The stories are always similar: a mail carrier is doing their dog when suddenly a residential neighborhood dog escapes through the gate. Many times, this scenario can prove to be physically and emotionally traumatic for all those involved.
The United States Postal Service statistics show that nearly 6,000 mail carriers are attacked by dogs each year. UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services face the same issues. A driver shows up at the door to make a delivery and is met by a territorial dog. It’s a problem that is both growing and serious – and completely preventable.
Why does my dog freak out when the mail arrives?
Many dog owners explain bad behavior toward mail carriers or delivery drivers by saying the dog is reacting on some territorial level or the disruption in routine. There are many valid reasons your dog can’t calm down at the sight of a mail carrier:
Is it the uniform?
Many owners swear that their dog hates uniforms. However, dogs rarely pay attention to what people wear. Hats and sunglasses can sometimes cause problems because they get in the way of expressive communication. But other items of wear usually don’t bother dogs unless the dog has been treated badly by a person wearing the same clothes.
Unusual Noises And Movement
Other dog owners claim their dogs hate delivery drivers because of the sound of their truck or when doors are being slammed. Some dogs hate the sound of the doorbell or seeing boxes being left at the front door. It is the upset in routine and the unpredictability of the carrier’s visits that can wear on a dog’s mind. If your dog is anything like mine, they are weary that the mail carrier is walking around the neighborhood like they own the place…bringing us to our next point.
Protecting Their Territory – and Failing!
From your pup’s perspective, mail carriers and delivery workers are all trespassing on their property. Your home is your dog’s home. Many dogs, especially territorial breeds, have it in their hardware to bark or protect what they have (aka you and your home) by barking or alerting in any way they can. Whether it is aggression or fear-based can differ depending on the individual animal.
Most frustrating, it isn’t working! The mail carriers and random deliveries continue to happen despite all your dog’s hard work to keep them away. Unfortunately, this can lead to your dog “stepping up their game” and moving past just barking. It is important to let your dog know that you run the house and decide who can come in versus who you want to keep out.
It Is Now the Norm
All of these could have some impact on canine behavior, but the plain and simple reason why so many dogs dislike the mail carrier or delivery driver is because this is a battle that occurs every day that the dog can win – at least until the next day. Look at this from the dog’s point of view. He’s at home where life is calm, quiet and secure. He’s in his territory. Then the mail carrier or delivery driver comes to the door, drops something through the slot, or rings the bell and delivers a box. The dog barks ferociously and the mail carrier or delivery driver leaves.
In the dog’s mind, his barking and defense of his home is what has caused the trespasser to leave. He has won again.
How to Manage the Situation
Dogs repeat actions that are rewarding to them and this one is a biggie. When your dog barks ferociously at the mail carrier, his body reacts by producing hormones and other chemicals to combat this stress. When the mail carrier leaves and your dog “wins” the daily battle, he’s on a mental and physical high. This guarantees he’s going to do it again whenever the mail carrier approaches your house. Counteracting this routine is tough.
Have The Mail Carrier Bribe Your Dog
Many experts recommend giving the mail carrier or delivery driver a box of dog treats and asking them to give your dog a treat every time they come to the house. I’ve recommended this, too, depending on the dog and how ferociously he tries to defend his house and chase off the intruder. Sometimes it works.
Praise A Good Response, Distract from The Bad
Other recommendations have included praising the dog for being quiet, distracting the dog, and redirecting his attention to you when someone comes to the house. For example, if you teach the dog to come find you when someone comes to the house, this can change his focus from the delivery person to you. You can also check out calming products for your dog. This is tough to train though, unless you begin teaching it when the dog is a puppy. Even then, unfortunately, the excitement most dogs have for chasing off the potential intruder tends to override training.
Keep Your House and Lawn Secure
The best recommendation to keep mail carriers, delivery people, and your dog safe is to simply practice safety. Keep doors closed (and locked if needed), keep gates locked, and the dog securely confined when mail carriers are due and deliveries expected. Make sure your fence is safe and secure and check it often for any weaknesses. If your dog has jumped through a screen, a window or a door, keep him in another room.
Professional Training Help
Training and behavior modification can sometimes alleviate some of the ferociousness of those dogs who are focused on mail carriers and delivery drivers. If your dog’s reactions are such that you are really worried, call a professional trainer or behaviorist for help. He or she can also take a look at your house and yard and make some safety recommendations.