Why Dogs Bark at Delivery People
As a general rule, when someone comes to your house often, your dog soon accepts that person.
Unless the person is a delivery person.
You may get a pizza once a week, from the same place, and the same person even delivers it. But even though your dog loves the smell of pizza and gets to hoover up the occasional dropped piece of pepperoni she still barks every time he comes. She’s the same with the FedEx or UPS person, even though they come to the house often as well.
And the person who delivers the mail, who should be the one your dog knows best, get the worst of the treatment. You generally have the same person come to your house five or six times a week, about the same time, and every time your dog barks. Why doesn’t she ever get used to the fact the mail is going to come and give it a rest?
There are a couple of factors at work here.
First, most dogs, even if they aren’t trained as guard dogs, have a certain amount of territorial instinct. Back in the days when dogs were wild and ran in packs, they had territories. Food, safe sleeping quarters, puppies, and mates all had to be protected from outsiders. You and your family are your dog’s pack. She wants to protect you as well. So she barks when an intruder invades her territory.
Consider the sequence of events when your mail comes: The mail carrier walks or drives up to the mailbox, your dog barks, the carrier delivers the mail, then walks or drives off. How does your dog interpret this? “Intruder appears. I bark. Intruder leaves. I have done my job.”
There are a couple of other things that can occur from this.
Dogs are very routine-oriented. Your dog has the initial few days of having this person appear at her house at the same time acting like they have some right to be there. She barks, the intruder leaves. It happens again. She barks again, and the intruder leaves again. After awhile, she knows when the mail is due and will bark as soon as she hears the mail truck or mail carrier approaching. It becomes a habit for her.
Worse yet, the intruder comes, she barks, intruder leaves. “Lesson learned,” she thinks. But no, the next day, the same intruder comes back. “Must be a slow learner,” your dog thinks. So she barks again, the intruder leaves. But when this same person keeps coming back, your dog may decide a mere bark is not sufficient to get the message through this thick-skulled human’s head. So she adds a menacing growl and intensifies her barking. She could even pose a threat to the carrier if she’s outside when the mail comes, or if the carrier brings a package to your door.
If your dog is aggressive toward the mail carrier and is outside when the mail comes, you need to address that situation immediately. You have a moral, and in most places a legal, obligation to protect the mail carrier from your dog.
If your dog is in your house or otherwise restrained from harming the mail carrier, then it’s up to you if you want to retrain her. Some dogs do eventually get tired of the daily chore of barking at someone who, in your dog’s mind, will never learn. If she doesn’t tire of barking, at least you’ll have notice that the mail has come.
Some dogs do also react fearfully to people wearing uniforms, hats, or carrying large unfamiliar objects. Consult with your trainer about how to curb your dog’s instincts to bark at delivery people, and everyone will be happier and healthier for it.