Dog and mail carrier
You may enjoy it when the mail carrier stops by (sometimes he comes bearing fun things like new shoes!), but your dog might be less enthused about his visit… and if she is, she may let you know with a bark or two — or five.

Barking is a way for your dog to express her emotions, and there are many reasons why your dog may bark at your mail carrier. She may be fearful or frustrated that there’s an intruder on her property, and she may think her barking is scaring the carrier away, since he comes and goes before she’s able to calm down and get to know him as a friend, Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker says. She could also be scared of the delivery uniform, or she could be frustrated that she can’t go up to your carrier and greet him properly.

So in honor of Thank Your Mail Carrier Day, we’re sharing some tips to help get your dog to stop barking at the mailman (as well as anyone else who may deliver packages to your door).

Don’t yell at or punish your pup when she barks.

If your dog barks at the mail carrier or delivery person, don’t yell at her to stop — she’s likely to think you’re just barking along with her. And, Becker says, don’t punish your dog for barking. She may start to associate punishment, which can often increase anxiety and lead to aggression, with someone coming to the door.

Create a positive association with your mail carrier.

If you’re out for a walk or in front of your home and see your mail carrier or delivery person coming, it’s a perfect opportunity to train and reward your dog for good behavior. Practice things like sitting, heeling and lying down. Reward your dog with a treat for a job well done, so she’ll have a positive experience near the carrier, as opposed to feeling anxious or fearful when he is around. But think safety first, Becker says. Make sure you have a restraint or barrier in place, like a leash or fence.

Curb territorial barking.

Is your dog an alert barker who likes to let you know when people are passing by outside? Check out Becker’s advice on teaching your dog the “look” game, where you calmly say the word "look" to bring attention to what she’s barking at, then teach her that the sight or sound is her cue to remain quiet for a reward.

Get into character.

Think the mail carrier’s outfit, bulky bag or packages may be scaring your dog? Get your pup used to people in uniform by buying or renting a costume, or even just procuring a hat and large bag, and enlisting a willing friend or family member to dress up and break out her best acting skills. Have her come to your door and let your dog have a positive interaction with her. Becker suggests starting with the "look" game with the familiar person outside the door and then progressing to having your dog in a sitting position or on her mat, using a leash or gate as a barrier for safety, while your friend cracks the door — without donning a costume at this point. Reward your dog if she remains in place. Once she is comfortable with the friend, progress to her opening the door further and you picking up or pretending to sign for a package. Eventually, as your dog remains in place and relaxed, progress to your friend wearing the costume. If your dog gets upset at any point, go back to an earlier step. Becker says she uses costumes in her puppy classes, so the dogs can get used to people in uniform as part of their socialization, but this trick can be helpful for dogs of any age.

Give your pooch some alternative behaviors.

Teach your dog to do something other than bark when she sees the mail carrier or when he rings the doorbell to alert you that a package has arrived. One technique Becker uses to redirect a doorbell response is training a dog to go to her mat upon hearing the sound. She also recommends teaching your dog to speak and be quiet. You can teach your dog to be quiet when asked, but she needs to know the "speak" command first. Teaching your dog to be quiet is a way of telling her what to do in place of barking, and then you can reward her efforts.

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