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Dog attacks on postmen
We’ve all heard the jokes about dogs and postmen, but the reality is no laughing matter, as there’s been a significant rise in the number of dog attacks on postmen and delivery drivers in recent years.
Chasing or biting the postman is not only a concern for Australia Post workers, but it’s also stressful for pet owners.
These behaviours can have serious consequences, including serious injury or potential legal action.
So what can you do to keep both your dog and your postie safe?
We share a pet behaviourist’s tips for training dogs to not chase or bite the postie.
Australia Post’s plea to dog owners
The significant rise in attacks led to Australia Post launching a campaign to protect postal workers last year.
The organisation said more than 1000 posties are involved in dog attacks every year and urged dog owners to safely secure their pets.
Worryingly, 300 postal workers last year had to receive medical treatment after being bitten.
An average of seven postal workers are bitten each day, leading to both physical and mental pain and trauma.
There’s been 986 attacks since July 2022 which is an increase of more than 55% compared to the previous year.
Australia Post Executive General Manager People and Culture Susan Davies said the data highlights an alarming trend.
“As we head into the busiest delivery time, we want to ensure that our posties are protected,” says Davies.
“Dogs are territorial by nature, so even the sweetest dog can be a danger to our Posties.
“We’ve had posties sustain a range of injuries including puncture wounds, lacerations, scratches and bites.
“Sadly, some have suffered long-term psychological impacts following an attack.”
It’s not just postal workers who have come under attack; energy meter reader Kane Minion was killed by a pet dog in regional Queensland last year.
Dog owners urged to secure their pets
While postmen are trained to deal with dogs, owners expecting a delivery are urged to ensure their dog is secured.
“Our posties are just trying to do their job, and if they feel that a situation is unsafe, they will not make the delivery,” says Davies.
“Our teams’ safety comes first, so we stress the need to secure dogs, especially if you are expecting a delivery.
Davies says the front gate, letterbox, footpath and front door are the most common locations where dog incidents occur.
“In addition to providing our posties with training on how to avoid dog attacks, we also work closely with local councils and council rangers to ensure all incidents are reported and appropriately managed,” added Davies.
Legal consequences for of dog attacks
Training your dog not to chase or bite the postman is an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership.
In Australia, dog owners can face significant consequences if their pets chase or bite a postman.
Laws differ by state but generally, you could face steep fines or even find your dog classified as ‘dangerous.’
Expert tips to train your dog
It’s important to understand why dogs might be inclined to chase the postman.
For dogs, it’s instinctual to be interested in moving objects.
Bicycles, cars, and yes, postmen, trigger a dog’s natural hunting instinct.
PETstock Ambassador and pet behaviourist, Lara Shannon, says acknowledging this can help you focus your training efforts to specifically curb this inclination.
“Many dog breeds were bred to chase and herd animals,” says Lara. “So that is why we see many of the working dog breeds, in particular, that love to do the same with other pets as well as people.”
“The dogs often react to all things on wheels also, which includes a postie on a bike unfortunately!”
Lara says that many of the safety measures put in place to protect the postman, can cause them to chase.
“High-vis tops, helmets, flags on bikes all draw attention, so that them more appealing to a dog that loves to chase things.”
It’s never to late to train your pet, but Lara says it’s best to start young so their anxiety doesn’t flare up around moving objects.
“If a puppy hasn’t been positively socialised with moving objects then they may react negatively in those situations.
“Barking, lunging, chasing and biting are all common behaviours of dogs that feel anxious and threatened.”
Training is key to preventing dog attacks on the postman, but there’s many simple ways owners can help prevent an attack.
Tips for owners to prevent dog chasing, biting, postmen
- Start early – socialising a puppy or young dog is the best way to prevent attacks and generalised anxious behaviour.
- Put up a warning sign if dogs live on the property and if possible, move your letterbox to a safe area away from your dogs.
- Keep dogs in backyards if they are reactive to passersby or people approaching the house in the front yard.
- Put your dog in another room or on lead if you’re aware that a postie is approaching the front door.
- Do not allow your dog to ‘rehearse’ unwanted behaviours. By constantly allowing your dog to bark at approaching strangers in the front yard, it will occur more often and with greater insensity.
- Rehearse the ‘sit and stay’ method with your dog. Start by walking them to the front door, and then tell your dog to “sit and stay”. When they do so, reward them with either their favourite treat, a pet or a toy. The next step is to open the door and see how your dog reacts. If they break their stay, close the door and try it again until they’re successful.
- Work with a trainer to desensitise them to bikes, fluorescent work gear and helmets.
- If you’re really concerned, jump online and authorise alternative delivery options for parcels.
For more training advice such as preventing your dog attacking the postmen, head to the PETstock website!
The Australia Post website has more information about attacks and their campaign to protect postal workers.