We often get phone calls from potential clients telling us that their dog hates people in uniforms. The people they’re generally talking about are the postman, UPS and FedEx drivers. Of course, people come to this conclusion because of the dog’s behavior when the above mentioned show up to their homes. Many dogs go ballistic at the door or front windows of their homes. The dog exhibits behaviors that could appear as aggressive behavior. But is it?
Are most dogs that bark heavily at the arrival of the postman, UPS and FedEx driver truly aggressive? The answer is, no! In the vast majority of cases these behaviors are learned. In many cases, these behaviors have turned into a classical conditioned response.
What does the postman, UPS and FedEx driver all have in common besides wearing a uniform? They all leave. Especially, the FedEx and UPS guy where they are generally running or jogging back to their trucks. So what effect does this have on the dog? It’s a reinforcing their behavior. Maybe the first couple times the dog grumbled and then watched them leave quickly. In the dog’s mind, their behavior made them go away. It’s reinforcing. It’s like giving a treat for a sit but way better. The dog begins to learn that their behavior (barking, lunging at windows and doors) drives the stranger away. Therefore, their behavior gets more intense.