Does your Fido turn into Cujo whenever the mailman arrives? Are you beginning to not receive some of your mail and suspect that it's due to the man or woman being afraid of your pooch? Many owners have this problem, but why do dogs bark at the mailman and often attempt to attack these people? Here's why that happens and some tips on how to stop your dog's behavior.
It's a known fact, popularized in movies and cartoons, that many dogs act crazy around a mailman. A survey from the U.S. Postal Service showed that at least 500 mailmen out of over 6,000 respondents became victims of a dog attack in 2016. The government agency has also proactively made its staff undergo dog safety seminars to know how to handle a potentially dangerous situation.
But why do dogs bark at the mailman, and what makes our otherwise friendly canine companions hate the man who delivers your bills and letters so much? Here are a few possible reasons below.
Protecting the Territory
From where the dog sits, the mailman or the mailwoman, as well as the utility people and delivery guys and gals from UPS or FedEx, are the trespassers and intruders on their turf. It is the dog’s natural instinct to protect its territory, which has its food and pack (family).
Looking back the history of dogs (and wolves), this behavior dates back to the ancient times when canines and their ancestors roamed in the wild in an uncivilized world. Their territorial nature ensures the safety of their caves. Domestication further boosted their protective nature, as dogs worked alongside villagers. They would bark to alert their masters when they sense a threat or danger.
Dogs turn aggressive towards the mailman because he's a stranger. Even if the person keeps coming back to deliver the mail to you, the dog doesn't really see the mailman's established relationship with you since the person delivering your letters and other goods doesn't stick around for much longer. The mailman is not like a friend, who's also a stranger to your dog, whom you welcome into your home during a short visit.
Furthermore, from the dog's perspective, the reason why do dogs bark at the mailman the way you pooch sees is that his barking makes the mailman leave your home immediately, so it's conditioning. This gives the dog a sense that he has successfully protected you from the stranger.
Speaking of conditioning, a cycle is created each time the dog barks at the mailman and the mailman leaves. It reinforces the behavior in dogs, which are creatures of habit.
It also elicits a type of hormone that makes the behavior addicting in dogs, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology. So as this cycle is repeated, you might notice that the dog starts barking minutes before the mailman actually arrives because the animal has learned to notice the anticipatory cues as well.
Making Friends with the Mailman
Responsible owners, however, teach their pet dogs to temper down the behavior of barking and aggression, as it could trigger a dangerous situation with someone getting seriously hurt. Now that you know why do dogs bark at the mailman, it's best to have your dogs trained early on. Socialize them and show how to behave around other people, regardless if it's your friend or a stranger.
If you haven’t had the chance to train your dog to socialize with different people as a puppy, you can still teach your pet to learn to like the mailman through positive association in a few simple steps that you need to keep repeating.
Move your dog away from the window or door so he won’t see much of the mailman approaching and become too reactive. If your pet remains calm or listens to your command to “sit” or “stay,” then reward the animal with treats or dog cookies whenever the mailman is there. Keep doing this positive reinforcement until you see a change in the dog’s behavior.
It might also help to ask the people who make deliveries to your home to give your dog a cookie or a doggie treat the next time they are back. Place the treat inside the mailbox and let your mailman know about it so he can hand it to the dog. In due time, your dog will start wagging his tail whenever the mailman approaches.
Lastly, never let your dog roam free on the yard if he hasn’t learned to listen to your cues when it comes to the mailman. Be patient and be consistent with your training, especially with older dogs.
Knowing and understanding why do dogs bark at the mail and how their mind works from the perspective of protection and conditioning can help owners to fix this issue much quicker and more effectively.
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