With dog attacks on postmen and women again in the spotlight, vet charity PDSA believes better dog socialisation*, training and exercise could help combat this startling level of canine aggression.

a well socialised dog is a happy dog

This week, Royal Mail has revealed that eight postal workers are attacked by dogs every day in the UK. It reinforces shock findings from the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, which found that on a weekly basis nearly 250,000 dogs are acting aggressively towards people, and over 600,000** dogs are showing aggression towards other pets.

PDSA vet Vicki Larkham said: “The incidence of aggressive or inappropriate behaviour is a huge concern, and can be caused by a lack of socialisation, training and exercise.

“Our research shows that millions of dogs **aren’t getting off-the-lead exercise outside their home or garden for ten minutes or more, on a daily basis. In fact close to a quarter of a million never go for walks on their lead for ten minutes or more at all **. Boredom and inactivity often contribute to anxiety and destructive behaviour.

“A properly trained and socialised puppy is less likely to act aggressively as it grows up. It’s up to every owner to make sure this happens, but unfortunately, many miss out on this vital part of their dog’s development.”

PDSA’s PAW Report is the largest ever annual assessment of pet wellbeing (having surveyed 21,000 pet owners, veterinary professionals and children in the past four years). Produced in conjunction with YouGov, the latest report exposes a grave lack of understanding about how owners can provide their pets’ essential needs, according to Vicki Larkham:

“We are undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers, with four out of five pet owners stating that owning a pet makes them feel physically or mentally healthier. But anti-social behaviour in dogs continues to create problems, fuelled by a worrying lack of training, socialisation and exercise.”

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1 comment
  1. This begs the question – How does the dog reach the postman to bite him? That it happens at all, ever, shows a lack of understanding of why dogs behave as they do and how we need to manage their behaviours.

    From your dog’s point of view, he probably barks to warn the postman off every day, yet still he returns the next day to leave his scent, via your mail, inside the house! So if the dog one day gets the chance to reach the postman he escalates his behavior to a lunge or even a bite – after all, barking hasn’t worked. We should accept the need to keep the dog safe from making wrong decisions based on his territorial instincts, which means keeping dogs and postmen apart! When developing many breeds we deliberately selected dogs displaying a strong territorial protective instinct for the protection it gives us from intruders. It is not realistic after hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to now expect dogs to switch off this instinct completely.

    Whilst socialization, exercise and training are vitally important it is delusional to believe that these will invariably override deeply inherited instincts. And to debunk one regularly repeated piece of advice, introducing your dog to the postman isn’t the answer. What happens when your regular postman is sick or on holiday and a replacement calls? He may be wearing the same uniform but he doesn’t look or move the same and he certainly doesn’t smell the same to your dog!

    As a Dog Trainer and Behaviourist my advice would be – don’t take your dog with you to the front door to meet a postman. Do not open your door with your dog beside you to any caller you recognise unless the dog knows them very well and always welcomes them. If the caller is a stranger and you want to take the dog to the door with you as a safety measure be sure you can control the dog, even if this means slipping on a lead.

    Secondly, don’t leave your dog unattended in a garden which can be accessed by postmen or any other non family members. Apart from the risk of him biting/scaring a legitimate caller the gate could be left open and he could be lost, hit by traffic or even stolen. If you have only a front garden for him to relieve himself at regular intervals you should be out there with him. If you are not certain you can control him with your voice then he should be on a lead.

    Following these simple steps will keep your postman and your dog safe.

    Jill Muns

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