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

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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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ARUN RATH, HOST:

How's this for an on-the-job hazard?

HORACE LEWIS: Hi. My name is Horace Lewis. In my 20 years of delivering mail, I've been bit three times. The one I normally don't like to talk about is a Chihuahua (laughter). Bit me, like, three or four times before I even knew I was getting bit, but (laughter) I thought it was just a little bug bite or a leaf falling on my leg. My worst experiences have been with Dalmatians - not all 101, but (laughter) normally wanted a time. They're pretty territorial, and they will attack.

RATH: Los Angeles leads the nation when it comes to dogs attacking postal workers. Seventy-four were bitten last year. 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. Oh, Horace Lewis news about that, too.

LEWIS: I got chased down once by two German shepherds. I was delivering mail. It was a house that had a gate. You go in one way, 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 days.

RATH: Earlier this week, letter carriers gathered in the parking lot of the San Pedro post office here in Los Angeles County for some specialized training with this guy.

ALLEN BURNSWORTH: Allen Burnsworth - I am the owner and head trainer of Sit Means Sit Dog Training of Los Angeles. This is Leila, and she is a three-and-a-half-year-old pit bull that we rescued out of Las Vegas.

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

BURNSWORTH: All she sees is a barrier. And it's not a normal circumstance for a dog to see something fairly large coming at their face, so their immediate reaction is going to be to retreat. Or if they are going to keep coming, you've now given them a target. So the dog bites it, and then the mail carrier can walk backwards, literally pulling the dog with him to maintain the dog - the control of the dog, as well as the attention of the dog. And then when it's outside the fence line or it can get to its vehicle, they can hop in the vehicle or behind the fence line, drop the satchel. And whoever was getting a bill that day will be happy they didn't get the bill that day.

RATH: According to Allen, this technique works much better than, say, stashing some treats in your pocket.

BURNSWORTH: If you're trying to bribe with a particular treat, it won't work the majority of the time. If you've ever really been frightened by something, did you ever stop in the middle of being frightening and go, you know, I could go for a cheeseburger? OK, when any animal is frightened, hunger's out the window.

RATH: Horace Lewis has seen a lot of dogs in his 20 years as a mailman, and even he learned some new tricks from Allen and his canine assistant.

LEWIS: This guy should probably be on a circuit. I don't think he should just be sitting here doing it. I think he should be going from post office to post office developing that relationship.

RATH: He would be a busy guy. Last year alone, more than 5,700 letter carriers were attacked by dogs.

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