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How to Stop Your Labrador From Barking at the Mailman

Barking is a quintessential dog behavior but many dog owners don’t realize that dogs bark for different reasons. A dog can’t communicate using words, so he uses the things he has at his disposal – namely, his ability to bark and his body language. Though some dogs will bark at anything that moves, Labrador Retrievers and other dogs seem to have a special affinity for barking at mailmen. Keep reading to learn why your dog barks at the mailman and how to stop him from doing it.

Why Do Labrador Retrievers Bark?

Though some dog owners consider it a problem behavior, barking is a very natural behavior for dogs. There are a number of different reasons why a dog might bark, but here are some of the most common:

  • Request barking – Many dogs learn that barking gets them what they want, whether it be food, attention, or something else. If your dog barks, it could be that he is asking for something.
  • Fear barking – When a dog is startled or frightened, he may bark as a means of trying to appear strong. You can condition your dog over time to reduce his fear response and therefore his barking.
  • Alarm barking – This type of barking stems from your dog’s natural territorial instincts. Many dogs bark at animals that come into their yard and at people who come to the door – they may even bark at cars passing by.
  • Boredom barking – If your dog spends a lot of time home alone, his barking could be due to boredom. You should provide him with plenty of toys, including some interactive toys, to keep him busy.
  • Separation anxiety – Dogs who tend to bark incessantly when their owner is not at home often do so as a result of separation anxiety. Labs are very people-oriented and can sometimes develop anxiety about being left alone if they don’t get enough love and attention during the day.

Each time your dog starts barking, take a moment to think before you react. Ask yourself why your dog might be barking and allow that to color your response.

Tips to Keep Your Dog from Barking at the Mailman

The best way to keep your dog from barking at the mailman is to train him to respond to a “quiet” cue. First, however, you’ll need to teach him to bark on command. Here are the steps to take in teaching your dog to bark on command and to stop barking on command:

  1. Stand with your dog in the entryway and have a friend stand outside the front door.
  2. Get your dog’s attention then tell him “Speak” in a firm tone – as soon as you say it, have your friend ring the doorbell to get your dog barking.
  3. As soon as your dog barks, tell him “Good boy” and give him a treat.
  4. Repeat the training sequence until your dog starts barking when you say “Speak,” without waiting for the doorbell to ring.
  5. Keep repeating the training sequence but do not give your dog a treat when he barks – instead, tell him “Good boy” and then tell him “Quiet”.
  6. When your dog stops barking, tell him “Good boy” again and give him a treat.
  7. Keep working with your dog until he starts to respond consistently to the verbal commands – at this point you can stop using the doorbell and start phasing out the food rewards.

The key to training your Labrador is consistency – be consistent about using the same commands and always issue praise when your dog does well. You can use food rewards to reinforce the behavior at first, but start phasing them out as your dog gains mastery over the command. Most importantly, don’t punish your dog for barking – it is infinitely more effective to reward a dog for doing well than to punish him for doing something you don’t like.

Photo credit: bondburn/Shutterstock