If you’ve ever had a dog or been at friend who has a dog’s house, there’s a 99.98% chance you’ve noticed that dogs go CR-AYYYYY-Z when the mailman drops by. It’s a long-fabled legend, tail as old as time (if you will) that man’s best friend’s worst enemy is your friendly local mail delivery person. Training and behavior correction can’t seem to stand up to this particular battle. While we’ve come to accept this epic rivalry as fact, only a handful of us may have any clue as to why this is…or IF Sparky (and all his canine compatriots) really does have an inherited beef with mail service.
We rely on our pets to guard us, to an extent. While you may not have adopted with the explicit purpose of gaining your own snuggler/guard-dog extraordinaire, it does come with the territory …as in your furry friend is territorial. You’re fairly certain your regular mail man or woman is totally fine, problem is Sparky just isn’t. Your house is his empire and what’s more, he’s learned that his bark scares many a potential bite AND he’s accepted the unassigned task of protecting you at all costs, a job he will not take lightly. No matter how many times your mail person has dropped by, Sparky still hasn’t granted access.
Beyond territory defense, there may be another reason your doggo goes wild for the mail. Not only does your post pose a potential threat, its dropped off in a flurry of mishmashed foreign smells. Scents from down the street—just outside of your canine’s domain—to those from across the globe. Chances are your dog hasn’t had the pleasure of experiencing the market in Morocco, the plaza in Peru, or anywhere in between. Every day it’s a new batch of smells, smells, smells. Enough to make any good pooch go insane.
Great, we’ve now got a better handle on the afternoon alarm. But is that all? Is there nothing we can do? Let’s break it down. There’s no way to mask the enticing, indiscernible mash of odors accompanying every fresh mail bag…but that territorial access Sparky won’t budge on granting your friendly mail person? That might be the area where you can intervene with a little bit of training.
Just as dogs need to be properly socialized to other dogs as well as humans, they need to be socialized to your regular USPS fellow. Sparky needs to know that the person who shows up regardless of rain or snow, literally like clockwork, is not a crazy, stalker-ish villain, but rather an integral part of empire…erm household…operations. Be friendly with your neighborhood post master with Sparky there, that way he can see his intruder is your friend. Better yet, introduce the two in a calm environment and manner (if your mailman is willing); let your pooch get a first-hand sniff so the regular visitor becomes less alarming.
If socializing your dog to the mailman is a bit of a stretch or out of the question, you don’t have a standard mail person, or there’s lots of delivery services dropping by and driving your dog nuts, don’t fret. Another trick is to distract Sparky with a treat, toys, and/or play in a specific spot in your home at your mail drop off time. Do this with any so-called intruder until it’s more or less routine for him to go to that place at mail o’clock. Eventually, Sparky will be well trained to this method and you’ll be able to cue him to that spot and remain calm and quiet without the distraction.
Whatever option you decide, don’t let your afternoons become a raging (and potentially embarrassing) headache; your pooch and the postal man don’t have to be morbid enemies! For more tips on socializing your pooch and helping him trust non-you humans, check out How to Socialize Dogs and Children and Curbing Enthusiasm.
Written by Alexandria Dienstbier