Training your dog to respect posties

If parcels are delivered to your home, there’s no doubt you receive visits from your local Postie or driver. Here are some tips from vet, Katrina Warren, on how to keep your dog and drivers safe.

Puppies

Up until about 18 weeks of age is the most important developmental period in your dog’s life. This is the most crucial time to socialise your puppy and expose them to as many situations and people as possible. Training and socializing may be time consuming, but it’s a lot easier to teach a puppy to behave than to train an adult dog to stop nuisance behaviours.

Training tips for puppies

Set your puppy up for success

From the moment you bring a puppy home, teach them that all visitors, including your Postie are associated with a pleasant experience. Ask every visitor to offer your pup a treat before they have any other interaction with the puppy.

Dispense treats generously

While you’re training your puppy to be comfortable around visitors and new situations you should have treats available at all times to reward appropriate behaviour. Keep a treat jar just inside the door for visitors to use.

Use ‘high value’ treats for training

Choose treats or food items that your puppy goes crazy like small pieces of cooked chicken or other meat. Your pup will learn quicker if you use these types of treats instead of everyday kibble.

Confine your puppy

It’s easy for a puppy to learn annoying habits when you are not at home. If you can’t actively supervise your puppy, confine them to a play pen, crate or small room. If a puppy is allowed unsupervised access to a yard, gate or window where they can see people or animals moving, they have the opportunity to bark and chase them. The more they get to practise this behaviour, the harder it becomes to stop it.

Don’t fuss if your puppy reacts

If your puppy is afraid of something or barks at a visitor or stranger, take your puppy a short distance away so that they no longer react. Don’t push or pull your pup into a situation they are uncomfortable with. Instead, distract your puppy with a game or some training using food rewards.

Get your puppy used to people in uniforms

This is a great time to have a chat with your Postie. Many Posties will be happy to get involved and advise you on how you can help keep them safe when they visit your property.

Adult Dogs

When someone visits your home, your dog maybe be fearful of the unfamiliar person arriving or consider them a trespasser on their territory. They bark or chase them and they leave – making your dog feel like their actions have worked. Of course, some visitors, like your Postie, have to come back. After a while, your dog may up the ante and growl, lunge or even bite. If your dog has the opportunity to rehearse this behaviour, it will become a self- rewarding habit and one that can be dangerous and difficult to break.

Training tips for adult dogs

Prevent the opportunity to ‘rehearse’

The simplest way to stop this habit getting worse is to place your dog somewhere where they can’t see or interact with the visitors. Do not allow them to run in a yard where they have access to people arriving. While secluding them will not fix the behavior long term, it will stop them from rehearsing and keep visitors safe.

Leash your dog before you open the door

Don’t give your dog the chance to run out of the door and surprise a visitor. Have your leash and some treats by the door. Ask your dog to sit while you put on the leash and give a treat for nice behaviour before walking out together.

Create a positive association with your Postie

The goal is to teach your dog that when the Postie visits something positive will happen, such as your dog receiving lots of treats from you for calm behaviour.

Safety is a priority

If you are at all worried about how your dog will react, do not attempt introductions to any visitors without professional support.

Seek professional advice

For support during this training period, consider working with a dog trainer who practices positive training techniques. If your dog has already bitten someone or is showing warning signals such as snarling and growling, seek professional help from a veterinary behaviourist.