Name Recognition: How to Teach Your Dog His Name

How do you teach your dog his name? Your dog should be happy when he hears you say his name. His head should lift, his tail wag, and ideally, he should begin moving towards you. If he doesn't come to you when you say his name, he should at least look at you and acknowledge you.

This doesn't happen automatically, though. He didn't come into the world knowing that his name was Sweetie. If you have a young puppy, his breeder probably called him something other than "black tri male puppy with a white tip on his tail." So you need to teach him what his name will be in your household.

The same applies to an adopted dog. A dog my husband and I adopted several years ago had been in four homes, with four different names, before us. Because we wanted him to start fresh with us, with no emotional baggage that might be connected to any of his old names, we gave him a new name. That also meant we needed to teach him that name.

His Name is Always Positive

Your dog's name should always be a bright happy light in his brain when he hears it. His name is not to be associated with housetraining accidents, playing too hard, or chewing on your shoes.

If he thinks hearing his name means he's done something wrong or that you're angry with him, you have a problem. He won't want to come to you (or otherwise cooperate with you) when you call him by name because he'll be anticipating trouble. Never yell at him or scold him using his name. Yelling and scolding isn't particularly effective dog training anyway, but using his name when you do is even less effective.

Teaching Name Recognition to Your Dog

When I brought my youngest puppy, Bones, home, I needed to change his name. His breeder had called him Jack and, although that was fine, I wanted to call him Bones.

I began by offering him particularly good treats as I said, “Bones!” in a happy tone of voice. Since he's a food motivated puppy, that caught his attention. After a week or so of that, I also began saying, “Bones!” when I leaned down to pet him. I continued to use a happy tone of voice and, of course, I also smiled when petting him.

In addition, every time I saw Bones looking at me, I would acknowledge it with a happy, “Bones!” Not only does this continue his name recognition, but it makes me more interesting to a busy puppy who might decide to amuse himself in other ways. After all, carting the laundry from the dryer to the bedroom isn't at all exciting to a puppy, but if I burst out with a happy, “Bones! Good puppers!” that might make me worth following and watching.

As I started his puppy training, I also maintained that sense of fun, both with the training and with his name. “Bones, sit,” is always accompanied by treats, petting and praise. The same applies to all his obedience exercises.


(?)

Don't Stop

Bones is eight months old now and knows his name very well, but I continue to keep it positive. Walking in the back yard I may just say, “Hi, Bones!” and encourage him to run or bounce or have fun. I figure if I say his name and his eyes light up, his tail wags, and he makes eye contact with me, I'm doing it right.

I hope these tips help your dog learn his name!


(?)

Teaching Your Dog – Naming Your Dog’s Toys

With three active herding dogs in the house – two Australian Shepherds and one English Shepherd – I am always looking for ways to keep their brains busy. After all, a bored dog is more apt to get into trouble.

Obedience training, trick training, and dog sports all help challenge my dogs, but I also like to teach fun things that can have some practical application.

Bashir gets the newspaper in the morning, for example, and Sisko picks up dropped laundry and puts it in the hamper. Bones is in the process of learning the names of his toys. Once he knows them by name, then I'll teach him to drop them in the toy basket.

Teach Your Dog Toy Names

Start with a favorite toy. This game is easy to teach if your dog already knows the touch command. If you haven't already taught touch, then do that first.

Choose one of your dog's favorite toys to begin the name game. For Bones, I began with his Planet Dog Orbee ball; his favorite. For teaching purposes I called it Orbee.

To refresh the touch exercise, with some good treats available, I held up one hand and asked Bones to touch. When he touched my hand with his nose I praised him and gave him a treat. I repeated that three or four times.

Then holding his Orbee in my hand facing him, I asked him, "Bones, TOUCH Orbee,"placing the emphasis on the touch command and saying Orbee softly. When he touched the ball, he was praised and got a treat. I repeated that three or four times and then let him have a break.

When he was touching the Orbee readily with no confusion, I would hold it in various positions – up, down, to the left and to the right – and ask him to touch it.

I also placed it on the floor and asked him to touch it. I praised and rewarded each touch. At this point I also changed the emphasis of the words used to, "Bones, touch ORBEE." This helped convey that the individual item was important.

When he could touch the Orbee when I asked him to, no matter where the Orbee was, then I put the Orbee away and brought out a second toy, a tug rope, and taught it the same way. When he understood that, then I added a third and fourth toy.

Let the Dog Choose the Toy

When Bones knew to touch four toys, then I needed to make sure he understood that each item had an identifying name and that I wasn't just making noise when he was learning to touch them. This can be the tricky part of the training, so I take my time. I began with the Orbee and the rope (which was called Rope). I held one in each hand and asked Bones, "Bones, touch Orbee." When he did, I praised him and popped a treat in his mouth.

If your dog should make a mistake, don't correct or chastise him. Instead, don't react at all – no smile, no verbal praise and no treat. Ask him again. If he's still confused, repeat the first steps again and make a big deal over his correct responses.

No Limits

Bones is now up to four toys and is able to choose the named toy out of a pile of toys. But this is just the beginning. One of my previous dogs, Dax, knew more than two-dozen toys by name and I stopped teaching her at that point because I was having trouble remembering the toys' individual names. I figured if we kept going I was going to have to create a chart. She never forgot a toy's name, though.


(?)


(?)

Dealing with Dogs That are Off-Leash (and Your Dog is On!)

What would you do if an off-leash dog approached your dog on a walk? What is the approaching dog intension? What should you do to keep both you and your dog safe?

Anyone who has ever walked their dog – or even gone for a walk without a dog – has had to deal with an off-leash dog. Perhaps the owner has unleashed his dog to run and play or the dog may have dashed out the gate or front door and is now running free. In any event, an off-leash dog is a potential hazard to you and your dog.

Unfortunately, there is no one solution to how to deal with a dog running free who approaches you. Every dog is different and has its own agenda when it approaches you and your dog. Some may be genuinely friendly, others hesitant, some protecting their perceived territory, and others downright dangerous.

What are the Approaching Dog's Intentions?

The vast majority of dogs will show their intentions via their body language.

  • A dog who is being friendly will approach you and your dog with loose, wiggly body language. The key to these dogs is everything is soft, loose, and relaxed.
  • A dog who is protecting his territory – his house, yard, car, or even a park he frequents – will be barking, dashing back and forth, and usually moving quickly. He may have his hackles up.
  • A dog who is ready to instigate a fight is usually up and forward in his body language. He is up on his toes, leaning forward, and his tail is higher than normal. This dog is usually very still. He will also have a hard stare with infrequent blinks.

If you would like a good resource for learning more about canine body language, pick up a copy of Brenda Aloff's book, “Canine Body Language.” It's illustrated with photos of dogs and a description of what was going on when the photo was taken. It's quite informative.

What to Do If an Off Leash Dog Approaches

I don't allow any unleashed dogs to approach mine. Even friendly dogs can become angry and reactive. Plus, I have no idea if that dog is healthy. I keep all unknown dogs away from mine. Plain and simple.

If the dog approaching you has an owner trailing behind, ask the owner to come get his dog. Most will say, “Oh, he's friendly,” but I never trust that. I assume an owner who is allowing his dog to approach a strange leashed dog is not a responsible owner, so I'm not going to trust him.

Never tell the owner of the loose dog that your dog is aggressive, doesn't like other dogs, or is in any way a danger. That opens you up to liability should something happen. Instead, say your dog is in training, you don't have time for socialization, or perhaps even say, “Call your dog. The veterinarian says my dog is contagious.”

If there is no owner at hand and the dog looks friendly, toss a big handful of your dog's training treats on the ground and, while the dog is scarfing up the treats, just walk away. An overly excited dog can be startled if the handful of treats is tossed right at him. He may hesitate and then discover the treats while you make your escape.

A training client of mine who has had a knee replacement and walks her small Poodle mix every day uses an umbrella as a walking stick. When a dog approaches her small dog, she pops the umbrella open in the dog's face and then keeps it there as the dog tries to get around it. She says this is quite effective, although she gets some strange looks on sunny days.

I've heard that some dog owners who use the umbrella trick paint large angry eyes on the umbrella so that when it pops open, big eyes are staring at the dog. Apparently this is effective too.

There are some spray products on the market that shoot a hard spray of compressed air (or compressed air with a strong smell) toward the dog. A trainer friend of mine recently used the compressed air to back off an aggressive off-leash Siberian Husky who wanted to interact with her Jack Russell Terrier, who was on leash. One shot of the air convinced the Husky he had business elsewhere.

Dealing with Dogs That are Off-Leash (and Your Dog is On!)

What would you do if an off-leash dog approached your dog on a walk? What is the approaching dog intension? What should you do to keep both you and your dog safe?

Anyone who has ever walked their dog – or even gone for a walk without a dog – has had to deal with an off-leash dog. Perhaps the owner has unleashed his dog to run and play or the dog may have dashed out the gate or front door and is now running free. In any event, an off-leash dog is a potential hazard to you and your dog.

Unfortunately, there is no one solution to how to deal with a dog running free who approaches you. Every dog is different and has its own agenda when it approaches you and your dog. Some may be genuinely friendly, others hesitant, some protecting their perceived territory, and others downright dangerous.

What are the Approaching Dog's Intentions?

The vast majority of dogs will show their intentions via their body language.

  • A dog who is being friendly will approach you and your dog with loose, wiggly body language. The key to these dogs is everything is soft, loose, and relaxed.
  • A dog who is protecting his territory – his house, yard, car, or even a park he frequents – will be barking, dashing back and forth, and usually moving quickly. He may have his hackles up.
  • A dog who is ready to instigate a fight is usually up and forward in his body language. He is up on his toes, leaning forward, and his tail is higher than normal. This dog is usually very still. He will also have a hard stare with infrequent blinks.

If you would like a good resource for learning more about canine body language, pick up a copy of Brenda Aloff's book, “Canine Body Language.” It's illustrated with photos of dogs and a description of what was going on when the photo was taken. It's quite informative.

What to Do If an Off Leash Dog Approaches

I don't allow any unleashed dogs to approach mine. Even friendly dogs can become angry and reactive. Plus, I have no idea if that dog is healthy. I keep all unknown dogs away from mine. Plain and simple.

If the dog approaching you has an owner trailing behind, ask the owner to come get his dog. Most will say, “Oh, he's friendly,” but I never trust that. I assume an owner who is allowing his dog to approach a strange leashed dog is not a responsible owner, so I'm not going to trust him.

Never tell the owner of the loose dog that your dog is aggressive, doesn't like other dogs, or is in any way a danger. That opens you up to liability should something happen. Instead, say your dog is in training, you don't have time for socialization, or perhaps even say, “Call your dog. The veterinarian says my dog is contagious.”

If there is no owner at hand and the dog looks friendly, toss a big handful of your dog's training treats on the ground and, while the dog is scarfing up the treats, just walk away. An overly excited dog can be startled if the handful of treats is tossed right at him. He may hesitate and then discover the treats while you make your escape.

A training client of mine who has had a knee replacement and walks her small Poodle mix every day uses an umbrella as a walking stick. When a dog approaches her small dog, she pops the umbrella open in the dog's face and then keeps it there as the dog tries to get around it. She says this is quite effective, although she gets some strange looks on sunny days.

I've heard that some dog owners who use the umbrella trick paint large angry eyes on the umbrella so that when it pops open, big eyes are staring at the dog. Apparently this is effective too.

There are some spray products on the market that shoot a hard spray of compressed air (or compressed air with a strong smell) toward the dog. A trainer friend of mine recently used the compressed air to back off an aggressive off-leash Siberian Husky who wanted to interact with her Jack Russell Terrier, who was on leash. One shot of the air convinced the Husky he had business elsewhere.

Dealing with Attention-Seeking Behaviors in Dogs

Dealing with Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Dogs are smart; It doesn’t take long for them to figure out how to push their owners’ buttons with attention seeking behaviors. I’ll admit my youngest dog Bones, an English Shepherd, has experimented with some attention-seeking behaviors. For a while he even got away with it. His methods were so subtle I don’t even know for sure when these behavior began. Once I caught on, however, I had a good laugh. Every once in a while it’s good for a dog trainer to realize her dog is smarter than she is.

What Are Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors?

These behaviors are appropriately named. When you aren’t paying attention to your dog and he does something to make you notice him, he may just remember that action and repeat it later.

One of the most common attention-seeking behaviors I hear about from dog owners concerns the phone. The dog might be relaxed and quiet normally but when the owner talks on the phone (or when the phone rings) the dog becomes active. He may run up and down the hallway, bark loudly and incessantly, or jump on the owner. This behavior often causes problems with dog owners who work from home.

Other common attention-seeking behaviors include inappropriate barking and whining, jumping on people (other than a friendly greeting), pawing, and playing “keep away” with inappropriate items. Nose bumping (hitting people hard with the nose, often in the back of the leg) is also common, as is shoving toys at you.

Once I caught on to what Bones was doing, I realized that the behavior he exhibited most frequently was staring at me. He has one blue eye that is quite striking so his stare is an effective attention-gaining technique. If I was reading and he sat in front of me and stared, I would stop reading and talk to him. If he was lucky I’d follow through and interact further with him. Bones’ stare worked in his favor.

Are Canine Attention-Seeking Behaviors a Problem?

Attention-seeking behaviors don’t have to be a problem. If I had been reading for a while and missed supper time but Bones was hungry, his need for attention wouldn’t be a problem. Or would it?

The first time this behavior happened I could put down my book to feed Bones and my other 2 dogs. But what would happen if Bones decided to remind me about meals every day? What if he began demanding meals 15 minutes earlier than normal, then an hour earlier? That could quickly become annoying.

Whether or not the behavior is a problem depends on the behavior, why it’s occurring, how you respond to it, and whether or not it turns into a habit. I like it when my dogs communicate with me and I like it when they think and solve problems. That said, I also don’t want my dogs to manipulate me. There’s a happy balance somewhere in the middle.

Reducing Canine Attention-Seeking Behavior

Sometimes your dog will try to get your attention for a reason; maybe he’s hungry, he wants to play, or there is something going on nearby. Many times, however, the dog is bored. You’ve been busy or maybe he didn’t get enough physical or mental exercise. Here are some ways to use up some of that physical and mental energy and potentially alleviate some of those attention-seeking behaviors:

  • Exercise: A long walk, a brisk jog, a swim, retrieving games, or a hike in the hills are all great for exercising the body and clearing cobwebs from the mind. There is no firm rule as to how much exercise each dog needs but a good general rule is that at least once a day a healthy dog should work hard enough that he needs to stop, pant, and relax. If your dog has health challenges or you have questions, talk to your veterinarian.
  • Obedience training: Try teaching the basic obedience skills, including sit, down, stay, and come. If your dog has already had some basic obedience training, do a training tune-up.
  • Trick Training: This is work–just as obedience training is–but it’s great fun that uses mental energy. Teach your dog to spin, weave between your legs, play peek-a-boo, or take a bow. If none of these strike your interest, why not teach him some new tricks of your own?
  • Play Games: Playing with your dog alleviates boredom but it’s also great for your relationship – you laugh and you both have a good time. The muffin tin game is inexpensive to set up and great fun. Push-ups use your training skills but also require energy from your dog. Commercial brain games are more expensive than the muffin tin game supplies, but are more challenging for your dog and more fun. No matter what games you play, they are great for relieving mental boredom.

    The other key to reducing attention-seeking behavior is to let your dog work only when you want him to work. Be aware of what your dog is doing and respond in his favor only when you are willing to do what he asks. If it’s dinner time and Bones has just reminded me, I may be willing to get up and fix the dogs’ dinner. However, if he’s asking to be fed ahead of schedule I may ask him to do twenty push-ups instead, then ask him to lie down and stay for a few minutes. I won’t yell or scold, but with a happy voice I will ask him to do something for me rather than the other way around.

  • Mounting Behavior in Dogs

    Canine Mounting Behavior 

    Movies and TV shows often use the image of a dog mounting any number of different objects (from other dogs to beach balls or even a person) as a comedic element. However, dog owners know this behavior can be frustrating and incredibly embarrassing. The fact that it's a natural behavior often leads to some of the frustration.

    Why Do Dogs Mount?

    A male dog mounting a female dog is a normal reproductive behavior. This position is necessary for breeding purposes; if both the male and female are intact and the female dog is biologically ready for successful breeding to take place this behavior can lead to puppies in just a few months.

    However, confusion is understandable if the behavior doesn't occur for a reproductive purpose. For example, if it's the female dog mounting males or other females, a male mounting another dog's head, or a dog of either sex mounting non-dog species or inanimate objects such as the family cat, stuffed toys, or a person.

    In pre-pubescent puppies, mounting behavior is considered part of play. Puppies of either sex may jump on another puppy at which point instinct takes over as the front legs grasp and the hips begin moving. These puppies are easily distracted, however, and play continues. In puppies of this age, reproduction is not an issue nor is dominance; the behavior is simply play.

    While many dog owners associate mounting behavior with dominance and assume the dominant dog mounts a submissive (or less dominant) dog, this hasn't been shown as true in most situations and with most dogs. In fact, the opposite is more often the case. An anxious or socially inept dog is more apt to try to mount another dog; as those emotions kick in and the dog has to do something to express them, he (or she) often mounts the closest (or favorite) dog.

    Dogs who get over-stimulated or too excited during play will often also mount other dogs. If another dog isn't around or if that dog won't cooperate, the overly excited dog may mount anything else available. Many times during play sessions with several dogs, a dog who feels left out will mount another dog in an attempt to be a part of the play or to get attention.

    Both intact and sterilized dogs of both sexes will participate in this behavior if it serves as an attention-getting device. For example, if the dog begins to mount the family cat (or a person or a toy) and everyone laughs, the dog will try it again later to see if the same reaction occurs.

    Mounting is not inherently a ‘bad' behavior. As a general rule, no harm is done when a dog mounts another dog. Many times the mounting dog is simply ignored. However, if the mounting dog gets too enthusiastic, the dog being mounted may communicate via barking, growls, raised hackles, and other body language to let the mounting dog know that this behavior is not wanted.

    Natural or not, mounting can certainly be an embarrassing behavior for dog owners, especially when it occurs in public! As dogs repeat actions that are rewarding to them, mounting behavior can become a bad habit. It can actually become addicting to some dogs. As a result, it's usually a good idea to curb this behavior as much as possible and give the dog something else to do instead.

    Dealing with Mounting Behavior in Dogs

    Interrupt and Redirect Dog's Behavior - Unwanted mounting behavior should be interrupted and the dog redirected to another activity. For example, if your dog is mounting a sofa cushion, interrupt him with an unexpected sound (clap, drop a book to the floor, whistle, or cough). When he stops the action, redirect him by walking away so he follows you, tossing a ball, or encouraging him to play with a toy.

    Punishing the dog by yelling, shaking him, or using other rough punishments doesn't work. In fact, if your dog is mounting out of anxiety the punishments will only increase his anxiety. Instead, interrupt the behavior and then get him interested in something else.

    Exercise can also help as exercise tires the body, relieves stress, and helps eliminate boredom. Brain games are great for relieving boredom, too, and are good for you and your dog to do together. Finally, a training tune-up can get you and your dog working and communicating better keeping your dog's brain busy at the same time. Exercisebrain games, or training won't stop mounting behaviors by themselves, but when used with interruptions and redirections they can significantly reduce the behaviors.

    Bring A Puppy Home – What You Should Do for the First 24 Hours

    A puppy is a brand new little being of unlimited potential. This adorable, fuzzy bundle of joy will grab your heart and turn your world upside down. The first twenty-four hours after you bring him home is often especially difficult. He will be in a strange place with unknown people and may cry for his mother and siblings. You may feel overwhelmed and wonder if you made the right choice bringing him home. It doesn't have to be quite so upsetting for either one of you though; especially if you're prepared.

    Before You Bring Him Home

    Take the time to do some preparation prior to bringing home your new best friend. For a list of supplies you will need, take a look at this puppy checklist.

    Making sure the living spaces you will be sharing with your puppy are safe is vitally important. Puppy proof your home, making sure your puppy can't reach any wires, electronics, medicines, shoes, kids' toys, or anything else that is chewable, potentially dangerous, or expensive.

    Take a look at the yard too. Is your fence secure? There should be no loose wires or boards in the fence and no holes in or under the fence that can be enlarged by an industrious puppy. Check the gate also. Often the gate has more clearance under it so it can move freely and a small puppy might be able to slip under it.

    Decide where your puppy is going to sleep, where he will eat, and where and how he will spend his days. If all of these decisions are made before you bring home your puppy, there will be fewer problems after he's in the house.

    The Ride Home

    You will need to spend a few days with your puppy when he first comes home. This will help the two of you get to know each other as well as relieve some of his anxiety about being in a new home. It can be beneficial to bring your puppy home on a Friday afternoon if you have the weekend off.

    Ask his breeder or the rescue to give him a small meal several hours before you pick him up. If his tummy is empty, he'll be less likely to get carsick.
    Have him ride home in his crate in your car. You might be tempted to have him ride on your lap, but that isn't safe and it will give him the idea that this is how he will always ride in the car. He's safer and will get into significantly less trouble in his crate.

    Introductions

    When you first get home, take him immediately to the spot where he will be relieving himself. Don't let family members "oooh" and "aaah" over him right now; take him outside. Let him relax, sniff the grass, and then relieve himself. Praise him using the phase you will be using in the future, such as “Good boy to get busy!”

    Once he's relieved himself, bring him inside so the family can meet him one person at a time. You can have one person hold him, snuggle with him, and introduce him to toys. That person can offer him something to eat, take him outside again, and then put him in his crate for a nap. After his nap, take him outside again and another family member can interact with him. If too many people crowd him too quickly, with joyful noises and lots of hands touching him, your puppy may be overwhelmed, so make sure everyone understands the importance of taking things slow.

    Avoid inviting extended family members or neighbors to come meet your new family member right away. Give him several days to become a part of your family, then gradually introduce new people.

    If there is already a dog in the family, keep that introduction low key also. Make sure the dog at home gets plenty of attention, play time, walks, and tummy rubs so that the puppy's addition to the family doesn't cause jealousy.


    (?)

    Playing Tug of War with Your Dog

    For many years, dog trainers told people not to play tug of war games with their dogs. The theory was that these games were teaching the dog to use his strength against his owner and for some dogs (and owners) this is still true.

    When used wisely, however, tug games are not inherently bad. Grabbing something, and then shaking it hard while growling, is natural to most dogs. Two dogs in a household will often play tug games with one dog on each end of a toy.

    Tug games can also be rewards. Many performance sport exhibitors use tug games as a reward for their dogs' work. Those dogs who compete in agility, flyball, and other energetic sports enjoy a game of tug before and after their competition or training session. The fun of the game of tug is just as much a reward for these dogs as a treat is for other dogs.

    Teach the Give Command First

    Your dog needs to know how to give up a toy before you start tug games. After all, if your dog won't give up the toy when you ask him to do so, then the tug game can turn into a problem; especially if he tries to play tug with your belongings.

    Choose one of your dog's favorite toys to teach the give command. Have a handful of high value treats (cheese, chicken, freeze-dried liver) in your pocket. Let your dog drag a leash while you toss one of his toys.

    When he brings you the toy to throw again, step on his leash so he doesn't run away. Then offer him a treat with one hand and place your other hand under his mouth and toy. When he drops the toy to take the treat catch the toy and then tell him, “Give! Good give!” and give him the treat. Then toss the toy for him again.

    Your dog gets three rewards for giving up the toy: your praise, the treat, and throwing the toy for him to chase.

    Teaching the Timid Tugger

    When your dog will give up the toy easily you can begin encouraging him to tug. Tugging is natural to most dogs and they don't need to be taught, but some dogs are hesitant to do this with their owners.

    Start gently with a toy your dog already likes. Holding the toy by one end (so your dog doesn't grab your hand by mistake) shake it so your dog is attracted to the motion. When he grabs it, release it and praise him.

    When he has more confidence about grabbing the toy, then don't release it right away. Just hold it and let your dog pull against it. Praise him, “Sweetie, get it! Yeah! Look at you!” After a few seconds, drop the toy and let your dog prance away with it. When he's tugging with more confidence then alternate between dropping the toy so he can win the game and asking your dog to give it to you.

    The Bold Tugger

    With some dogs, it's important that they give you the toy rather than you dropping it to let them run off with it. Dogs who are mentally and physically bold, as well as dogs who are strong enough to overpower their owners, need to understand the give exercise and be willing to drop the toy when asked.

    Some dogs will get so excited that they forget what they're doing. They are tugging, growling, shaking and don't care who or what is holding the other end of the toy. These dogs need to drop the toy when asked so you can help them calm down.

    Tug games should be fun for you and your dog without causing any harm. If at any time the game becomes too much, then stop the game and put the tug toy away.


    (?)

    When Your Dog Wants to Eat the Mail Carrier

    When Your Dog Wants to Eat the Mail Carrier

    The photographs on the television news a few days ago were graphic and horrid. A mail carrier in San Diego had been delivering mail last year in a residential neighborhood when a dog got through a gate. The dog jumped for the mail carrier's neck and face; injuring the man severely. Even now, a year later, the scars on his face and neck are horrible. He still needs medical care before his broken and missing teeth can be replaced. The mail carrier admits the mental anguish is bad, too.

    The United States Postal Service statistics for 2012 showed that 5,879 mail carriers were bit by dogs. UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services face the same issues. A driver shows up at the door to make a delivery and is met by an angry dog. It's a problem that is both growing and serious.

    Why Dogs Hate the Delivery Men – Possible Explanations

    Many dog owners explain bad behavior toward mail carriers or delivery drivers by saying the dog hates uniforms. However, in reality, dogs rarely pay attention to what people wear. Hats and sunglasses can sometimes cause problems because they get in the way of communication. But other items of wear usually don't bother dogs unless the dog has been treated badly by a person wearing the same clothes.

    Other dog owners have told me their dogs hate delivery drivers because of the sound of the truck, or because the mail carrier is walking around the neighborhood, or because the delivery driver rings the doorbell. Others have said the dogs are suspicious of boxes being left at the front door.

    All of these could have some impact on canine behavior, but the plain and simple reason why so many dogs dislike the mail carrier or delivery driver is because this is a battle that occurs every day that the dog can win. Look at this from the dog's point of view. He's at home where life is calm, quiet and secure. He's in his territory. Then the mail carrier or delivery driver comes to the door, drops something through the slot, or rings the bell and delivers a box. The dog barks ferociously and the mail carrier or delivery driver leaves.

    In the dog's mind, his barking and defense of his home is what has caused the trespasser to leave. He has won again.

    Managing the Dog vs. Delivery Man Situation

    Dogs repeat actions that are rewarding to them and this one is a biggie. When your dog barks ferociously at the mail carrier, his body reacts by producing hormones and other chemicals to combat this stress. When the mail carrier leaves and your dog “wins” the daily battle, he's on a mental and physical high. This guarantees he's going to do it again whenever the mail carrier approaches your house.

    Counteracting this is tough. Many experts recommend giving the mail carrier or delivery driver a box of dog treats and asking them to give your dog a treat every time they come to the house. I've recommended this, too, depending on the dog and how ferociously he tries to defend his house and chase off the intruder. Sometimes it works.

    Other recommendations have included praising the dog for being quiet, distracting the dog, and redirecting his attention to you when someone comes to the house. For example, if you teach the dog to come find you when someone comes to the house, this can change his focus from the delivery person to you. This is tough to train though, unless you begin teaching it when the dog is a puppy. Even then, unfortunately, the excitement most dogs have for chasing off the potential intruder tends to override training.

    The best recommendation to keep mail carriers, delivery people, and your dog safe is to simply practice safety. Keep doors closed (and locked if needed), keep gates locked, and the dog securely confined when mail carriers are due and deliveries expected. Make sure your fence is safe and secure and check it often for any weaknesses. If your dog has jumped through a screen, a window or a door, keep him in another room.

    Professional Help for Delivery Man-Dog Aggression

    How to Keep Your Dog Calm When Guests Come to Visit

    Does your normally well-behaved dog lose his mind when guests come to your home? If so, you're not alone. This is one of the most common complaints I hear from dog owners all year round.

    From your dog's point of view, you can certainly understand it. Guests are a break in the normal routine. Depending on your dog, the guests might be perceived as friends or as trespassers, but in both cases they are a change; something different. In either case, it's important to teach your dog what you want him to do. After all, your guests aren't going to appreciate being jumped on or otherwise mistreated by your dog.

    Your ultimate goal will be to have your dog sit at the door while you answer it. When you invite your guests in, he should not jump on them and, ideally, should greet them calmly. Does this sound like it's too much? It's not impossible. It will take some work, but you and your dog can do it.

    Train Your Dog

    First of all, if you haven't been practicing your dog's obedience skills, do some training. A tune-up will get the two of you working together again. Make sure you spend some time working on the sit command. Remember that the sit command means self-control, so spend some time practicing in different situations; especially at the front door.

    The second step helps teach manners at the front door (or any door where guests enter your house). Practice teaching your dog not to dash through open doors as this will also help teach your dog to be calm at doors. Practice the watch me command also, so you can gain your dog's attention when he's distracted.

    When your dog is doing well with these skills, then recruit a family member, friend, or neighbor to help you. Hang your dog's leash over the doorknob or have it somewhere close to the door. Have some good treats in your pocket. Ask your helper to ring the doorbell or knock on your door. Follow your dog to the door and call out to your helper, “Hold on, please, while I leash the dog!” Then leash your dog, ask him to sit, and open the door. If your dog breaks the sit, ask your helper to close the door and begin again.

    When your dog can hold the sit when your helper steps into the house, praise him calmly, pet him, and give him a training treat. Ask your helper to ignore him as attention from her right now would be distracting. All rewards should come from you. Then have her go back outside and repeat the exercise.

    Several training sessions with different helpers will build on this foundation.

    Additional training steps include inviting the helper inside, closing the door behind her, walking with her into the house, and inviting her to have a seat as you also sit and have your dog lie down and stay at your feet.

    If at any time your dog gets distracted, ask him to sit and do a watch me. Use a treat to help him do the watch me. Praise him and pop the treat in his mouth as soon as he makes eye contact. Then repeat the part of the exercise where he got distracted.

    If you take these training steps one at a time, and don't go on to the next step until the one you're working on is solid, then your dog should come to understand that you want him to be calm with guests in the house. How soon this happens depends on your training abilities, your dog's motivation to cooperate with you, and how distracting your helpers are.

    Teach Your Guests

    The hardest part of this is not going to be training your dog; it's going to be teaching your guests. Dogs get overly excited when guests come to their home because they are a distraction. The guests who come to your house also pay attention to your dog. They may allow the dog to jump on them; they pet the dog; and probably sneak him some bits of food. The petting, food, and jumping up all become rewards and so your dog continues the rude behaviors.