Why Do Dogs Seem to Hate the Mailman?

Some people might strike up a conversation with their mailperson, but most dogs don't react in the same pleasant way. Here's why vets and experts think dogs dislike mailmen and women.

There are a lot of unbelievable reasons dogs act the way they do. One dog habit that still baffles owners and onlookers alike is the apparent hate dogs have for mailpeople. Here’s why vets and animal experts think dogs hate mailmen.

Dogs fear and want to defend the home from intruders

The underlying factors in most expressions of aggression from animals are either fear or pain, according to Libby Brittain, an animal expert, and communicator. “Ruling out that your dog is in pain, it’s safe to assume that the aggression expressed toward the mailperson is out of fear,” Brittain says. This fear of the unknown, plus an invasion of personal space, are why dogs seem to hate mail carriers. Indoor pets often regard the entire home as their “territory,” adds Mark D. Freeman, DVM, an Assistant Professor at VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dogs have an inherent need to defend their territory from intruders.” This fear and need to protect are also some of the 13 reasons behind your dog’s weird behavior.

Dogs inherently learn that their barking makes mail-people go away

Each day, at the same time, a stranger—the postal carrier—approaches the home, makes unexpected sounds, places foreign objects with lots of strange odors in the mailbox or slot, and completely invades the dog’s territory without so much as an introduction. “Any self-respecting dog will consider this a threat, and will react accordingly, barking to sound the alarm and warn off the intruder,” Dr. Freeman says. Since this scenario plays out day after day, the dog anticipates the interaction and is agitated or reactive even before the postal carrier arrives. This behavior could then develop into a “learned” response to any intruder or stranger at the door.

Dogs that react this way will behave the same way when they see the postal worker during a walk. “Meeting the postal carrier on the street is equally disturbing,” Dr. Freeman says. “The dog will react to the familiar smells and assume the carrier is the same threat they experience at home.” Dogs aren’t the only obstacles postal workers encounter in their travels–these are the weirdest things that newspaper carriers have seen. 

Some dogs are more nervous than others

Brittain notes that it’s not uncommon for adopted shelter dogs to be nervous when they see a person in uniform carrying something. “After all, animal control officers also wear uniforms and often carry ketch-all poles when apprehending strays,” Brittian says. If this was a traumatic experience for the dog, seeing a postal worker with a package may trigger residual fear. Make safety a priority for yourself, your family, and your new rescue dog by thinking about these 20 things you should consider before adopting a dog from a shelter.

Here’s how to make your dog more accepting of postal workers

If you want to warm your dog up to the mailman, Brittain suggests showing your pup that they have nothing to fear. “Think of how you’ve introduced your dog to other people so that they associate them as friends and apply that if possible to establishing a relationship with your postman,” Brittain says. Leave a note for your mail carrier with your dog’s name so they can address them properly the next time they approach with a delivery, she adds. Although, Dr. Freeman recommends consulting a board-certified animal behavioralist for even more techniques that will help your dog be more accepting of postal workers and other strangers. Prepare to devote some time to help your dog become a friend to the postal carrier, rather than an enemy. Ask your dog trainer about these 15 best dog training secrets, too.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.