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Post-pandemic social anxiety in dogs leads to incidents for Canada Post delivery agents

Keep your dog on a leash or in a separate room before you open the door.

Saturday July 17, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

“Dog incidents can range from encounters with threatening dogs to being attacked and bitten,” said Canada Post in a news release earlier this week.

And in a chat with a local Canada Post delivery agent who herself loves dogs, here’s one more clue as to why:

Dogs are being left alone more compared to the last 16 months of social shutdown during the COVID pandemic, as people head back to the workforce. This leads to social anxiety for the pets, says Leslie Black.

canada post, leslie black
Canada Post delivery agent Leslie Black loves dogs but advises about dog management at the door. [Canada Post]

Black spoke with Island Social Trends on July 16, providing some more details to explore the local Victoria-area aspects of dog incidents for postal workers, following up from the corporation’s release advising the public about restraining their dogs when deliveries are made to the door of their home.

Be more aware of circumstances:

Black encourages dog owners to “increase their level of awareness” of how their dog might react to a sudden arrival at the door. That includes being aware of how children might not be able to completely assess and handle the situation if a dog reacts unexpectedly.

The recommendation from Canada Post is that dogs be put into a separate room with the door securely closed before the door is opened to postal workers or any other home-service provider, campaigner or even a neighbour, says Black. Dog owners need to be very “aware, mindful and careful,” says Black.

Or least, have the dog on a leash to help prevent door-dashing.

It happens so quickly:

A few years ago Leslie Black incurred a serious injury. “It happens so quickly,” she told Island Social Trends. Black was generous in her description of the horrific scene where she was jumped by the dog and needed 30 stitches as well as time for full emotional recovery. “People assumed that they knew their dog,” she assesses.

dog bite, stitches
Multiple stitches are often required after a dog bite or attack. [web]

After traumatic experiences like that, some postal workers cannot manage to return to active delivery in the community. “Some work inside the plant after that, or take early retirement,” Black said.

“I was lucky. As a dog-lover, I could heal and move on from the experience,” she told Island Social Trends. But, she adds that no matter the employment resolution afterward, the experience of a dog attack is “life altering”.

Hundreds of incidents every year:

Canada Post says there are about 600 to 800 incidents between dogs and their employees on an annual basis, though in 2019 that jumped to 1,000 incidents. That included an incident on Vancouver Island where a dog came out of the house and was between the delivery agent and the homeowner and bit the carrier repeatedly on the arm.

In 2020 during the pandemic the number of reported incidents dropped to 900, said Canada Post in a direct statement to Island Social Trends. That is considered to be associated with more people home with dogs feeling less isolated or abandoned. That number may increase again now that more parcels are being delivered to homes (due to online shopping).

canada post, worker, door
Canada Post delivery agent at the customer’s door. [Canada Post]

As well, incidents between dogs and Canada Post employees tend to be more frequent during the warmer months when people and children are more apt to be at home, says Nicole Lecompte, Media Relations, Canada Post.

Pet management at the door:

Canada Post asks customers to curb this number of door-dash incidents by keeping dogs behind closed doors while employees are working in the neighbourhood.

alistair macgregor

Even where a home receives mail through a slot in the door, carriers have had their hands injured by both dogs and cats who reach through the opening.

dog, leash
Door-dash incidents can be avoided by keeping your dog on a leash before opening the door. [web]

Postal workers are trying to do their job responsibly and to the best level of excellence that they can. For example, where a parcel doesn’t actually require a signature upon delivery but there is an expectation to ensure the recipient receives their parcel, a postal worker may knock or ring the bell, or linger a bit longer to see if the homeowner knows the parcel has arrived.

But things are now such that if postal delivery agents can avoid all potential contact with a dog, most of them will, says Black. Along these lines, about a decade ago the delivery personnel stopped carrying treats for dogs (which may have only incentivized the dog’s attempt at close contact).

Sooke Fine Arts Show, 2021
The 2021 Sooke Fine Arts Show runs July 23 through August 2 online.

Part of the community:

Postal workers are far more integrated into our communities than we may realize. They get to know people and the rhythm of a block or neighbourhood. They are eyes on the ground, as a passive form of safety for a community.

pandemic puppy, dog, training
Dog obedience training is being needed for ‘pandemic puppies’ and their owners.

Putting their heart into the job, at Christmas time, for example, the carrier realizes that a parcel might be someone’s special Christmas present. “We go the extra mail to get that delivered,” says Black. “We get to know people as a family including their children and puppies — watching them grow up over the years,” she said. “We do this with a sense of pride.”

Online shopping has considerably increased the number of parcels being delivered to people’s homes. This increases the potential interaction for delivery personnel with unknown situations at the household door.

One local pet expert says it’s a dog’s ‘job’ to protect their home and homeowner. This puts postal delivery agents in a tough spot when it’s their job to delivery mail and parcels that are expected at the home.

Pandemic puppies:

Leslie Black adds a further note about what are now being called ‘pandemic puppies’. These are young pups who were brought into a family during the pandemic when a family was generally home a lot and had more time to pay attention to their pet.

But as social activities and workplaces are opening up again, people are not home as much and this leads to confusion and anxiety for the now-older dog that is forced to adapt to a new set of circumstances. Black suggests that dog-training is key here.

Community mailboxes:

community mailbox, canada post
A large set of community mailboxes in the Langford area. Parcels can be left in the larger compartments below the letter mailbox compartments. [Island Social Trends – July 2021]

The community mailboxes where the mail for multiple households is delivered are one way for postal workers to avoid direct contact at the household door.

As online shopping continues in popularity, perhaps parcels will be increasingly be delivered that way, even if the person receives regular mail or letters through a door slot or in a mailbox near the door.

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