Houston Postal Carriers: Top 5 for dog attacks, learn coping tricks

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dogHOUSTON, TX – Delivering mail can be tough. Not only do you have to put up with heat from hell, but every once in a while you have a run in with a dog.

Valencia Washington, a mail carrier in Houston for just six months has been attacked seven times,

“Big dogs and little dogs, all the way from Chihuahuas to pitbulls.”

“The scariest one was a pack of dogs,” says Lamar Wache, who’s been carrying mail less than a year. “It was like five of them, four small ones and one big one.”

Mailman Jason Leonard was hospitalized for dog attack, “I had stopped and was like, ‘Okay, he’s on a chain.’ But when he took off running he actually broke the chain.”

And these aren’t isolated incidents. Since last October, Houston has seen 51 mail carriers suffer dog bites or threatening attacks. That puts us in the Top 5 for most bitten nationwide, so the post office decided to do something about it.

Enter dog trainer Wes Wirick with “Sit Means Sit” Dog Training with a few crucial tips for the new postal workers:

  1. “Don’t look at the dog. Don’t talk to the dog. Hands at your sides. Stand still.”
  2. “Never run and never yell. When you yell, you are amplifying the situation. You are increasing energy levels. Dogs will feed off of our energy.”
  3. “(When confronted) use some sort of barrier. A barrier is anything you can use to put between you and that dog.”

And then — things got real. Wes took folks outside to demonstrate what he taught, bringing out his German shepherd Eros who attacked a backpack Wes was holding.

Next, the trainer asked for volunteers. The 20 or so postal carriers were hesitant, but Rodney Stubblefield, who had seen dog attack demonstrations on TV and always wanted to try it, stepped up.

“I was kinda nervous,’ explains Stubblefield, ‘but once he grabbed on, I was okay. I didn’t feel nothing so I was okay.”

Wache was next, admitting he was “kinda scared a little bit, but after (the dog) grabbed on, I knew I wasn’t in danger.”

Then it was back to the classroom for Q & A.

“The craziest question I heard was a dog speaking Spanish,’ laughs Wirick. ‘It doesn’t matter what language they’re taught in. What you show the dog is actually more important than what you’re telling the dog to do.”

Good to know! …not just for those delivering mail, but for anyone hoping to avoid that next bite.