We’ve all seen it in cartoons and movies: a person (typically a “bad guy”) wanders too far into a dog’s territory. The dog, protective of its jurisdiction, leaps forward and sinks its teeth into the person’s backside. Before you know it, the intruder runs for the hills with tears in his eyes and a chunk of his pants torn off. Funny as this scenario is, dog attacks are a fear that many US Postal Service workers deal with on a daily basis. In fact, an average of 6,000 mailmen each year report being attacked by a dog! Let’s take a look at the psychology behind why dogs hate the mailman…and what we can do to help keep our letter carriers safe.
Dogs Are Territorial
This one is fairly obvious. Everyone on earth knows that dogs are protective of their own territory. When the mailman approaches a residence (i.e. a dog’s personal kingdom), the dog sees it as an invasion of their space. Dogs don’t take kindly to anything encroaching on their turf, and the mailman is no exception. As a result, barking ensues…and sometimes, barks escalate into bites.
Mailmen Don’t Stop Coming Around
Not only do dogs see mailmen as invading their space, but the mailmen keep coming around every day! From a dog’s point of view, it’s easy to understand why this daily routine irritates them. Barking at the mailman is a dog’s way of saying, “Stay away!”—and the mailmen just won’t stop! In a dog’s mind, the mailman has been ignoring its threats all along. Therefore, a dog is more likely to attack the longer the mailman “ignores” their warnings, so to speak.
Barking at the Mailman Becomes a Habit
Barking is reinforcing behavior for dogs, and since your letter carrier routinely comes by your residence, barking at the mailman becomes a habit. When you take into account a dog’s territorial nature and how often your letter carrier comes by, it’s easy to see why this behavior becomes reflexive. Eventually, even something as harmless as seeing your letter carrier and hearing his or her voice is enough to set your dog over the edge.
What You Can Do to Help Keep Your Letter Carrier Safe
If you own a dog, you have a responsibility to help keep your letter carrier safe from harm. The best way to ensure safety is to place your dog in a separate room and close the door before you open the front door to pick up your package or mail. Some dogs can burst through screen doors or even plate glass windows to attack unwanted visitors! So, make sure to keep your dog secured when the mailman arrives.
Keep in mind that the United States Postal Service places their employees’ safety as a top priority. If your letter carrier feels threatened by your dog (or any animal, for that matter), USPS reserves the right to ask you to pick up your mail at your local Post Office.
If you’d like more info on how to prevent dog attacks on your letter carrier, check out USPS’ tips on Dog Bite Awareness.