The number of postal employees attacked by dogs across the country is on the rise, according to statistics released by the U.S. Postal Service in April 2017.
Dog attacks on postal employees reached 6,755 in 2016—more than 200 higher than the year before, the postal service announced in a press release. Of the cities with the most dog attacks on letter carriers, Los Angeles ranked first with 80 attacks in 2016, followed by Houston (62), Cleveland (60), San Diego (57), and Louisville (51).
“Even good dogs have bad days,” stated U.S. Postal Service Safety Director Linda DeCarlo. "Dog bite prevention training and continuing education are important to keep pet owners, pets, and those who visit homes—like letter carriers—happy and healthy.”
To do its part to help with the issue, the U.S. Postal Service offers safety measures that include having customers indicate if there are dogs at their addresses when they schedule package pickups. "This information is provided to letter carriers on their delivery scanners, which also can send real-time updates if an unleashed dog is reported in a delivery area," the release said.
DeCarlo also suggested that pet parents keep dogs in separate rooms from where the mail is delivered, and avoid taking mail directly from a carrier by hand, as a dog may perceive it as a threat.
"For a lot of dogs, the mail carrier is a daily visitor, a stranger intruding on their home turf," explained Elisha Stynchula, general manager and partner of "I Said Sit!" School For Dogs in Los Angeles, during an interview with petMD. "Every time the dog barks and reacts, the mail carrier leaves and the dog thinks, 'Yeah that’s right! Stay off my yard. I scared you away!' The dog’s perception is that he defended the home and chased away the mail carrier and it becomes self-reinforcing. One of the main reasons it can get bad over time is that the whole situation can be very rewarding for the dog."
Pet parents who want to do their part to ensure the safety and health of both their dog and their mail carrier can start right where the issue takes place: at home.
"To train a dog to stop this kind of behavior the fastest way possible, you need to be at home every time the mail carrier is coming for long enough that your dog learns an alternate behavior it finds to be more rewarding the reacting to the mail carrier," Stynchula said. "That’s not easy for most people to do, so training isn’t the fastest. I think a combination of training and management is the best solution. Train when you can and stop the dog from doing it when you are not home."
For those times when you can't be home and the mail carrier is on his way, Stynchula suggests a few techniques, including "keeping the dog in a room, pen, crate, kennel, or behind a baby gate." She added, "Perhaps it means preventing access to the front yard. Sometimes all it takes is blocking access to windows. Using an opaque stick-on window film can do wonders to minimize a dog’s reactivity."
Whatever issue you're having when it comes to your dog and the mail carrier, Stynchula urges all pet parents with fearful or aggressive dogs to seek help from a professional to find the right training plan for success.
Image via Shutterstock
Read more: How to Stop a Dog From Barking