If you have a dog that goes crazy every time you get a delivery, you might wonder what makes them so mad. It seems that all dogs have a personal problem with the mailman, and any packages you want to be delivered come with a side of barking. So why do dogs hate the mailman so much? The answer is that dogs don’t hate mail carriers but protect their family from potential threats.
To understand why the myth that dogs hate the mailman is so pervasive, we first must look at the situation from a dog’s perspective. If your dog is happily relaxing, they probably feel safe and secure in their home. They have their family around them, they are calm, and they know they’ll be able to hear and smell anything that wants to disturb them.
Then, the mailman approaches; they’re wearing a strange uniform and walking into your dog’s yard. Not only does this mysterious person walk across the yard, but they begin approaching the house where their beloved family is. This approach can launch protective dogs into action, as they feel they must defend their owners and territory from this threat. Barking, charging, and generally making themselves look and sound big and scary is an evolutionary tactic used to threaten and chase off potential aggressors.
The myth that dogs hate the mailman developed because seemingly sweet and loving dogs suddenly go crazy when postal workers approach. It’s not that they hate them; they’re afraid or trying to protect their families and homes.1
Fear or Territorial Aggression
Barking at the mailman is one thing, but some dogs take this to the next level. If your dog seems to desperately try to get out of the door and attack the postal worker, it may be experiencing fear or territorial aggression.2 Dogs that have been through trauma or were not well-socialized as puppies can develop a potent fear of unfamiliar situations.
When faced with a threat, such as the approach of the mailman, they react with fear or anxiety and do all they can to make this fear disappear. Defensive or offensive reactions can be due to fear, and fear-based behavior is the most common type of aggression in dogs.
Territorial aggression is similar and most likely has an element of fear or anxiety, but it is based on defending their territory from anyone encroaching on it. Territorial aggression can tie in closely with protective behavior, but they both appear the same to the mailman!
How Can I Help My Dog Overcome Their Dislike of the Mailman?
Stopping your dog from reacting to the mailman will take some work. Ideally, any aggressive behavior can be prevented by socializing young dogs well and introducing them to many people and situations while teaching them how to behave. However, this process can be implemented for older dogs; it’s just a bit harder.
Dogs must be taught how you’d like them to behave when the mail carrier approaches the home.3 First, ensure your doors are closed so your dog cannot attack the postal worker. Next, when the mailman comes, and your dog begins to bark, tell them to sit or lie down. Have a treat on hand, and once they perform the action, reward them immediately. Your dog will likely get up and begin to bark again, so repeat the action and only reward them when they sit or lie down.
Next, you want them to remain calm the entire time when the postal worker comes; the aim is to get your dog to sit and stay without barking. This will take time, and you’ll still have to keep the postal worker safe by ensuring your dog does not escape in the meantime, and it may take weeks and several treats to convince your dog to stay relaxed during the process.
How Many Postal Workers Are Hurt by Dogs in the US?
According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), there were more than 5,400 dog attacks on postal workers in 2021.4 The three cities which had the highest numbers of bites from dogs by postal workers in 2021 were Cleveland, Houston, and Kansas City, which had 58, 54, and 48 attacks on postal workers, respectively.
These attacks can lead to severe or life-changing injuries, including puncture wounds, lacerations, and broken bones. In some cases, they can even be fatal. To help prevent these attacks, the USPS has launched a campaign called “National Dog Bite Awareness Week,” which runs from June 5th to June 11th each year. This year’s theme focuses on restraint and is called “The USPS Delivers for America — Deliver for Us by Restraining Your Dog.”
How Can I Protect My Mailman?
The first and most effective thing you can do to help protect your mailman is to keep your dog in another room without a view of the mailbox when your mail is due to arrive. The USPS recommends keeping dogs behind secure fences if they live outdoors and preventing children from running up to the postal worker to get mail. Some dogs may get angry if they see a child interacting with a stranger.
While these precautions can be used in conjunction with teaching your dog to be calm and non-fearful when it comes to the arrival of the post, keeping your dog under control will also benefit them. Remember that your dog doesn’t hate the mailman for being a mailman; they are afraid or protective of their family.
Dogs don’t hate the mailman. They are trying to defend their territory, protect their family, or are afraid of a potential threat. The best way to teach your dog not to be fearful is to show them how you want them to behave by keeping them calm and rewarding them when they are. If your dog is reactive, keeping them in a closed-off room or on a leash when the mail is delivered is essential. This method, combined with training and teaching them to be calm and sit or lie down when you answer the door to collect your mail, will help keep your dog relaxed and your mailman happy!
Featured Image Credit: WilleeCole Photography, Shutterstock