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The Dog vs. the Mail Carrier

Each day, our mail carrier delivers the mail, while keeping all fingers intact.

My sympathies to our mail carrier. Each day, he must endure the quirky and bizarre habits of our dog, Tuff. Although they’ve never been properly introduced, they’ve had a love/hate relationship on both sides of our front door for years.  

Tuff is our black lab, a rescue dog thrown away by a family that no longer wanted the responsibility of a pet. Yes, he has his issues and habits, but it’s those freakish tendencies that make up his character. He’s extremely loyal, filled with affection and a need-to-please personality. He has a particular fascination with any FedEx delivery person, UPS driver or contractor with a loud truck. He notices them through the side windows of the front door, trying to intimidate with his deep bark, while prancing and pacing about with confidence.  

Yet, he has an obsession with the mailman. He hears the mail truck and its muffled engine each day. Prior to delivery, the mailman parks in front of the house, organizing the mail for residents of our street. Tuff often stands at the door, wagging his tail with a low growl ... waiting to ward off his favored stranger.  

Our mail is delivered through a squeaky slot in the front door. Any time the mail slot opens, he runs for the door, sliding on the wood floor, eager to investigate. Because of bulky magazines and various other parcels, the mail is often repetitively delivered through the slot, falling to the floor for Tuff to destroy. Tuff finds pleasure and satisfaction biting the mail as it’s pushed through. He looks like a carnivorous mad dog.  

Many times I’ve come home to a pile of mail scattered on the floor, ripped to shreds or punctured with teeth marks. I’ve read thank you notes and bank statements resembling a practice target.  At first, I would scold him, voicing disapproval for his behavior. Yet from a dog's perspective, he’s doing everything correctly. Someone is entering his domain, and if he barks and acts like a lunatic, the invader leaves.  

Mail that was left for pick up was consistently found on the floor, undelivered. On a recent trip to the post office, I inquired about the problem. I can live with holes in the mail, but the failure of pick up didn’t make sense. I feared my mailman had given up. I explained the situation and the manager apologized and said he would speak to the carrier. Fortunately the carrier was at the post office and wanted to see me.  

As we talked, he told me that while picking up the mail, Tuff grabs whatever is in the slot. If he didn’t let go, the letters would rip. He had graduated from carnivorous mad dog to playing tug-of-war with the outgoing mail. To Tuff, it had become a game of territory. We laughed about Tuff’s odd behavior while I apologized profusely for what this patient mail carrier has had to endure. He never complained, only smiled while expressing familiarity with the territorial dogs on his route.  

A lesson was learned. Mail carriers tolerate a number of less than desirable situations.  We know and love our animals and often think others love them too. I'm sure your mail carrier prefers his/her safety over the sentiments of your canine. They risk and often tolerate such beasts because it’s part of their job.They deliver mail in freezing, wet weather, walk on unshoveled sidewalks, while consistently encountering the bizarre habits of our animals.  

To our special mail carrier, Tuff and I say thank you.  

Karen's Dog Training Blog January 14, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I do hope you are preventing the dog from continuing to practice the behavior. Maybe you can limit his access to the front door, get rid of the mail slot and use a mail box. Those would be the easiest solutions to the problem. <g>
Peter Dinella January 14, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Here's how to solve this common problem: Buy the mail carrier a box of large dog biscuits and ask him to put one in the mail slot each delivery BEFORE the mail is inserted. It will not take long before Tuff becomes very fond of the carrier. You will get your mail, Tuff will have found a new friend, and the carrier will keep his fingers.
VC January 14, 2013 at 03:59 PM
If I was the mail carrier, I wouldn't drop any mail at your house until you install a mail box on the outside. The dog might be your friend but he's not everyone's friend. Even if he got used to this particular mail carrier, what would happen if there was a substitute? Mail carriers do get sick and go on vacations now and then.
Wyatt January 14, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Dogs with that sort of territorial behavior can be very dangerous. I just hope that a little kid doesn't come into your yard to get a ball that rolls over when Tuff is outside.
Tory Mutz January 14, 2013 at 04:56 PM
I had the same issue with my dog at our old house. It got so bad, the mailman stopped delivering mail to our house! To resolve the situation we installed a mailbox on the side of our house. It worked and our mail service resumed without incident. Our dog still barked & growled everytime the mail truck passed (and any time we drove by one in the car), but we got through it. Most importantly, everyone was safe and comfortable with the new arrangement.
Peter Dinella January 14, 2013 at 05:02 PM
When the carrier goes on vacation, etc. he should tell the substitute about the situation and make sure he has enough biscuits! PS. I was a substitute mail carrier for 3 summers and 2 winters. 3 dog attacks trying to nip me; all failed. I wished I had thought about the biscuit idea then.
Kay Mc January 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Great opinion, Cami. Fortunately for us, our mailbox is almost 1/10 of a mile from our front door or our mail carrier, Sue, would have to listen to our dogs announcing her presence in "their" territory. We never think of what our postal friends have to go through.
Kay Mc January 14, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Great idea - for most dogs.
Karen's Dog Training Blog January 14, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Good idea Peter!
Peter Dinella January 14, 2013 at 07:07 PM
By the way, Tuff looks like a beautiful dog that has probably gone through rougher times than most mail carriers. He needs time, a little slack, and some biscuits.
Karen's Dog Training Blog January 14, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Tuff looks adorable with his stick! I think a few biscuits through the mail slot would go a long way towards changing his view of the mail carrier. Food is a motivator!

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