Daniel Gale approached a house on his Upper Arlington postal route and exchanged looks with the dog who was dutifully guarding the glass front door.
“There he is,” Gale said, not taking his eyes off the dog.
The sleepy canine lifted its head and gave Gale a half-hearted growl as he dropped the mail into the box next to the door.
Gale feels lucky, because Upper Arlington only has two dogs on the U.S. Postal Service’s warning list.
“I’m very fortunate, I’m not going to lie,” Gale said.
Some Columbus postal carrier aren’t so lucky.
Columbus ranked No. 8 in the nation for dog attacks on postal workers in 2015, according to the Postal Service. The postal service reported 43 dog attacks in Columbus in 2015, nearly double the attacks the previous year.
The only Ohio city with a higher ranking was Cleveland, which had 58 dog attacks last year.
Postal workers are trained throughout the year to handle problem dogs, said David Van Allen, a spokesman for the Postal Service.
Gale said he received an initial two hours of training when he was hired on how to handle aggressive dogs, including how to approach a dog sitting behind a screen door, how to use his shoulder bag as a shield and when to use his pepper spray if a dog attacks.
It’s mostly psychological, Van Allen said.
“The postal employee comes on the dog’s property day after day after day. And then the dog barks and the postal employee goes away,” Van Allen said. “Over time, the dog feels more powerful.”
Recognizing aggressive dogs is the key to avoid a dog bite, Gale said.
“When I do see a dog, I have two major things I look for,” he said. “One, how is the dog acting? Is it rigid and stiff? If it is, I’m not stopping at that house.”
Gale added that he also looks out for children in the yard, because dogs tend to be more protective of them.
Though most dogs tend to be friendly, some bite if they see someone unfamiliar, said Meghan Herron, the head of the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center’s Behavioral Medicine Clinic.
“Dogs have an ability to recognize friendly and familiar versus uniforms,” she said.
Herron said aggressive behavior towards postal workers can be curbed through some training, like removing dogs from the room when a postal worker approaches the house.
“That type of learning is going to take 100 times to overcome,” Herron said, adding that ideally, training should start at a young age.
Positive reinforcement is usually key, she said. The dog learns “something good is coming.”
“I’ve met a lot of Fedex drivers who carry dog treats with them,” Herron said.
Gale said he doesn’t believe in that method.
“Every dog has teeth,” he said. “Every dog can bite.”