Our Mail Carrier is Refusing to Deliver to Us

Here’s our situation. We have a shepherd-collie mix dog, about 40 pounds, that barks when people come to the front door. This of course includes the mail carrier, since our mailbox is on the front of the house. I know she is not a dangerous dog, but I admit she can look intimidating when she puts her paws up on the door and barks. I don’t blame people for being cautious, but I keep our dog under control.

Now that the weather is nice I like to have the main door open in front, it is the only way to get air in that part of the house as the other front windows don’t open. We have a storm door that remains closed. Now when the mail carrier comes, the dog barks at her and puts her paws up on the storm door. I am sure it can be startling to have a dog barking at you when you come to the door, but the storm door has plexiglass on the bottom, and is a strong door and firmly in place. There is no way the dog can open or get through the door, the screen is on the top and she cannot reach up there so there is no possibility of breaking the screen. The door does not bend or strain the hinges or anything when she jumps up.

Friday we did not get any mail, and I thought that was odd. On Saturday my husband was outside when the mail carrier came, and she told my him that she did not deliver our mail on Friday “because the door was open.” My husband asked “the screen door?”
“No, the main door” she said. She told him she would not deliver the mail because “she forgot her dog spray that day.” When I looked at our mail on Saturday, she had written on one of the envelopes “Friday, did not deliver, door open!!” My husband explained to her that the dog was not dangerous and could not get through the door, but she says we need to keep the main door closed or restrain the dog.

Really? I know we need to keep the way to the mailbox clear and safe for her but seriously, the dog is in the house. I am wondering what you guys think. I almost put this in GQ since I wonder if she can really refuse to deliver our mail because our dog barks at her. I honestly understand that she has to be safe from dogs on her route and I would never let the dog be a danger. The dog is always in the house - she barks but cannot get outside. I don’t know what to do - should I just keep the door shut all afternoon? (She delivers mail any time between 1-4 pm.) If most people think I should just keep the door shut I will do it, but I admit I am annoyed and a little perplexed that she could think the dog can open the door.

I feel for her if she is afraid of dogs and is a mail carrier, but is a barking dog in the house a real reason to refuse to deliver?

Lots of people say “But my dog isn’t dangerous” right before the dog hauls off and chomps someone’s foot off. I’ve stopped believing it when people say it because they never see that their babies are evil. I’m not saying your dog is at all, but I understand the mailcarrier’s point of view.

And the dog can certainly go through a screen door if she wants to…I’ve seen really friendly dogs leap up and right through the screen part of the door. They mean no harm, they just want to come lick you, but that’s pretty intimidating. A shephard-collie mix would have no problem with it.

Does all this mean your dog will? No. But again, I understand her. Can you work out something…if you know when she is going to come by, can you restrain the dog for just half an hour? Can you ask her to specify her delivery time? I know you think she is wrong for this, but put yourself in her position - she only has your word to go by that this large dog barking at her is in fact, friendly. Maybe invite her in to meet the dog?

Well, the mail carrier is creating a false picture of the situation by saying the door is open. I understand her fears, but she’s taking it a bit too far. that’s like saying a meteor might hit Earth. The door is closed. She needs to get over it or get into another line of work. I’d call the post office and pitch a bitch. It’s not YOUR fault she forgot her dog spray and it’s not YOUR fault she has an overblown sense of fear about the door.

That said, maybe you can install a more substantial looking door or do something else to ensure the dog can’t escape.

Yes, IMHO that is a valid reason to refuse delivery. In another life, I operated a small package delivery operation (I was an Owner Operator for RPS), and I had to contend with many many dogs. Believe me, your AmEx bill isn’t worth even a nip on my ankle. I had neighbors years ago that owned a Rotty - a big friendly female with a bark that shook my windows. The regular letter carrier knew her and there was no trouble. He approaced, she barked, he delivered the mail a told her “Good girl” and he was on his way. Well, he took some time off, and the replacement carrier approached the house, the dog barked and frightened/startled him, and he sprayed her with Pepper Spray. She was never the same after that, and so began years of letter carrier hatred and distrust by a previously friendly dog. The bottom line is you can’t reason with a dog, and those fine folks with the USPS are out there unarmed (as it were). I can understand your indignance, and I can sympathize - I’ve owned dogs, and it’s annoying when people don’t trust this animal that’s a part of your family, but I come down firmly on the side of the USPS on this one. Sorry.

Sorry, I’m with the mail carrier. While you and your dog are most likely safe, the carrier does not know that. Storm doors also open outward, so a faulty latch (which the carrier won’t know about) will let the dog come crashing out. Front doors open inward, so a dog cannot push it out when its closed.

You can’t trust people you don’t know, especially when you deliver to 1,000 of them a day. At some point, someone will let you down, then you get bitten. There’s a limit to the risk you can allow yourself when you interact that often with people, I can easily see a barking dog restrained by a storm door being beyond that limit.

I think it’s also a good idea to look into training your dog to be less aggressive with visitors. Putting paws up and barking is not an acceptable response to a person approaching your home.

My understanding is that a mail carrier can refuse to deliver to an address because of concerns for his safety.

I am a dog lover, but let’s get real: how many dog owners believe their companion is a real threat to strangers? I think it is a very low percentage. From a mail carrier’s perspective, I don’t think that they should take anyone’s assurances that their dog is just a big, friendly, barking bundle of fur with a golden heart who can’t possibly get through a storm door. I see factoids that nearly 27,000 mail carriers get bitten each year, so I’m strongly inclined to err on the side of the mailman’s legitimate fear that a dog – any dog – could ruin his day.

I just don’t see that it is a very big deal to close your front door during normal delivery hours. I understand you want some air circulating in your house, but I don’t think that that’s a good reason why a mailman should have to put up with what sounds like an intimidating canine.

I don’t blame the mail carrier one little bit. It’s a pretty easy problem to fix: shut your door between 1 and 4, get rid of the dog, put it in the backyard between 1 and 4, or get a post office box.

My sympathies are with the mail carrier, and your dog should be restrained better if you want your mail delivered.

I used to have a newspaper route. I’d ride my bike over 5 miles of suburban streets every day, and occasionally a neighborhood dog would be wandering outside it’s yard and take an interest in me. It was never a problem. One morning, a big friendly dog saw me and was interested in me. No biggie… until he decided to reach over, chomp on my thigh, and then continue on his way.

I rushed home in a near panic with blood running down my leg and got a fun visit to the doctor worrying about rabies shots. We eventually found the dog and the owner confirmed he was a big friendly dog… except, well, yeah, he, uh, really didn’t like paperboys because one had taunted him. Now I have scars on my leg and an aversion to stray dogs.

Lock up your dog if you want your mail.

Another thought is to put your mailbox on the other side of your fence - this only works if you have a fenced yard.

We used to have two mailboxes, one near the front door, one on the fence, if the dog was out when the mail came we needed to walk a little. No biggie.

I don’t think you will get anywhere with a complaint. In the most likely scenario, I think that TPTB at the post office will back their employee. (The mailcarrier has done nothing wrong; there are rules about not delivering to a house where she feels endangered.) All the carrier has to say to her boss (after a putative complaint) is that she felt threatened. The complaint then gets either filed in the round file deposit, or you get a letter to formally restrain your dog.
You are in a fix; I don’t envy you. However, you are not going to win this fight (if you make it one). Move the mailbox, lock the dog in another part of the house (or backyard), or, if you can talk to the carrier for a minute, ask her what would make her feel safe. Maybe you can work something out.
Good luck.

Her dog is restrained. It’s in the house behind a closed door. You are talking about dogs that are wandering around outside, and that is not the case here.

I’m very leery of strange dogs and I will not tolerate a dog wandering around the neighborhood, but that simply isn’t happening here. Her dog is in the house behind a closed door. She said the door is in good working order, and I assume she’s double-checked that since the carrier stopped delivering mail.

Or his face.

An animal can open a screen door. If my 12-pound cat can hit the latch on a screen door and get out (something that almost happened the other day), then your larger dog certainly could. Even if it is locked, it can still trip the lock, or scratch its way out through the screen. You just don’t know. And after seeing the horrific damage done to people by “friendly” dogs I don’t blame someone for avoiding them. Sure, it might only be a 0.001% chance that a random dog will freak, break down the door, and rip up the mailman’s face, but is that a chance you really want to take? It won’t kill the dog to be shut up in another room for a few hours, or have the door closed for that period of time. Part of owning pets is protecting other people from them.

As I said, I’ve seen dogs leap through the screen parts of screen doors when excited enough.

Oh come on. A storm door with plexiglass on the bottom and screen only on top, where the dog can’t reach? How in the world can that NOT be “constraining the dog”? A storm door is not a fragile half-open screen door that can be ripped through at the drop of a hat.

I agree that dogs can pose a problem to mail carriers, but I’ve also experienced mail carriers who use the “danger” thing as an excuse to be lazy. Like my current carrier.

I have two pugs. Tiny little things, but they bark. When my mail carrier has a package for me, she drives up my driveway and sits in her car and honks the horn until me or Mr. Athena come out and get the package. She told us it’s because of the dogs.

Yup, that’s right. She’s so scared of two pugs that she cannot get out of her car, walk up on the porch and leave the package there or ring our doorbell. Because, you know, an 18 pound dog can go right through a heavily insulated locked front door.


Ok, there seems to be a consensus. I do understand that she has no reason to believe us when we say the dog will not hurt her. I just think having her in the house is a reasonable precaution - there is no way she is getting through this door. The screen is on the top, there is metal and plexiglass on the bottom. Even when the dog jumps up she can’t reach the screen, and she cannot take a running start at the door because there is furniture there. But oh well, I guess if she won’t deliver my mail she’s got us on this one. I do think that writing “Door Open” on our mail was giving a different impression of what really happened though. Like I said I was on the fence about this, I honestly do take responsibility for our dog and my feelings are not hurt if people think I should just keep the door closed.

Believe me I would love to train the dog to not bark, she is very well trained otherwise and we have taken her to obedience classes. (With a professional trainer, not just at PetSmart or something.) My toddler son is able to take toys and food out of her mouth. Even the trainer we work with admits that teaching a dog not to bark is one of the most difficult concepts to get across. She is very smart and trainable, but I am stumped on how to teach her this. She is not an excessively barky dog - when she is in the yard there are dogs in other yards on both sides of us that bark at her and she ignores them. She just barks when people come to the front door. Once you come in the door she does not bark at you, she runs in circles. If anyone has any ideas how to train a dog not to bark I would love to hear them.

Are we allowed to move our mailbox to the curb if she has a walking route? I wonder if that would solve everyone’s problem. Our front yard is not fenced in, when we let the dog out she is in the back yard, but I don’t want to leave her outside all afternoon either.

I have relatives who live in suburban Connecticut and the mail carriers all carry dog treats and know all the dogs on their route. I have even been out walking their dog (a huge lab) when a mail truck will stop and the guy gets out of the truck to give the dog a treat. He doesn’t know me, mind you, but he knows the dog by name.

This probably would not work for everybody (or every dog), but it always struck me as a good way to deal with the problem.

I agree with this, by the way. It’s a bit more than a mis-characterization.

I think it’s hard to understand what we might perceive as an irrational fear.

It’s something I really never thought about until one Saturday when the cable guy came to my house. When I opened the door he asked me if I had a dog in my apartment, I kind of laughed and said no, just a cat. Then we got to talking and he told me he’s been bitten three times and is now afraid of most animals. It seemed a little silly to me, but I’m not the one who has been bitten. He also told me that all three dog owners had told him the dog was friendly before he got bitten.

Anecdotal, but I bet a lot of letter carriers have had the same experiences.

Dogs leap through glass windows, too. But that doesn’t mean you have to lock your dog in a room all day waiting for the mailman to show up. It’s irrational. She’s done everything she needs to do under the present knowledge, circumstance, and best practices. No one is required to keep their big door shut all day, and we’re talking pedestrians, bicyclists, delivery men, etc., that go down the street all day long. Including those who approach the door. Why should this person be treated differently from the rest of the population?

Who’s saying she has to lock her dog in a room all day? The dog reacts when it sees the postal worker. OP didn’t say she reacts to anyone else. All we’re saying is logically, if she wants her mail it would behoove her to restrain the dog or move her elsewhere from 1 to 4 pm. It’s 3 hours, and if she’s home, what’s the big deal?