You've Got Mail. Dog barking at door
NBN, Solutions

You've Got Mail! Surviving Deliveries with Your Reactive Dog


Mail deliveries, a mundane part of daily life for many, can become a challenging experience when you share your home with a reactive dog. 

Whether it's anxiety about noises, fear of strangers, or just an overall discomfort with novelty, some dogs find the arrival of packages and the daily visit from the postie to be a stress-inducing event. 

In this blog, we'll explore why some dogs struggle with deliveries and provide you with practical, game-based solutions to help your reactive dog navigate this common scenario.

Understanding Reactive Behaviour

Dogs, like humans, express their emotions through behaviour. If your dog howls at delivery trucks or sings the song of their people when there’s a knock at the door, this is a clear indication that they are finding that situation challenging, overwhelming, or, in some cases, way too exciting! 

While you can’t know for sure what emotion your dog is feeling simply by the fact that they are barking, you can be certain they aren’t in the best emotional space. Even excitement isn’t great in big doses because it fills your dog’s stress bucket.

Understanding that your dog's reactions are an outward display of their internal emotions is the first step toward creating a positive and stress-free environment and tackling their reactivity when the mailman calls.

As well as managing your dog’s environment to minimise their opportunity to react to events that trigger an increase in arousal, it’s important to consider what skills your dog needs to grow and play targeted games to help them learn that deliveries are no big deal. 

By helping your dog embrace calmness, feel more optimistic about the world and less worried by novelty, and teaching them to disengage from those things that they have become accustomed to reacting towards, you can set them up for the very best success - and restore some household harmony in the face of deliveries.

Why Deliveries Are Stressful

It’s worth taking a moment to consider why your dog might find the arrival of mail worrying, and why a knock on your door might trigger barking, zoomies or any other undesirable behaviour your dog chooses as an outward display of how they are feeling in that moment.

Noise Sensitivity

Dogs have highly sensitive hearing, and for some, the sound of a mail truck pulling up outside, or the clatter of the letterbox, can be enough to trigger anxiety.

Stranger Danger

Some dogs are naturally pessimistic and find unfamiliar people worrying. If your dog struggles with visitors and is uncomfortable interacting with people outside their immediate family, a knock on the door can quickly become associated with all those feelings of worry, anxiety and fear that they experience when new and unfamiliar people come into their home. 

This apparent territorial aggression can feel overwhelming, but it is simply your dog’s way of expressing how they feel. It is natural for your dog to alert you to potential threats. The key is helping your dog learn that deliveries are not something they need to worry about - and being their very best advocate in situations they find challenging. More on this later.


If your dog routinely barks when an unfamiliar person approaches their territory and eventually leaves, they can quickly learn that barking is an effective strategy. “I bark, the scary person goes away!” Your dog is literally being rewarded for barking because the desired outcome - that the ‘threat’ goes away, has been achieved, thereby reinforcing and rewarding the behaviour.

Novelty Overload

The arrival of packages introduces new scents, sounds, and sometimes unfamiliar objects, which can be overwhelming for a reactive dog.

So how can you set your reactive dog up for success and help them take deliveries in their stride?

Concepts for Success

Concepts are the building blocks of your dog’s brain. These concepts include calmness, focus, disengagement, optimism and self-control, and all of these concepts combine to make up your dog’s unique personality. 

It’s your dog’s brain, with its particular combination of strengths and weaknesses, that is driving their behaviour and influencing the choices they make in different situations.

The root of reactivity - or of any behaviour struggle - is a lack of certain concepts.

The things we label as “problem” behaviours are simply a dog’s way of communicating that something in their world isn’t right. Your dog does not want to feel or behave that way. They are just telling you - in the only way they know how - that they aren’t currently skilled to deal with the situation they have found themselves in. You can read more in our Concept Training blog.

If your dog is worried by deliveries or gets way too excited any time there is a knock at the door, the most important concepts to grow are optimism, calmness and disengagement.

Optimism Rocks!

Just like humans, some dogs are born optimists while others are more pessimistic by nature. If your dog is naturally optimistic, whenever they come across something new or unexpected they will assume it to be something good rather than something to worry about. If your dog has a pessimistic view of the world, anything new, different, or challenging will trigger feelings of fear and uncertainty.

By playing games that focus on building and growing optimism, you can make your dog’s outlook more optimistic, and prepare them for anything they might encounter in life. The free AbsoluteDogs Optimism Rocks! eBook has some great games to get you started.

Calmness is King!

Calmness is also key. In fact, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give your dog.

Some dogs don’t understand calmness as a matter of course. It’s simply not part of their natural decision-making process to choose calmness over craziness.

Yet calmness is the concept that is going to set your dog up for the very best success in every aspect of life. Whether you have a dog who barks at noises, struggles to settle, gets over-excited by visitors or runs a wall of death around your living room when they hear a delivery truck pull up outside, a foundation of calmness is going to allow them to switch craziness for calm behaviour and make the very best decisions.

If your dog learns to embrace calmness, they will spend their days in a much better emotional state.

Check out the free AbsoluteDogs Calm eBook for amazing tips, games and strategies for building that king of all concepts.

It’s None of Your Business!

Disengagement is the skill which allows your dog to understand there is value in moving away from things - whether those things are really exciting, or really scary.

A struggle with disengagement can make life extremely difficult, especially when you have a reactive dog - and it can become even worse if your dog is left IN the situation for too long. Whether it’s the time spent moving towards another dog on a walk, the amount of time your dog is allowed to stare at things out of the window or the time they are left in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable, they will quickly get closer and closer to their coping threshold.

Alongside calmness and optimism, growing the concept of disengagement in all areas of your dog’s life will help create really appropriate coping strategies for your dog - so that even if they are worried about a situation, they are unlikely to choose barking, lunging, or another equally inappropriate behaviour. Instead, they will choose to come away from that situation because they have such strong value for disengagement.

Considering rehearsal and the importance of management

Just like any habit that you develop over time, the more you practise doing it the more it becomes your default when you’re excited, scared, bored or anxious.

It’s exactly the same for dogs. The more your dog barks when they are worried or excited or learns to rush at the door to scare away the perceived threat, the more they will do it. Rehearsal is powerful, and dogs get really good at the things they practise - especially if those things are inherently rewarding, appear to ‘work’ in the moment, or help them feel better about challenging situations.

If you notice that your dog spends much of their morning looking out of the front window waiting to spot the postie, or has learned to race towards the door in a barking frenzy any time a letter pops through your letterbox, think about what you can do to limit their opportunities to do that. 

You don’t want your dog to get better and better at reacting to deliveries because they get to practise every time your online shopping arrives, or the latest bill pops through the door.

Be strategic about where your dog gets to spend their time, and what they get to do. If you know a delivery is due, how about setting up a safe space where your dog feels comfortable and relaxed? Here are some super strategies to try.

Designated Comfort Zone

Set up a cosy space in your home where your dog can retreat during deliveries. Equip it with a comfortable bed, and make use of passive calming activities such as filled Kongs, calm mats and long-lasting chews. Not only will that give your dog something else to occupy their body and mind, but chewing and licking are naturally soothing. 

You can learn more about the myriad benefits of ditching the food bowl and using your dog’s daily dinner as part of your training in the free AbsoluteDogs Ditch the Bowl eBooks.

Boundary Games

Here at AbsoluteDogs we LOVE Boundary Games for every aspect of life with our dogs. Whether you have one dog or many, teaching them the value of hanging out calmly on a bed not only promotes that king of all concepts, it gives you a brilliant management strategy. 

Boundaries give your dog an alternative space to be, away from the front door, and a safe space to relax undisturbed while you’re chatting to the delivery driver and unloading your online shopping.

Our brand new Real Life Boundaries course will show you how to grow value for a boundary and give you all the steps to take boundaries from a training game to something that is real-life ready - at home and when you’re out and about.

And, along with our brilliant Calm course, it’s just one of the many amazing bonuses that are part of Games Club - the home of games-based training.

Discover more about Games Club and join today!

Games-Based Solutions for Mailbox Mayhem

As the home of games-based concept training, here at AbsoluteDogs we know how powerful simple yet effective training games can be to change the way your dog feels about situations.

Games are also the very best - and most fun - way to skill your dog up with those core concepts that will help transform mailbox mayhem to a dog who is a dream when deliveries arrive.

Check out our top three games for helping to change the way your dog feels about deliveries and knocks at the door - and in turn, change the way they respond to those triggers.

Training Game 1: Crazy Lady Game

This is a great game for dogs who are triggered by noises or who have learned that particular sounds (a knock at the door or someone shouting “hello!”) predict specific events that they find worrying. It’s a brilliant way to change your dog’s emotional response to those sounds and replace barking and high arousal with calm disengagement.

You’re going to need

✔️Some of your dog’s daily food allowance

✔️A helper can help make the game more ‘real life’

Step 1. Start in a quiet environment and greet the air with "hi" or "hello." Reinforce your dog for making great decisions and not barking or reacting to any of the craziness you are creating by delivering some of their daily food.

Top Tip. With this game, the best response from your dog is no response – so be sure to set them up to succeed. Adjust the craziness level to prevent barking; start with a whisper if needed.

Step 2. Expand the game to different rooms and continue to reward no response, pairing your craziness with yummy food.

Step 3. Introduce more unpredictability in your greetings. Be sure to keep rewarding calm reactions to make those positive pairings.

Step 4. Add distractions like doorbell sounds, or knock randomly on surfaces. Pair with calmly delivered food rewards to reinforce calmness and reduce doorbell-triggered barking.

Step 5. Involve someone else to create sounds so you can focus on rewarding calm responses as the game progresses to something that more closely resembles real life.

Training Game 2: DMT

DMT is one of our all-time favourite optimism-boosting games. The magic of this game is that it allows you to change your dog’s emotional response to novel and unexpected sounds and events, replacing fear or worry with a calm, positive emotional response and an ability to see them as nothing to be worried or excited by.

You’re going to need

✔️Some of your dog’s daily food allowance

Step 1. The first step is to teach your dog the significance of your marker word. Working somewhere without distractions and where you know your dog is going to be able to focus on you, say your marker word (eg, “Niiiice” or “Gooood”), and then calmly deliver a piece of your dog’s daily food allowance. 

Make sure you pause briefly after saying your marker word before you deliver the food. This teaches your dog that when they hear your word, a positive outcome (some yummy food) is going to follow. 

Step 2. Repeat this until your dog has learned to associate your marker word with the positive outcome that follows. You want to see them orient towards you when they hear your special word, in anticipation of that treat. This will show you that your dog has made the connection.

Step 3. Now you can start to pair your marker word with distractions. Notice a distraction (even ones your dog hasn’t noticed), say your marker word, and follow up with your treat (food). Start with easy distractions that don’t worry or over-excite your dog.

Step 4. Once you and your dog have practised this a lot at home with easy distractions, you can start using it in real life and with more challenging distractions. 

The ultimate aim is to pair your calm marker word with knocks on the door, the sound of the delivery truck outside, and any other novel distraction your dog might be aware of. Playing consistently will change the way your dog feels about those triggers, boosting their confidence and helping them learn to disengage (move away) from things that worry or excite them.

Training Game 3: Ding Dong Dash

This is a super game for powering up your dog’s boundaries and helping them learn to suction to their bed and remain there calmly, even when someone knocks at the door. You need Crazy Lady Game and DMT as a foundation - and of course an understanding of Boundary Games.

You’re going to need

✔️Some of your dog’s daily food allowance

✔️A boundary

✔️A helper can help make the game more ‘real life’

Step 1. Warm up by sending your dog to their boundary, feeding on the bed, then breaking them off with a verbal release cue. Repeat this a few times to really boost your dog’s desire to get on their boundary.

Step 2. Once you have powered up your boundary, call your dog off and gently restrain them (a gentle hand on their collar, harness or lead, or a light restrain on their chest - whichever your dog is comfortable with).

Step 3. Make your ding dong (doorbell) or equivalent sound (knock knock), release your dog and watch them race to the bed because the desire is high. It’s almost like a reflex! Maintain the value by dropping your food rewards directly onto the bed.

The doorbell or door knock sound becomes a new cue for your dog to hop up on their boundary and stay there until released.

Play these games little and often, remembering the importance of working outside of situations your dog finds challenging. As their skills grow and the way they feel about deliveries, knocks on the door or the ring of your doorbell is changed, you will start to see those same awesome choices appearing in real life too!

Keep Playing Games!

Surviving deliveries with a reactive dog is possible by implementing these game-based solutions. By understanding the root causes of your dog's reactive behaviour and incorporating positive reinforcement techniques, you can transform mail deliveries into stress-free non-events for both you and your dog. 

Remember, patience and consistency are key as you work together to create a positive association with the arrival of packages. Your dog will thank you with tail wags and a newfound confidence in facing the world outside your door.

Don’t forget, whatever your dog training struggle, we’ve got you covered! With training, strategies, dedicated courses and more, it’s all waiting for you over in the AbsoluteDogs Games Club – it’s dog training gamified!