Mailmen and dogs aren’t a good mix. Not all dogs hate mailmen, but those that do seem to bear a real hardcore grudge. And when you think about it, it’s completely understandable from their perspective. I’m delighted to see the mailman in the morning, he drops off my fun packages and postcards after all. Dogs hate mailmen because all they see is a stranger bust up to the house, throw down a load of random objects, and pace off into the distance. They never stop to say hello, give them a treat, or offer pets. And when they bark, they are instantly rewarded with the mailman exiting the property sharpish. Leaving our dogs feeling like they’ve done a brilliant job seeing off the naughty intruder.
Why Do Dogs Hate Mailmen?
Look at it from your pup’s perspective. Dogs hate mailmen because at a random surprise part of the day, potentially while they are sleeping or having lunch, there is a knock or ring at the door. This makes them jump. The individual then either clonks a package on the doorstep or pushes something into the mailbox and makes their escape. At this point your dog has started barking, and so naturally assumes their fierce protection of your pad is the reason you’ve been left well alone.
Sometimes mailmen appear on the doorstep and you open the portal, to reveal not a man but a crazed balance of random shapes. Boxes, to you or I. That often make strange noises, or are accompanied by the growl of the mail truck.
The mailman is in a hurry, so even if your dog gets to see them close up, they’ve vanished as soon as they arrive. With no sign of a greeting, pet or well earned treat for your canine pal. How rude! It’s no wonder lots of dogs react with disdain to your daily deliveries.
Mailmen Are Surprise Arrivals
I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of surprises. And neither are some of our dogs. Admittedly I’ve had a few that were totally comfortable with the unexpected, but this isn’t the norm. Most dogs don’t like it when you make them jump, and the door going without any warning is surprising. Whether your pooch is a people person or a one man dog, it’s likely they aren’t best pleased when somebody rocks up unannounced.
Dogs with any issues over resource guarding, so not wanting to share food or toys, seem to feel these surprise visits even more keenly for obvious reasons.
Mailmen Accidentally Reinforce Barking Behaviors
Most dogs have some sort of view out the front of the house. They can see trucks arriving or people wandering up the drive from their window.
This unique position gives them a sense that they have control over the people that come and go outdoors. Someone arrives in the drive, your dog barks, they leave again. “Success” thinks your dog. When of course, their noise had literally no impact on the behavior of the mail carrier at all. They were always going to leave, but your dog thinks they had a causal impact on the human’s behavior. Each time your dog barks and the mailman leaves, their sense that they have achieved them leaving is increased. Therefore they are more likely to bark, and do so for longer and more enthusiastically each time.
This chain of barking doesn’t actually mean that your dog hates the mailman. But they don’t want them visiting, and they are now completely certain that they have the power to make them go away. Therefore on the few occasions you open the door to retrieve the package from their hand, your dog goes into full blown bark mode. Giving the appearance of a pup that actively despises the poor person in front of you.
Mailmen Carry Weird Shaped Objects
Many dogs are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. It’s the reason that the short socialization window is so important when puppies are a few weeks old. If your dog hasn’t come across a bunch of strangely shaped objects in their youth, by the time they are an adult they can seem really unnerving.
A person holding a bunch of boxes looks like just that to you and I. But to your dog it could seem really quite monstrous. A random assortment of shapes with legs and eyes peeking over the top marching to their front door, well that’s enough to make any self respecting pup put on the wrong paw!
Dogs that reside in quiet rural locations can be unsettled by the noise of mail carriers’ vehicles. Especially those that aren’t well socialized to mechanical sounds. The growl of the engine can set off plenty of pets, and can be taken as some sort of animalistic threat. Making the emergences of the mailman inside seem even more unpleasant to your dog.
Lack of greetings
Most visitors that come into our home make a big fuss of the animals. They get pets, head scratches and tummy tubs. And we encourage new visitors to give our dogs some bits of kibble, or even scraps of cooked chicken if we are feeling particularly generous.
Mailmen don’t stick around, so they never get the chance to give your dog a good and proper greeting. I can count on the fingers of one hand the deliver people who greeted our animals when they dropped off a parcel, and we’ve lived here for four years now.
Your dog is therefore totally reasonable to have formed a strong dislike to the mailman. A person who turns up unexpectedly, looks strange, makes aggressive noises and disappears without so much as a how-do-you-do.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve the relationship.
How To Help Your Dog Learn To Love Mailmen
Dogs have plenty of reasons to hate mailmen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mellow the relationship out a little over time.
For aggressively reactive dogs, don’t try to resolve the issue without a positive behaviorist’s help. But if your dog is worried, but with a generally even temper, you can do plenty of things to improve their negative feelings.
If you’re on first name terms with your local mailman then the best thing you can do is to get them involved, if they’re willing. These are a buy guys and gals, but if they are a fan of dogs or have a quiet day you might be in luck. Give them a handful of treats, and get them to gently throw them to your dog one by one each time he looks at them. Gradually if your dog isn’t retreating they can get closer until they are comfortably dropping them by his side.
Reduce the shock
When you hear the mail van approaching, or even better if you’ve had a text to say a delivery is impending, make sure your dog is awake and alert. Chat to your dog in cheerful tones and try to say things they might associate with regular visitors.
As the truck draws up or the mailman walks towards the house, start treat streaming. Give your dog little pieces of kibble one after another, gradually slowing down the stream as they start to feel more relaxed. Every time your dog looks at you instead of the door say ‘YES!’ cheerfully and give them another reward.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website