Recently, a noise outside my front door set my dog, Bailey, to barking.
I looked out the peep hole and saw no one. When IÂ opened the door, though, there was a package on the welcome mat.
âOh,â I said aloud, âit was the postman.â
In a split second, Bailey was out the door and racing down the street to where the carrier had stopped to deliver a package to a neighbor. He was soon snarling and trying to get a good grip on the postmanâs ankle.
I was mortified. And horrified.
After collecting my dog and apologizing profusely, I started to wonder about what I’d just witnessed. Bailey had been fine until I spoke the word âpostman.â To test it, I sat him down and repeated a list of random words: bread, birds, toys, laundry, postman. Hearing that final word, he started barking again and ran to the door, ready to tear the mail carrier to pieces.
What was it about the postman that riled Bailey up? The postman has certainly never done anything to my dog. In fact, our mail is delivered to a collection of boxes two blocks from our front door, so a carrier stopping by is rare.
So I did some research and asked some questions. As it turns out, dogsâ hatred of mail carriers is not cliche, as witnessed by the thousands of attacks on carriers every year. Dogs genuinely have a thing about postal workers.
The prevailing theory has to do with ancient dogs that lived in the wild. Whenever an intruder wandered into their territory, it was seldom for a friendly visit. If the dogs wanted to keep their food, their mates and their pups safe, they had to fight off the intruder.
Dogs became domesticated, but that streak of territorial defense remains strong. As such, mail carriers, UPS drivers and pizza delivery folks are cast in the role of intruder, coming up to the house and triggering the defense mechanism in dogs.
Now, hereâs the important part: These folks show up more or less regularly. The dog barks, and the intruder quickly leaves â so the dog claims it as a victory. He or she has driven away the bad person. Good job.
The one problem: The intruders always come back, requiring your dog to escalate its response. The dog adds snarls to his bark, and, if given the opportunity, might bite.
Dogs, being dogs, also begin to recognize the carriersâ vehicles and uniforms, so they can fixate on those elements. Bailey apparently has also learned the words âpostmanâ â just as he reacts to âcatâ and âvacuum cleaner,â two of his other archenemies.
Although we donât have mail delivered to our doorstep, Bailey has had experience with mail carriers who did come six days a week â which is probably where he has developed his hatred of them, although dogs donât actually hate. As Bailey sees it, he’s just defending his home and family.
Having your dog go primal on a mail carrier isn’t a good thing, and Bailey and I will now work on changing this behavior. If your dog also has a thing against the mail carrier, you can attempt to broker a peace by having your dog greet the carrier and attempt to make friends.
Have your dog on a leash and give your carrier some treats to give your dog. Donât attempt to do this in your front door or near it. Moving a little ways away from the door will help ease the sense that the dog needs to protect the home.
Dog bites are extremely serious and should be treated with the gravitas they deserve. If you canât stop your dogâs aggression toward delivery people, make sure the dog is not out without a leash.