Saving the Mailman
Preventing dog-related injuries is a community effort that starts with responsible owners.
No one likes to hear that his or her kid is being a pain. Equally so, you’d like to think that your pet is perfectly behaved at all times.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always reality.
Last week, as I was bringing baby home from her two-month checkup, I got a text from my neighbor. She said that she’d put my dog and my mail in my house and locked my front door.
Initially there was confusion, but then the backstory unfolded.
Apparently as I rushed the girls out of the house with the diaper bag and backpacks and towels and sunscreen and snacks (it was water-play day at preschool summer camp), I didn’t fully latch the door behind me. So when the letter carrier arrived with the mail, there was Hana, our beloved yellow lab mix, to greet him.
Other than her ridiculous shedding, Hana is the perfect family dog. She is playful yet stoic and lovingly accepts toddler abuse without protest.
Unfortunately, like many dogs, she doesn’t trust delivery people.
The letter carrier took safe refuge on my nextdoor neighbor’s stoop while my dog growled and barked at him from our entry. Hana has an intense voice, so I can imagine the incident was pretty scary for the guy.
Luckily, another neighbor realized the situation and came to the rescue. Relieved to see a familiar face, Hana happily went back inside the house and caused no further incidents.
We were very lucky that the story stopped there.
Letter carriers shouldn’t have to work in a hostile environment. According to a press release by the U.S. Postal Service, “nearly 5,600 Postal Service employees were victimized by dogs” in 2011. And “if a dog attacks a letter carrier, pet owners can be held liable for all medical expenses and other costs which can run into thousands of dollars,” says Louisville, Ky., Postmaster Jenny Bennett.
USPS recommends not letting your children take mail from the letter carrier in the presence of your dog, because your dog’s instinct is to protect the family. For more bite prevention tips, click here.
Many animal trainers also suggest using treats to recondition a dog to see mail delivery as a positive and rewarding experience. For more information on local dog trainers, click here. For pet behavior questions, call the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria or contact Abbie Hubbard, AWLA’s behavior and training manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, it is important that dog owners keep their dogs safely on a leash or inside and away from the door.
Hana is a wonderful dog. She was trying to ensure our house remained safe while it was unsecured. My mistake put both my dog and our letter carrier in a really awkward situation. We were fortunate that a neighbor was there to help.
If you have a dog that is leery of the mailman, join me in taking steps to prevent dog-related injuries. Head down to Nature's Nibbles and grab a bag of training treats or figure out a reconditioning approach that will work for you.
How does your dog react to the mailman? Do you have a dog training tip to share? Tell us in the comments.