With less than a month to go until Christmas, many deliveries from online stores will be making their way to your house, ready to be wrapped up and stashed under the tree. More deliveries mean more visits from the postman, and Royal Mail state that 7 post men and women are attacked by dogs every day in the UK. Even if your dog is usually completely friendly and affectionate towards visitors and other people, dogs are territorial by nature and instinctively learn to guard their home from intruders.
Here are a few reasons why this happens:
When guests arrive at your home, they’re greeted by you and let into the house where they’ll usually greet and make a fuss of your dog. However when the postman arrives at your property, he approaches the front door quickly, placing items through the letterbox suddenly and often with a loud noise. To dogs, this can seem intrusive and threatening as your dog doesn’t have the chance to engage or interact with the postman as he’s only there for a brief time.
Different postal workers and delivery companies work on different schedules, meaning that your dog doesn’t have the chance to get used to a specific person who delivers the post. This unpredictability of visitors can be unsettling to a nervous or territorial dog and cause them to treat the visitor as an intruder.
Fulfilling their guard dog duty
If your dog reacts instinctively to their territorial nature by barking, growling or lunging at the letterbox, this behaviour is usually reinforced and rewarded as once the postman has delivered his post, he leaves the property. To a dog, this appears as a highly effective response that guards the family from a perceived threat as their protective behaviour has been successful and has prevented the ‘intruder’ from coming into the house. This will feel highly rewarding as they will feel relieved once the ‘intruder’ has left, but this can form a habit due to the frequency of the arrival of post and deliveries.
What can I do?
Standard threat displays like barking, growling and lunging at the letterbox can escalate to dogs trying to bite the postman’s fingers through the letterbox, or even attacking the postman if they come face to face on the property. It’s important to keep postal workers safe and reduce the opportunity for any nasty encounters.
Divert their attention to limit the exposure:
- When the postman arrives, limit your dog’s access to the door/gate. It’s often best to make sure your dog is in another room when you open the door so that they can’t run past you.
- If you can anticipate a delivery time, it might be worth distracting your dog with a treat, some food or a toy around the back of the house or as far away from the front door as possible so that they don’t notice the postman arriving.
- Diverting their attention and rewarding calm, positive behaviour can take a lot of work, but can help to resolve the problem in the long run.
If you’ve got a cooperative postman:
If your postman is cooperative, you may be able organise their arrival so that he can be introduced your dog. Note: this will probably run more smoothly if the postman is accompanied with treats and affection.
If the behaviour can’t be resolved, fitting an extra mailbox on the edge of your property where your dog won’t see the postman arriving will keep your postman safe and your dog happy.
With dogs and their natural dislike for the postman and cats too, Postman Pat and his black and white cat wouldn’t stand a chance, would they?