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German mailmen beat stress -- and sick days -- with dog defense training

Bernd Settnik / EPA

Postwoman Anneliese Knop interacts with dog 'Liesbeth' during her round in Mahlow, Germany, on Monday. Employees of the post office regularly attend training sessions because, according to the postal service, about 1,800 mail carriers per year are involved in incidents with dogs.

BERLIN -- Aid workers, journalists and embassy employees often undergo so-called Hostile Environment Training. But what about the threats that your ordinary postman faces on any given day?

Mailmen at the German Postal Service (Deutsche Post) are taking classes in dog defense so that they can learn how to behave when entering a dog's territory -- and to avoid any accompanying injuries.

Around 1,800 incidents involving dogs occur every year with roughly a third resulting in bites or more serious injuries, spokesman for Deutsche Post Rolf Schulz told NBC News. Mailmen in rural areas particularly benefit from the program because dogs often roam freely in people's front yards in smaller German towns, he said.

Letter-deliverers are more endangered "because the dog sees them every day," whereas package deliverymen are less vulnerable to the threat, Schulz said.

The classes, which are voluntary, advise mailmen not to shout at the dogs and to avoid sudden movements.

"For the worst-case scenario, we sometimes equip our delivery personnel with pepper spray," Schulz said.

But using the spray incorrectly can accelerate the dog's aggressive behavior. "We caution to be very careful with the use of the devices because you have to spray directly into the dog's nose to achieve an effect."

Deutsche Post has seen a decrease in numbers of dangerous encounters with dogs over the past decade and says the training is key for a safer working environment.

It is all about strict German health and safety regulations, officials say.

The employer of Germany's 86,000 mailmen hopes to save costs by reducing the amount of sick days for stress and injuries caused by encounters with territorial dachshunds, snarling pugs or aggressive German shepherds.

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