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How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking at the Mailman

The idea of a dog barking at the mailman may seem like a cliché but it is something that happens more frequently than many dog owners would like to admit. Of course, dogs that bark at the mailman probably bark at any person (or animal) that approaches the house. What you may not realize, is that if your dog is barking at anything that approaches the house, it may not be just because he enjoys barking – it could be a sign that he feels threatened or even frightened. In any case, you can work with your dog to reduce his territorial barking behavior.

Why Do Dogs Bark at Mailmen?

Humans speak, but dogs bark – it is one of their primary modes of communication and it is often an expression of their emotions. Dogs bark for many reasons but it is often to bring something to the attention of their owner. For example, your dog might bark to alert you that someone is approaching the house (as is the case with barking at the mailman). In other cases, however, dogs may learn that barking gets them what they want, whether it be an open door to the backyard, a refill of their food bowl, or a few minutes of attention from you. By giving your dog what he wants when he barks for it, you are reinforcing this kind of behavior.

Another major reason that dogs bark at the mailman could be due to guarding instincts or it could be done out of fear. Many dog breeds have natural guarding instincts and they will bark whenever anyone approaches the house. You can sometimes curb this behavior by first teaching your dog to bark on command and then by teaching him to stop barking on command. If your dog barks at the mailmen out of fear, however, you may need to do some counter-conditioning to solve the problem.

Tips for Reducing Your Dog’s Barking Behavior

For dogs that bark at the mailman out of fear, counter-conditioning can help to change your dog’s negative association with the mailman into a positive one. In order to do this you will need to know when the mailmen is going to arrive and you’ll need to be with your dog during this time. Start by sitting with your dog near the window where he usually waits for the mailman. As soon as the mailman appears and your dog starts to get anxious, start feeding him treats (it may help for you to speak to the mailman about your plans and request that he approach the house very slowly). As the mailman gets closer, keep feeding your dog treats but as soon as the mail is delivered and the mailman turns around to leave, stop giving your dog treats. If you do this every day your dog will learn that the mailman approaching the house is a good thing, not a bad thing.

In addition to counter-conditioning your dog in order to form a positive association with the mailmen, there are a few other simple tricks you can try. One thing you can do is to make sure your dog gets enough exercise on a daily basis – if your dog has extra energy to burn he may choose to use it up by barking. While you are working with your dog to reduce his barking behavior, you could also try distracting him with toys or games around the time the mailman usually comes. If need be, you could even try taking him out of the house on a walk during the time when your mail is usually delivered.

Every dog is different so the tricks that work with one dog may not work with every dog. The key is to be patient and consistent with your dog – don’t punish your dog for barking and be consistent about issuing praise and rewards for positive behavior. The more you work with your dog, the faster he will learn and the sooner your mailman will be able to deliver your mail without your dog barking his head off!

Photo credit: Anton Brand/Bigstock

Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.