The relationship between dogs and postmen is complex. As a municipality tv tropeit is often played for laughs, but for the approximately 5,400 postal workers who were attacked by dogs in the United States in 2021 alone, it is a serious occupational hazard.
Of course, just because your dog barks at the mail delivery doesn’t mean he’s going to attack, but it’s annoying and can be annoying for you, your neighbors and your postman.
Here’s what to know about how to get your dog to quit this part of his daily routine, and why he’s so pissed off about mail and package delivery in the first place.
Why do dogs bark at the postman?
Even if your dog is not of a breed known to be watchdog or watchdog, they are probably still territorial and see it as their duty to protect their home and the people in it. And according to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), dogs learn early on that barking at someone they consider an intruder tends to make that person leave.
Enter: Letter carriers and other people making deliveries. They come to your property, usually right to your door, drop off mail or a package, and then leave immediately.
If your dog starts barking as soon as the delivery person arrives (or, in some cases, before, if he is able to identify the sound of brakes from a USPS or FedEx truck, for example), they’ll think their fierce barking did the trick, causing the postman to flee their property– and that they have once again succeeded in defending their home and their family.
But what is particularly delicate in this situation is that the postman probably comes to your house six days a week, which, like the American Kennel Club (AKC) points out, “provides the perfect training stimulus to reinforce this behavior.”
How to stop your dog from barking at the postman
After having systematically get rid of the postman with their barkyour dog is probably quite happy with his ability to chase away this persistent intruder, which unfortunately makes him hard to stop.
Moreover, as the MSPCA Notesthis is a type of “alarm bark”, which is a natural behavior, and cannot be completely eliminated. However, it can be controlled. Here are some strategies you can try, courtesy of canine experts and animal behaviorists:
Have a “silent” command
The MSPCA recommends teach your dog a “quiet” command. To do this, have someone pass in front of your house or start approaching your house, trigger your dog to bark. After the dog has barked three or four times, show him a really special treat (like chicken, cheese, or another of his favorite foods). When he stops barking for the treat, say “quiet”, then give them the treat.
Repeat this exercise until you’ve given your dog the “quiet” command and he’s stopped barking about a dozen times. Once your dog has mastered calm with the treat, try using the command without showing him the treat and see if he stops barking. If they do, give it, a treat as a reward.
According Dr. Mary Burchcertified animal behaviorist and director of AKC Family Dog, the key here is to convince your dog that the reward he gets for not responding is more desirable than the satisfaction of barking at their nemesis.
Put them to work
You can also try to give your dog a “job” to occupy them during daily mail delivery, depending on AKC Experts. For example, some people train their dogs to grab a toy and go to another room when a postman approaches.
Of course, for some dogs, barking at delivery people is their top priority at this time, so they may not be interested in toys or fake jobs if they believe they have a real work to do.
A variation of the “silent” command strategy, this one involves having someone your dog doesn’t recognize, or a friend of yours that he doesn’t particularly care about, assume the role of postman– show up at your door and (if applicable) shake your mailbox.
Every time the fake postman comes to the door, ask your dog to sit down quietly for a treat. But here’s the difference: this time, ask the replacement postman to stay at the door until the dog calms down. The idea is to convince your dog that his barking is no longer an effective way to ward off the intruder from his property and that it is not worth trying again in the future.
Some canine behaviorists recommend Make sure your dog gets enough exercise before the postman arrives, enough that he’s too tired to get up and bark when he shows up at the door. But not everyone has a garden or is able to take their dog for a long walk in the afternoon, so it’s not an option for everyone, but it’s worth it if you can swing it.
If you happen to be home when the postman arrives, try ignoring your dog and his barking, rather than rewarding him for your attention. Likewise, don’t yell at your dog to stop barking: you can see it as a negative response to his behavior and scold him.but there is a good chance that they see it as a concern (and/or that they think that you are playing with them)and therefore, a reward, according to the AKC.