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Home > Pet News and Articles > Mans Best Friend - Mail Carrier's Worst Nightmare!

Mans Best Friend - Mail Carrier's Worst Nightmare!
Article By: Glenn Redmond

Throughout my career, I have received many calls each year about otherwise friendly dogs that have bitten the mail carrier. The shocked owners are overwhelmed with questions trying to grasp the reality that their dog is capable of such action, especially when there has been no indication of such behaviour previously.

The reoccurring response from the dog's owner is -- "He's never done anything like this before." So, why is it that big and small dogs alike seem to have an inherent dislike for the mail carrier?

Learned behavior

To answer this question we must first explore some basic principles in the training of protection dogs. In teaching a dog to protect, a threat is posed. This threat could be an aggressive stance, a long stare, or walking directly towards the dog. Once the dog barks, the person offering the threat will reward the dog by backing up or running away.

Over time, this will bring confidence to the dog by revealing the power of their bark. This is pretty much the same process that occurs every day when the mail carrier stops by our home. The mail carrier walks on the property, viewed by the dog through a window or fence. The dog barks as the mail is delivered and the mail carrier then walks off the property.

The dog believes that it has made "the intruder" leave by barking. Each day as the mail is delivered, the dog builds in confidence at their awesome home protection abilities. The dog has now been conditioned to react to a certain threat - in this case, an intruder in the form of our mail carrier.

The next step of teaching dog protection is to teach control, or the "off" switch. As this step has not been completed, this inadvertent protection training will leave us with a dog without any balance in his newfound power.

One day a gate is left partially unlatched, a collar breaks, or the dog is outside with its owners - creating free access for the dog to finally confront this recurring threat, the mail carrier.

It is important to realize that most of this unintentional protection training happens while the owners are at work, making it easy to understand why the owners are so dumbfounded when an incident with the mail carrier arises.

"But he is so friendly with everyone that comes to the house." The difference of someone else coming to the house is that the person usually comes in, giving the dog the opportunity to meet and greet, developing a friend rather than an enemy.

Prevention is key

Training your dog to accept the presence of the mail carrier is just as important as any other training process.

It is important to set a time to introduce your dog to the mail carrier, thus attempting a positive association rather than leaving it up to your dog to decide the status of this person that approaches your door almost every day.

A dog owner should also be aware of sight lines the dog has to the mail drop area. By preventing visual access to the mailbox, your dog does not have the opportunity to bark frantically when they see the mail carrier, thus negating the possibility of the confidence building that happens each time.

Consequences of Biting

Canada Post will make every effort to resolve the situation and work with you towards a solution. However, if the safety of the mail carrier continues to be an issue, it may mean the end of mail delivery to your home.

Your municipality may get involved, imposing restrictions on your dog while he or she is on your property, as well as in public. You may be responsible for any medical expenses incurred. You may incur legal costs, too, depending on the seriousness of the damage and the inability of the mail carrier to perform his/her duties.

While Canada Post has taken great efforts to train their staff on how to avoid the risk of dog bites, this is only part of the solution. It is up to all dog owners to understand the dynamics that are in play and to do our part, not only for the safety of our mail carriers, but for the health and well-being of our dogs.

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