My dog barks like crazy at the mailman, how can I correct this behavior?

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It can be difficult to stop a dog barking at delivery people who come to the house. First, it is a natural behaviour for most dogs to give a warning bark towards anyone entering their territory, indeed, some breeds have been produced for this very task. Also, the barking, in the dog’s mind, is very successful. They bark, the mailman goes away, and they consider that job done! This means it is being constantly reinforced.

So, the key is not to try to stop the barking entirely; you are likely to be unsuccessful and your dog will find not being able to make any noise at all very stressful; but to try to teach them to just bark a couple of times and then be quiet.

You can start the training either when the real mailman comes but it is better to have a friend to pretend to be them, as then you can repeat the exercises quickly in succession.

Let your friend approach the house and rattle the letterbox as the mailman would. Allow your dog to bark a couple of times and then ask them to be ‘quiet’. When they stop barking, give them a treat and only allow your friend to leave the front door once your dog has stopped barking. You will need to repeat this several times until your dog realises that a) they only get a treat when they stop barking and b) the ‘mailman’ doesn’t leave until they are quiet.

This way you are teaching your dog that a couple of warning barks are fine but a continuous barrage are not. If they are a ‘barker’, you can use this command in other areas of life as well, for example the park if they bark at other dogs, it could become extremely useful!

Also, try to get your regular mailman on board by encouraging them to meet your dog and start a friendship. They might be able to bring treats themselves, or leave some at the gate for them to bring for your dog, so they associate the mail delivery with something good arriving for them as well!

If you are not in when the letters come, it can be more difficult. However, consistent training to teach that a few barks are enough will be helpful. You should also consider keeping them away from the front of the house, if that is possible, and distracting them by leaving a treat ball to keep them entertained, so they have something else to think about and hopefully aren’t on such high alert and looking for something to do. | 04.16.16 @ 14:41
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