How to stop your dog mauling the mail

Does your dog get overexcited every time the postman delivers mail through your door? Some dogs seem to dislike postmen and women when they come to your house. Here, we look at the reasons for their behaviour and offer some tips on how to prevent it.

Dogs getting overexcited, or even aggressive, when a postman or woman, or a delivery person, comes to your home is a very common problem. They can get worked up when they hear the postman or delivery person and will often rush to the door, barking, to send them on their way. In addition, they may maul or ‘attack’ the mail and rip it to shreds. Sometimes they might even try to bite a postman’s hand through the letterbox.

Why does your dog maul the mail?

Dogs are protective and territorial creatures, so they may overreact when a stranger, such as the postman, comes onto your property or when an unexpected object flies through the letterbox. They might feel an inherent need to defend their territory, and you, from the intruder. This can stem from a feeling of fear about their space being invaded or a need to overprotect.

Dogs’ sense of fear results in their noisy outbursts, which can sometimes be displays of aggression. Barking can be the first line of defence, used by dogs to scare off the perceived intruder and avoid a physical confrontation. It can be accompanied with snarling and baring of teeth.

Dogs are smart and will soon learn that their barking will scare people away – especially those who arrive at around the same time every day. As this happens day after day, your dog can anticipate the event and might even feel agitated or reactive before the postman arrives. Hence, barking can turn into a ‘learned’ response to any stranger at the door. The aggressive behaviour might escalate into lunging, baring their teeth, nipping and, eventually, biting.

Chemicals such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released when dogs feel excitement or fear, which can provide a ‘rewarding’ and addictive feeling. These emotions mean your dog’s barking brings out positive emotions, so they may continue to act in this way because it feels good. This repeated experience can also raise your dog’s base levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, meaning your dog becomes more likely to react with each event.

Alternatively, your dog may feel excitement at the postman’s visit and want to rush to greet them as a long-lost friend. The barrier between the two parties can cause canines to feel frustration, however, meaning your pup gets excited and loses self-control, as they’re unable to get to the person on the other side of the door.

How to prevent your dog from mauling the mail

Are you able to introduce your dog to the postman? This will show both parties that there is nothing to be afraid of if the two of them become acquainted.

If you’re not going to be at home at the time the mail is delivered, try leaving a note with your dog’s name on it for the postman to see, so they can address them when they approach. Also, leave a dog biscuit or treat for the postman to give to your dog, to establish a bond. This routine is best created under the owner's supervision, before moving to a more relaxed approach at later stages.

Alternatively, train your dog by introducing a new command, such as ‘quiet’. Every time they start barking because of the postman or a passer-by, give your command, ask your dog to go to a set location under your guidance (such as a mat), and then reward your dog with a treat when they stop barking. They will eventually learn that they’ll receive a treat when they stay quiet.

To prevent your dog from mauling the mail, protect your letterbox with a wire cage (available from most DIY stores), or consider placing a dog gate across the hallway so that your dog does not have access to the front door area.

No pet owner wants to be in a situation where their dog bites a postman or woman, or a delivery person. To avoid this happening, place a secure external mailbox outside and as far away from the front door as possible, such as on a front gate. This means the postman does not need to come onto the property and your dog can’t see them.

What ways have you prevented your dog from barking at the postman? Share your experiences with us on social media using the tag #PethoodStories.

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