Helping Postal Workers Fend Off An Age-Old Problem: Dog Bites Los Angeles was the top city for dog attacks on postal workers last year. A training program teaches letter carriers how to protect themselves.

Helping Postal Workers Fend Off An Age-Old Problem: Dog Bites

Helping Postal Workers Fend Off An Age-Old Problem: Dog Bites

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Allen Burnsworth, owner of Sit Means Sit Dog Training in Los Angeles, demonstrates how to fight off a dog attack with Flash, a trained 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. Allie Ferguson/NPR hide caption

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Allie Ferguson/NPR

Allen Burnsworth, owner of Sit Means Sit Dog Training in Los Angeles, demonstrates how to fight off a dog attack with Flash, a trained 2-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Allie Ferguson/NPR

This week, the U.S. Postal Service released its rankings for dog attacks on postal workers in 2014, and Los Angeles was No. 1 on the list. Seventy-four letter carriers in the LA area were attacked last year.

http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2015/pr15_026.htm

This week, the U.S. Postal Service released its rankings for dog attacks on postal workers in 2014, and Los Angeles ranked first. Seventy-four letter carriers in the L.A. area were attacked. Longtime postal worker Horace Lewis is not surprised.

"Dog bites mailman" may be a cliche, but if you've ever been attacked by a dog, you know there's nothing funny about it.

Horace Lewis knows about that, too.

"In my 20 years of delivering mail, I've been bit three times," says Lewis. "The one I normally don't like to talk about is this chihuahua. Bit me like three or four times before I even knew I was getting bit. Thought it was just a little bug bite or a leaf falling on my leg. My worst experiences have been with Dalmations. Not all 101 but normally one at a time, but they are pretty territorial and they will attack."

"In my 20 years of delivering mail, I've been bit three times. The one I normally don't like to talk about is this Chihuahua," he says, laughing. "Bit me like three or four times before I even knew I was getting bit. Thought it was just a little bug bite or a leaf falling on my leg."

Houston, ranked first last year, and San Diego also topped the list of cities with frequent dog bites for postal workers. Nationwide, 5,767 letter carriers suffered attacks last year, up from 5,581 in 2013.

Other attacks were more serious. "My worst experiences have been with Dalmatians," Lewis says. "Not all 101, but normally one at a time. They are pretty territorial and they will attack."

Whether the culprit was a pitbull or a German shepherd, every letter carrier remembers being bitten.

Houston, which ranked first last year, and San Diego also topped the list of cities with frequent dog bites for postal workers. Nationwide, 5,767 letter carriers suffered attacks last year, up from 5,581 in 2013.

"I got chased down once by two German shepherds," says Lewis. "Was delivering mail and it was a house that had a gate. You go in one way and come out another. Went through the gate. Never knew they had a dog. Stuck the mail in the box. As I'm turning to leave, the dogs jumped through the screen door and just pounced on me. I fell backwards over the fence. My foot got wedged between the fence. It was just one of those days."

To make sure aggressive dogs catch letter carriers by surprise less often, Los Angeles postmaster Ken Snavely enlisted the help of Allen Burnsworth, the owner and head trainer of Sit Means Sit Dog Training and Leila, his three-year-old pitbull.

Whether the culprit is a Chihuahua, a German shepherd or a mutt, the memory of an attack remains vivid.

"I got chased down once by two German shepherds," says Lewis. "[I] was delivering mail; it was a house that had a gate. You go in one way and come out another. Went through the gate, never knew they had a dog. Stuck the mail in the box. As I'm turning to leave, the dogs bust through the screen door and just pounced on me. I fell backwards over the fence. My foot got wedged in between the fence. It was one of those days."

To make sure letter carriers are better prepared to defend themselves from aggressive dogs, Los Angeles Postmaster Ken Snavely enlisted the help of Allen Burnsworth, the owner and head trainer of Sit Means Sit Dog Training — and Leila, his 3 1/2-year-old pit bull, rescued from Las Vegas.

Earlier this week, letter carriers gathered in the parking lot of Los Angeles County's San Pedro post office for a professional training session with Burnsworth and his canine assistants, including Leila.

Burnsworth says Leila is a sweetie who would never dream of biting anyone. But when letter carriers come across aggressive dogs, he says, they should make use of something they have with them all the time: the mail bag.