands of your dog’s undesirable behavior must be done immediately after the act. Otherwise, it will associate the reprimand with something else. Your dog may even associate it with you. This can confuse and make your dog unstable. No matter how bad the misbehavior, it does nothing for your dog to reprimand it later.

Allowing Dominant Behavior in Your Dog

Dismissing dominant behavior as if it were a cute personality quirk causes the dog to get used to getting its own way. This can lead to the dog biting someone who doesn’t go along with its demands. This will most likely happen to someone, such as a small child, who the dog regards as lowest in the “pack’s” pecking order.

Assuming Your Dog Will Be Kind to Children and Small Animals

Dog licking child's chin

Kindness to children is an adult human nurturing instinct we have toward our own young. The fact that we extend it to other species is a unique human quirk. If your affectionate dog kills your pet hamster or songbird, punishment for acting on a basic predatory instinct is expecting too much.

Likewise, because your dog isn’t human, it doesn’t share your nurturing instinct for children. This is why you should never allow unsupervised interactions between your dog and small children.

Treating your dog like a person can backfire and cause biting. When this happens more than once, your home insurance animal liability coverage may not apply because your dog has a bite history.


If this is the case, or if your dog is a breed commonly excluded from homeowners coverage, XINSURANCE will help you with the coverage you need. Contact us for more information or go to our webpage.

Rick LindseyAuthored by Rick J. Lindsey, President, Chairman, and CEO of XINSURANCE

Rick J. Lindsey hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. He began working in the mailroom of his father’s Salt Lake City insurance firm, getting his introduction to the business that became his lifelong career. Rick J. Lindsey quickly rose through the ranks while working in nearly every imaginable insurance industry job. As an entrepreneur, specialty lines underwriter, claims specialist, risk manager, and a licensed surplus lines broker, Rick J. Lindsey is highly skilled in all levels of leadership and execution. As he progressed on his career path, Rick J. Lindsey discovered an urgent need for insurers willing to write policies for high-risk individuals and businesses. He was frequently frustrated that he could not provide the liability protection these entities desperately needed to safeguard their assets. He also formed the belief that insurance companies acted too quickly to settle frivolous claims. Rick J. Lindsey decided to try a different approach. He started an insurance company and became the newly formed entity’s CEO. This opportunity has enabled Rick J. Lindsey to fill a void in the market and provide a valuable service to businesses, individuals, and insurance agents who write high-risk business. XINSURANCE also specializes in helping individuals and businesses who live a lifestyle or participate in activities that make them difficult for traditional carriers to insure. If you’ve been denied, non-renewed, or canceled coverage, don’t give up quite yet. Chances are XINSURANCE can help.

Originally published October 16, 2017 2:01 PM, updated April 30, 2020