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Dogs And Letter Carriers Can Be Friends

From Newsday.com

My dog is the nicest, sweetest dog in the whole world except when the letter carrier or UPS man comes to our home. Then he becomes a raging lunatic. He is fine when anybody else walks up to our door. Why does he hate them so much, and how can we get him to change his mind?

Max Healy, Baldwin

Dogs usually dislike delivery personnel because of the direct and purposeful way they approach your home. The dog feels this person is a threat to the security of the house, so it brings out its territory-defending instinct.

The problem is that, as the dog’s barking and actions reach their peak, the offending person then finishes the delivery and turns around and walks away from the house. So the dog feels this was a job well done and calls it a day.

Then, the next day, the letter carrier returns to the house as if nothing ever happened. The dog goes through the whole routine again with the desired result. Then, the next day it happens again – every day except for Sunday.

This is why the dog’s feelings about delivery people never change on their own; chasing them away from the house becomes a duty in the dog’s mind. This is called a self-rewarding behavior, as the reward from the dog’s point of view is that the offending party leaves every time the dog puts on the drama show.

In a perfect world, both you and your letter carrier would have time to visit with each other and chat and give the dog treats when the delivery is being made. Then the dog would feel that a visit from the letter carrier is a great thing and would look forward to it. When I was a kid, we had a letter slot in the door, and our mailman would slide a dog treat through the slot before he put the mail in; our dogs could not wait for him to show up. We always kept a jar of treats on our front porch for the letter carrier to use.

So, changing your dog’s mind about delivery people is going to take a bit of cooperation among you, the delivery person and the dog.

Just a little humor, folks! But doesn't he look so proud!
Just a little humor, folks! But doesn't he look so proud!
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