Does your dog go postal whenever the mailman arrives? Your dog jumps up and down, barks at the window like a crazed canine, all the while keeping a keen eye on the approaching postman. Why, why, why? What IS the deal with dogs and mailmen?
Why Do Dogs Hate the Mailman?
It’s not just the mailmen that bring out the worst in dogs; it could be the UPS and FedEx drivers or any other delivery person that causes a stir, especially if you have a dog that is a natural born guard dog. Regardless of who’s approaching your home, your dog is going to react. While some give little thought, others lose their minds. Why do dogs bark at the mailman or run around the house trying when deliveries arrive? A few reasons:
- Territorial behavior: Any time a person encroaches on your dog’s territory (your home), their instinct is to defend what’s theirs. Incessant barking, growling, lunging at the door or window are all common.
- Reinforced behavior: While your dog barks like crazy, growls, and lunges toward the delivery person, the fact that the mailman leaves reinforces the behavior in your pet. Why? Your dog thinks his frantic behavior scared off the intruder and will most likely act the same way, every time. Because dogs are habitual creatures, this reinforcement behavior becomes a habit.
- Lack of socialization: Failure to expose your pet to new people, places, other animals, and experiences can lead to anxiety and apprehension when faced with unknown humans and canines.
- Inadequate training: When you ignore aggressive behavior instead of addressing it with positive reinforcement training techniques, you encourage your dog to continue his adverse reaction to any delivery person who approaches your home.
Legal Issues With Dogs and Mail Carriers
Sure, the memes and gifs of dogs chasing mailmen are funny and viral, but the fact is, if a US Postal Service workers feels unsafe on your property, they have the right to interrupt your mail delivery.
Of course, you should get a notice from the USPS when this happens, but it’s important to take this seriously. If your dog threatens or injurs anyone on your property, you could be liable. Dog owners with aggressive or highly protective dogs should take precautions not to put themselves in a potential situation where someone might be injured (which can lead to lawsuits).
According to our research (including an article about dog bites and dog injuries on NOLO), unless someone trespasses on your property or deliberately provokes your dog (which might be hard to prove), you are responsible for injuries your dog causes. If a postal worker or delivery person comes onto your property and your dog bites them, barks at them, or scares them, you’re now the responsible party.
So, train your dogs to protect your property and take precautions to protect visitors — including delivery people — so you’re not that dog owner.
How Do Mailmen Deal With Dogs?
Dogs and mailmen aren’t mortal enemies; in fact, there are plenty of memes and videos highlighting the bond between letter carriers and pets along their routes. However, dog aggression towards a mailman is a real issue. According to the latest United States Postal Service (USPS) Dog Attack National Rankings report, in 2020, more than 5,800 postal workers were attacked by dogs. The assaults range from nips and bites to vicious attacks.
The top 10 cities for dog attacks in 2020:
- Houston, TX (73)
- Chicago, IL (59)
- Los Angeles, CA (54)
- Cleveland, OH (46)
- Denver, CO (44)
- Baltimore, MD (43)
- Dallas, TX (38)
- Columbus, OH (37)
- San Antonio, TX (36)
- San Diego, CA and Detroit, MI (10)
The USPS participates in the National Dog Bite Awareness Week (June 12-18, 2021) to inform the public about dog bite prevention. The agency also offers a service called Informed Delivery that allows customers to view what mail and packages are on the way so pet parents can take precautions and secure their dogs when their mail is delivered. In addition, the USPS trains its workers to follow these rules:
- Observe the area around customers’ homes
- Never startle a dog
- Always keep an eye on nearby dogs
- Never assume a dog won’t bite
- Make some noise or rattle a fence to alert the dog when entering a yard
- Never attempt to pet or feed a dog
- Place their foot against an outward swinging door
Other tools at USPS that help letter carriers protect themselves from dog attacks include a dog alert feature on their handheld scanners and dog warning cards when they sort the mail that reminds them of a possible dog hazard. If a postal worker is attacked, they are trained to protect their bodies with something between them and the dog, usually their satchel, and use the dog repellent each mail carrier carries.
Anytime the postal worker feels unsafe, the USPS can halt mail delivery until the dog is properly restrained.
How to Stop a Dog From Attacking the Postman
Now that you understand why dogs “hate” postal delivery people, it’s time to learn how you can chill your pet when the mail arrives. Life-long socialization beginning in puppyhood is the best way to shape a dog’s demeanor for the better around other people and animals.
If your pet acts out like a demon dog when the mailman approaches, there are a few things you can do that may help the situation. Although there are different methods to changing your pet’s behavior toward the mailman, we will focus on the quiet command method.
- First, close or block any window or door, so your dog can’t have a visual of the mailman approaching.
- Next, have a friend approach your house and stand outside the door while your pet barks.
- The moment your dog stops barking, even if that’s to catch his breath, say “quiet” and offer a healthy treat. If your dog quiets down, the person outside can leave.
- If, however, the barking continues, you need to distract your pet with a noise. Once you get your pet’s attention, say “quiet” and offer a treat.
Practice these steps daily until your dog associates the “quiet” command with not barking, receiving a treat, and the person outside leaving.
Note: As you train your dog using the train, treat, repeat methodology, over time you should increase the time your pet must be quiet to earn the treat. You can gradually replace treats with praise, or mix up rewards between food and praise. Go back to early steps if necessary.
Although the above tips may reduce your pet’s aggressive reaction to the mailman, don’t expect your dog to run off into the sunset with your postal carrier. Behavior modification doesn’t occur immediately, and requires patience on your part. Be sure to discuss any concerns about your dog’s behavior with your veterinarian, or an animal behaviorist.