You can find plenty of pop culture references to dogs biting or chasing mail carriers. It shows up in cartoons, movies and TV shows. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a myth or just some sort of stereotype. It’s a very real risk for mail carriers in Nebraska and all over the United States.

For instance, in 2015, the U.S. Postal Service claimed that 6,549 employees suffered bites and attacks over the course of the year. That showed an alarming spike, as it actually jumped up 14 percent when compared to 2014.

Why do dogs bite mail carriers? Many dogs feel anxious around strangers, and they don’t actually know the mail carrier, despite seeing them every day. Dogs also feel the need to protect their territory from anything that seems like a threat. They see mail carriers as a potential threat.

In some cases, the repetition of the visits actually makes things worse. A dog feels like it has succeeded in “protecting” the house every time the mail carrier comes to the door and then leaves when the dog barks. However, that person keeps coming back every day, making it appear intentional to the dog and putting it on edge. If the dog happens to be in the yard one day when the mail carrier arrives, or if someone opens the door, it can lead to an attack.

With thousands of bites happening every year, it’s important to understand the risk. It’s also important for anyone who suffers from serious bite injuries — whether they are mail carriers or not — to know how to seek financial compensation for their injuries.