It’s a Dog’s World… Barking at the Mailman
Have you ever wondered why a seemingly sweet-natured dog will bark, growl and act as though he’d tear off the mailman’s leg if he could only get through the window? In most cases it’s nothing personal – Fido is just taking care of his own. Every dog has a little watchdog in him, a trait that dogs inherit from their ancestors who had to defend themselves from trespassers.
How does the drama begin? It goes something like this: (1) the mailman approaches the house and Fido gives a bark; (2) Mr. Mailman drops off the mail and leaves; (3) the pet owner praises his pooch for alerting him. (4) This combination of praise from his owner and the mailman’s retreat makes the dog very happy. He assumes he scared the mailman off. From then on the dog feels confident that he can protect his home from this fearsome visitor, so he keeps barking.
It’s commendable that dogs are loyal and want to protect their families; however their barking can drive their owners and neighbors crazy. Here are a few tips that might be helpful in breaking your dog of the “barking at the mailman habit”:
- Tape a biscuit to the door: It’s amazing how quickly dogs will come around when there’s something in it for them. Talk to the mailman and explain the problem (which he no doubt already knows) and ask for his assistance. Most will be happy to drop the biscuit through the slot and even dogs with strong protective urges will begin to relax within a few weeks.
- Rearrange the furniture: Dogs can hear people long before they can see them, and that’s when the barking usually starts. Move a chair in front of a window that faces the walkway, close the blinds or keep the dog in a room where he can’t see outside. These are simple things that may work for you. Your dog may still bark when he hears approaching footsteps but without actual visual sighting, the barking is less likely to reach a deafening crescendo.
- Say “NO” once, not twice: Trainers always advise people to tell their dogs “no” when they start barking. This is good advice, but only if you do it once. When your dog is barking and you keep saying “no”, it isn’t daunting – it is encouraging.