Why Do Dogs Hate the Mailman? Myth vs Reality
By Oliver Jones
In movies, dogs always have beef with the mailman, and not the good kind of beef. If you are thinking about getting a dog, you may be wondering if this movie portrayal matches reality or if it is nothing more than a myth.
As just about most dog owners will tell you, many dogs love to bark at the mailman, whether it’s out of fear, aggression, or the desire for some tasty treats. Luckily, you don’t have to take your dog barking at the mailman lying down. You can do things to discourage this behavior, but you first have to separate the myths from reality.
In this article, we will help you do just that. Let’s take a look at why dogs hate the mailman, as well as bust through some common myths that hold many dog owners back from helping their dog and the mailman have a much more respectful and quiet relationship.
Why Do Dogs Hate Mailmen?
First things first, do dogs really hate the mailman? The trope that all dogs go crazy when the mailman delivers the daily mail is something that just about everyone knows. The movies make it seem like dogs almost have an additional instinct where they can detect when the mailman approaches the house.
If you own a talkative pooch, you likely know that dogs do bark when they see the mailman. Dogs naturally are very territorial, and most want to warn you in the case of an intruder. Even though the mailman does not come into the home, they get close enough that it alarms your dog. As a result, your dog goes crazy.
If you think your dog is getting progressively louder every time the mailman comes to the door, you are probably right. It seems that they do this because they recognize your mailman and know he or she comes back repeatedly. To scare them from coming back again, dogs become louder and more aggressive as a scare tactic.
At the same time, not all dogs hate the mailman. I have a Pitbull named Cletus who has no issue with the mailman. Though he definitely jumps in the window every time the mailman comes up, his tail is wagging, and he rarely ever barks.
My dog just goes to show that not all dogs hate the mailman, though many do. Some dogs may actually be barking because they are excited to see the mailman. Especially if your dog associates the mailman with potential treats or toys, which some dogs think the mail is, they may bark out of excitement, not hatred.
Myths vs Reality: Dogs and Mailmen
Now that we’ve looked at the basics of the messy relationship between dogs and the mailman, let’s dig into the myths and reality about it.
All Dogs Hate the Mailman: Myth
As we learned above, it is a complete myth that all dogs hate the mailman. As my Cletus goes to show, some dogs have no problem with the mailman and simply look out the window. In fact, Cletus actually gets excited to see the mailman, though he never barks. He’s not much of a barker in general. Cletus isn’t the only dog to not have an issue with the mailman.
Many other dogs actually get excited when they meet the mailman. This is especially true of dogs who love people and have been introduced to the mailman one on one. Once the dog knows the mailman, they no longer view him or her as an intruder, causing the dog to hate the mailman no longer.
It’s important to note that even when the dog stops hating the mailman, that does not mean they will stop barking. Some dogs bark out of excitement. If that is your dog, they may continue to bark whenever they see their postal friend walking up to the door.
Additionally, some dogs bark for attention. If you give your dog a treat every time they stop barking on command, they may be looking for opportunities to bark constantly. If they know you will give them a treat when they stop barking at the mailman, this may give them the incentive to bark.
Mailmen Have an Increased Risk of Dog Bites: True
Unfortunately, this is true. Mailman and delivery service people are at much higher risk of being bitten by a dog on the job. In fact, thousands of postal workers find themselves bitten or attacked by homeowners’ otherwise lovable pooches.
Dogs Recognize Your Mailman: True
Dogs are incredibly smart, and they have the ability to recognize faces and uniforms. As a result, your dog probably recognizes your mailman. Whenever a different postal worker delivers your mail, your dog may even respond differently because they recognize that it is not the same worker.
To many people, it seems backward that a dog hates the mailman, even when they recognize the repeat visitor. As we mentioned above, the fact that the mailman repeatedly comes maybe why dogs bark so much. Since the mailman keeps coming back despite the dog’s barking, your dog has to bark louder next time to try to scare them away. Or at least that’s what the dog thinks.
Dogs Only Bark at Mailmen: Myth
This is a downright myth. Although the trope that dogs bark at the mailman is so strong, dogs will bark at just about anyone who comes to your house. The mailman is just a trope since everyone has a mail delivery service, and dogs routinely love getting vocal at these people doing their job.
Dogs are incredibly territorial. As a result, dogs instinctually want to scare away and alarm the rest of the pack whenever an intruder comes upon their area. Because you are the rest of their pack, dogs want to let you know that someone new is approaching.
It doesn’t matter if that new person is the mailman, a person walking on the street, or a Door Dasher. Your dog may view them all as a potential threat and act accordingly.
There Are Different Types of Barks: True
Believe it or not, but there are many different types of barks, and not all dogs bark at the mailman for the same reason. Most commonly, dogs use an alert bark whenever intruders approach your home. This includes the mailman or anyone else they perceive as a possible threat.
Because alert barking is an innate behavior of dogs, you cannot completely eliminate this behavior. Most people would not want to anyway since it is helpful during the night time or if there is an actual intruder. You can teach your dog to listen to your voice commands. For example, you can teach them to stop barking whenever you say “Quiet.”
Another type of bark is fear barking. If your dog acts aggressive to the mailman, they are most likely barking out of fear. A fearful dog is the kind that will attack. Unfortunately, it is really tough to tackle fearful barking since dogs are aggressive at the time. Giving them treats every time your dog gets in a fearful situation can allow them to relax whenever a situation arises.
Attention-seeking barking is whenever they bark just because they want attention. This type of barking is actually decently common where the mailman is concerned. If the dog likes the mailman, they may be barking to get his or her attention. You can only stop this type of barking by refusing to give into it.
Finally, the last type of barking is boredom barking. Dogs may bark out of boredom at the mailman if they want the mailman to come in and play with them. Dogs that don’t get a lot of outdoor time or playtime are likely to bark in this manner.
The great thing about the last two types of barking where the mailman is concerned is that they will typically stop barking as soon as the mailman leaves. Plus, they are not barking out of fear or aggression, meaning you don’t have to worry about your dog lashing out.
You Can’t Do Anything About Your Dog’s Hatred of the Mailman: Myth
Many movies make it seem like dogs have an innate hatred for the mailman that you can’t do anything about. This is not true at all. Dogs are very teachable, meaning you can teach them not to hate the mailman, though it may take some work with certain pups.
Most notably, try to introduce your dog to the mailman as early as possible. You might want to do this through a screened door or some other medium where the worker is not at risk of being bitten. If your dog is showing signs of fear, do not let the postal worker near the dog because that is when dogs will attack.
You can also place a treat in or beside your mailbox every day for the mailman to slide in with your mail. If you do this, your dog will not hate the mailman. On the contrary, your dog will absolutely love the mailman and may continue to bark at their presence purely out of excitement.
Finally, you can teach your dog how to respond to voice commands when you want them to stop barking. This is a great idea to do anyway, even if your dog does not bark at the mailman. However, you will likely find it really helpful if your dog barks out of boredom, excitement, or attention every time the mailman delivers your posts.
Final Thoughts: Why Don’t Dogs Like Mailmen
As corny as it may sound, the trope that dogs hate the mailman is actually pretty true. Dogs tend to be on high alert whenever a new person, such as the mailman, enters your property. Still, not all dogs bark out of hatred. Some may bark out of excitement, boredom, or a number of other factors not associated with fear or aggression.
If your dog seems to hate the mailman, you don’t have to take it lying down. For example, you can teach them voice commands, introduce your dog to the mailman, or supply your mailman with treats. These simple tips can help your dog love the mailman and barkless whenever they come around.
If only teaching a dog not to go after the neighbor’s cat was this easy!
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Featured image credit: WilleeCole Photography, Shutterstock