Note to Buddy: Why dogs hate mail carriers

As a USPS mail carrier in Asheville, I am responding to “Buddy’s Bad Day” [Letters, July 1]. If the incident regarding Mr. Masters’ dog happened exactly as he stated, then the carrier responsible neglected his duties as a professional. (Postal Bulletin 22101 [states]: Dog repellent should be used as a last resort to prevent a dog attack.) The incident should have been reported to the local post office.

Mr. Masters also states that his job takes him to the “houses of people who may have dangerous animals.” Are the owners home when he performs his duties? Does he visit the same households every day, six days a week, as we carriers do? I am not sure he fully grasps what carriers are faced with each and every day as we try to do our job to the best of our abilities.

The age-old question of why dogs hate mailmen is not answered by one man’s opinion based on one incident. Dogs have a problem with mail carriers based on their instinct to be territorial. Every day, the carrier invades the dog’s home turf, steps close to deliver the mail—usually very near to where the dog is penned or otherwise restrained. The dog expresses his extreme displeasure with this invasion by barking and growling etc. The result of this aggressive reaction to a perceived threat? The carrier leaves as quickly as he or she arrived.

A dog learns by repetition; the more you repeat your actions, the more the dog learns to react to those actions. After hundreds of repetitions of “threatening” the carriers and getting the desired results, the dog learns that aggressive actions [work].

Then, on days (usually Saturdays) that the dog isn’t restrained and the carrier approaches, the learned behavior is to become aggressive. Most of the time a word from the owner will stop an attack; this has saved me personally on numerous occasions. But it doesn’t always work.

I am not afraid of dogs, but when I am being threatened by one, I become apprehensive and fearful. I am just doing my job, yet because a dog owner isn’t obeying the leash laws we have in Buncombe County, I have to worry for my own safety. I am a dog lover. I have a mixed-breed chow chow and a mixed-breed pit bull (both from shelters). I have been a carrier for nine years, and I have never sprayed a dog. I have also been bitten on five occasions, four by dogs whose owners said “won’t bite.”

I do not have any nationwide numbers available, but in the past six months in my office alone, there have been at least six incidents involving carriers being bitten while trying to do their jobs. Each incident costs the Postal Service time and money, and costs the carrier the pain and discomfort associated with the injury and subsequent treatments. The owner of the dog is usually pursued for costs incurred, and animal control will quarantine the dog for 10 days. When was the last time you had a tetanus shot? How about having to worry about whether or not you’ve just been exposed to rabies?

I understand Mr. Masters’ frustration with seeing his dog sprayed, but carriers are faced with dangerous dogs on a daily basis, and none of us wants to spray a dog unless we absolutely have to. (This just makes one more enemy for us to have to deal with.) But, we also don’t want to be attacked or bitten.

We dog owners have to realize that we really don’t know how our dogs will react in every situation. For all concerned, please keep your dogs restrained and away from any area that you receive any deliveries—from any company. Thank you very much.
— Patrick Raymond

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