Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, costing insurers more than $489 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm.

The average dog bite claim was a whopping $29,752 in 2012, III said.

Most homeowners insurance policies include $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage that would protect you if your dog bit someone. But, if the damages from the bite exceeded your liability limit, you’d be responsible for paying the overage, including legal expenses.

And while insurance companies typically cover homeowners with dogs, once your dog bites someone, your premiums might rise, or your insurance company might refuse to continue to cover dog bites. Some companies will require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites. Others will cover a pet if the owner takes the dog to classes aimed at modifying its behavior, III says.

Personal liability coverage, also called an umbrella policy, can offer extra insurance to cover you for dog bite claims.

Be a Responsible Dog Owner

To reduce the chances of your dog biting someone, follow these tips from III:

  • 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. A dog with a history of aggression is inappropriate in a household with children.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of 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 people and animals.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
  • Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.