Mailmen and dogs don't have the best of relationships. We've all seen the common TV trope of canines going crazy the second they even hear the mailman approaching.
If you have an excitable pup of your own, you may even experience this behavior first hand. The mailman and dog frenzy isn't just a cliche. It's a very real issue that both dog owners and professional postal workers have to deal with on a daily basis.
Thousands of mailmen and delivery service people are bitten by dogs every year, just for doing their job.
Unfortunately, many owners have learned to deal with this behavior instead of being proactive and putting a stop to it. When this ultimately leads to a bite, no one wins.
Not only does the postal worker have to deal with the pain of that aggressive action, but owners typically face lawsuits and dogs are forcibly euthanized.
Needless to say, it's important to help your dog overcome his or her strong feelings towards your mailman. While the behavior is common, there are many things you can do to put a stop to it. The first step is understanding why your dog hates the mailman in the first place.
Why Do Dogs Hate the Mailman?
The most common reason why dogs hate postal workers is that they're entering your property. Since the beginning of time, canines have protected their resources.
In the wild, wolves and wild dogs will show aggressive behavior any time a person or animal gets near something they believe is theirs. It could be a food source, their mate, or their children.
Whatever the case may be, barking is often the first line of defense. It's used as a tool to scare the intruder and avoid a physical confrontation.
While dogs have changed quite a bit through domestication, that needs to provide protection will always remain. Your dog views your home and property as their sacred territory that they need to defend at all costs.
They're not just protecting the property itself, but also making sure that the perceived threat doesn't harm you.
In an endearing quality that only cements your pup's loyalty. In all other cases, having that bit of extra security is great. Dogs are living, breathing security alarms that can alert you to any potential intruders. Many owners choose large and intimidating dogs for that purpose.
With that being said, your mailman isn't there to hurt you. They're just doing their job. While you may know this, your dog doesn't.
If you don't attempt to show your pup that the mailman is a good guy, you may notice that your dog's attitude towards them gets worse and worse as time goes on. This is because of the frequency of the postal workers so-called "intrusions."
Put yourself in your dog's shoes for a second and think about how your mailman's daily visits look to them. They got all worked up to scare off this big scary threat. When they eventually left and moved on to the neighbor's house, your dog probably felt very relieved and accomplished.
In their mind, they were successful at getting rid of the problem. Then, the very next day, that scary invader comes back!
Dogs are smart creatures. They are very capable of remembering faces and recognizing uniforms. Seeing that familiar person sends them over the edge yet again. However, this time, they want to make sure that your mailman never comes back again. So, what do they do?
They crank up the intensity of their barking and may start to introduce other signs of aggression. This could include lunging, bearing their teeth, and nipping. Eventually, they may go for a full bite.
That increased aggression is a way for them to hopefully scare your mailman away once and for all. Of course, as you know, it won't work and your dog will see the postal worker again the very next day. The frequency of your mailman's visit only adds fuel to the fire and makes your dog hate them even more.
The longer your dog can answer to those the daily visits, the more difficult it will be to show them that everything is alright. You see, dogs are inadvertently rewarded each and every time they start barking at your mailman.
They don't understand what your postal worker's delivery schedule is or what their purpose of coming to your home is. While we know that a mailman's visit is only meant to last a few minutes, dogs don't.
When they get back in their vehicle to drive away or walk to the next house, your dog thinks that they were successful in frightening them away.
You don't even have to say a word about the incident for your dog to think that they did a good job.
Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, even if it's not coming directly from you. This can turn a casual incident into an ongoing issue.
Canines also experience a flood of emotions when they start barking at intruders. Chemicals like adrenaline and noradrenaline are released whenever they experience fear or excitement. These chemical changes in their brain are rewarding all on their own.
It's something that breaks up the monotony of their day and makes them feel good. As a result, the things they feel when they start barking at your mailman become addictive. They'll start to do it regularly because they associate the behavior with positive emotions.
Before you know it, your dog won't just be barking at the mailman. They'll eventually start learning that they can reap the same emotional rewards with other stimulants. For example, your pup may begin to recognize the signs that a postal worker is coming.
They may learn the distinct sound of their vehicle or realize that they always visit at the same time every day.
When this happens, your dog will begin the bark-fest before the mailman can even get into your yard.
If you have multiple mail carriers, they may learn to associate those feelings with uniforms or the fact that they're carrying something.
Ultimately, the same habits will start to apply to every visitor. Food delivery workers, plumbers, and even your trusted guests will start to experience the wrath of your dog. At this point, you need to seriously consider some behavioral training before things start getting out of hand.
The Basics of Barking
Not all dogs are the same. Every dog takes a unique approach to things that they experience in the world. Now that you understand why your dog hates the mailman so much, we need to delve a bit deeper into why dogs bark.
Barking is the simplest form of communication for canines. While all barks may sound the same to us, there are many reasons why your dog may be doing it.
There are a few different types of barking. Understanding the differences can help you tremendously during the training process.
This type of barking is most commonly associated with intruders, such as your mailman. Essentially, your dog is alerting you to a possible threat. As we mentioned earlier, dogs do this to keep their territory protected.
It's an innate behavior that's impossible to get rid of completely. However, you can help to control it by showing your dog that the behavior is unacceptable.
The easiest way to tackle alert barking is to simply introduce a new command to their training regime. Something as easy as "quiet," is more than enough.
Every time your dog starts barking because of the mailman or a passerby, show them a treat and give your command. The treat will provide enough of a distraction to get them to stop barking. Eventually, they'll learn that they can get a reward if they stay quiet.
There may be a bit of fear lurking behind your dog's aggressive behavior. Many dogs fear the unknown. They don't know who your mailman is or what they want, so they become fearful and lash out to protect themselves.
Addressing this issue can be a bit tough. But, if you're diligent, it can make a world of difference in how your pup reacts to new things. You'll need to do some counter conditioning.
Basically, you want to reward you with treats each time they experience the offending stimuli. In this case, that would be when your mailman visits. Give them a treat as a sign that everything is alright. Speak to them in a soothing voice.
If possible, try to get your mailman to meet your dog personally. Sometimes, all it takes is a friendly introduction to smooth things over.
Sometimes, dogs just bark because they want something. Your pup may bark at you because they're hungry or expect some kind of reaction.
This kind of behavior can quickly get out of control, so it's important that you take action as soon as you realize that this is becoming an issue.
The only way to stop it is to avoid giving your dog the thing they crave. When they start barking at you, ignore them. This shows that the behavior doesn't work on you.
If you suspect this is why your dog is barking at your mailman, keep your dog away from them. Place them in a separate room whenever the mail arrives.
Barking Out of Boredom
If your dog spends much of his or her day lounging around inside the home, your mailman's daily visit is a nice change of pace. It's not uncommon for dogs to react to this new person in some way or another.
If they don't bark, they may start to whine loudly in hopes that the mailman will come inside and play with them.
Dogs get just as bored with their daily routine as you do. The only way to stop this kind of barking is to improve your dog's quality of life. Give them some ways to stay entertained.
You can try going on walks more frequently. Regular exercise is the best way to keep the boredom at bay. Alternatively, there are many mental stimulation toys on the market that can keep your dog entertained for hours on end.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Dog's Relationship With the Mailman
In addition to some of the tips in the previous section, there are some ways you can prevent your dog from barking. The goal is to improve your pup's relationship with your daily visitors. Doing so will make your dog view the mailman as a positive person instead of someone they need to bark at.
You should start introducing your dog to your mailman as soon as possible. If you know your postal worker pretty well, take a few minutes to introduce the two personally. Some reserved physical contact on your mailman's part can make a huge difference.
You can also place a treat in your mailbox every day so that your mailman has something they can reward your dog with each time they visit. This is a surefire way to make your pup love them.
Alternatively, you can do the rewarding yourself. Keep a short leash by the door. Whenever you hear your mailman approaching, put the leash on and tell your dog to sit down. As your mailman hands over the mail, give your pup a treat to show them that all is well.
Creating a positive connection between your dog and the mailman can make a significant difference in you and your dog's daily life. Not only does it put a stop to excessive barking and potentially aggressive behavior, but your dog will learn important skills on how to deal with the unknown.
Socialization is a very important part of dog ownership. Oftentimes, the hatred that's directed towards postal workers and delivery men is a result of poor socialization skills.
Introduce your dog to as many people as possible when they're a puppy. They'll learn to love new humans and provide welcoming affection that mailmen will appreciate.