Even if your dog is usually very accepting of visitors and is well trained and well socialised, one common pinch point for dog owners is the appearance of the postman (or woman) every day at your door! Many dogs are perfectly fine with the approach of the postman, and some dogs even welcome the presence of this regular visitor, who may come with a kind word for them or a scratch behind the ears.
However, it is not at all uncommon for the postman to inadvertently become your dog’s perceived arch-nemesis, and their daily visits can potentially send your dog into a tizzy of barking, aggression and potential threat behaviour. Obviously this is both inappropriate and also possibly dangerous, and it is your job and responsibility as a dog owner to ensure that your postman can deliver your mail safely, and without feeling threatened.
The Royal Mail states that the single greatest hazard to the health and wellness of their delivery staff is dog bites, with recorded figures identifying an average of well over 2,000 attacks by dogs on postal staff on an annual basis. This proves a real dilemma for the dog owner whose dog hates the postman, as delivery staff have a legal right to be able to approach your door safely and without being harmed or threatened, and the Royal Mail can legally refuse to deliver your mail if they have cause for concern over the health of their staff.
There is also the accompanying legal liability if your dog bites the postman or any other person on your property, and yet, training your dog to accept the presence of the postman and often, go against many millennia of learned experience of guarding and territory protection can be a challenge.
If your dog is apt to threaten or attack your postman, you must take immediate steps to keep your postman safe, such as keeping your dog inside and placing a guard box over your letterbox to collect your post while protecting your postman’s hands!
However, in the longer term, it is of course important to address the causes of canine aggression towards your postie, and in order to do this, you must find out what is pressing your dog’s buttons and making them react badly to the postman in the first place.
Read on to learn more about the four main reasons behind why your dog goes wild at the sight of the postman.
The first and most obvious reason behind why your dog might kick off at the sight or signs that the postman is coming is simple; the postman encroaches onto your dog’s territory, coming right up your path or through your garden, and right to the door. Not only do they come to the door like many other visitors, but they then post mail through the door into the house, something that might send your dog into a spin! Added to this, postmen tend to visit briefly, and will not generally hang around for long enough for your dog to get to know them and become familiar with them, leading to your dog viewing the postman as an intruder on your land who actually has the audacity to put something through the door!
Dog bites to postmen commonly occur through the letterbox as well as when the dog is physically face to face with the postman, so bear this in mind when it comes to postman-proofing your dog’s space!
The postman may not call every day, but they certainly return often enough for the dog’s mind to view this as added insult to injury; in your dog’s mind, when the postie leaves, your dog has seen them off successfully, but then the postie returns the next day! This can compound the problem and lead to a learned behaviour in your dog of waiting for the cues that indicate the mail is coming, getting into a guarding stance, and then “seeing off” the postman, so that the whole process takes on a routine.
To your dog, every day they are faced by the potential intruder, and every day they successfully send them away, so they must remain vigilant in order to achieve this!
Not every mail delivery round will have a regular postman serving it, and you might find that over the course of the week, you will see several different postmen delivering your mail. Add to this sick absence, holidays and days off, and you might not be able to pick your regular postman out of a line-up! This can pose a perceived threat to some dogs, who might given time accept the presence of one sole delivery postman, but the fact that they are often interchangeable, means that your dog may fail to make those basic connections.
Dogs are animals that thrive on routine, and once they have got into a set pattern of responding to the sound of the doorbell or the post coming through the door, are apt to repeat this process regularly and even begin to predict it. If your post comes at different times each day or if your dog is not always in when the mail comes, this may not occur, but otherwise, the process of defending your land against the postie and the postie leaving can become a regular part of your dog’s routine.
Try to divert them from actively looking out for the postie and vary their routine so that their reactions do not take on the form of learned behaviours, removing the reward process that comes with aggression towards the postman.
As the onus to keep the postman safe lies with you and you are unlikely to be able to convince your delivery staff to work with you in their free time to get your dog used to them, dealing with this type of aggression can be a challenge, but with good training, behaviour modification and taking a pro-active approach to ensuring that your postman is kept safe, it is entirely achievable!