Some dogs needs space. This doesn’t mean that they’re aggressive or mean or violent. These dogs might be fearful of strangers, in pain from recent surgery, slowing down with age, or in training. It doesn’t mean that they’ll bite any stranger that approaches. But it does mean proceed with caution. Not many dogs like strangers sticking hands into their face or hearing a strange dog running up behind them to say hello. Can you blame them?

blog4-YellowDogThe Yellow Dog Project was created to help the owners of dogs that need space, and to educate the public and dogs owners alike on how to identify dogs needing space, promote the correct way to approach a dog, and assist dog owners with identifying their dog as needing space. 

You’ll know when you encounter a dog that needs some space by the yellow ribbon tied to its leash. Don’t assume that the dog will be reactive and bite—the yellow ribbon simply means proceed with caution, for whatever reason. All that matters is that you give the dog the space it deserves, either by crossing the street to walk past or giving the dog time to walk around the situation, and definitely by asking the owner permission to approach the dog before doing so.

Maybe your dog loves people and loves getting pet by strangers and loves kids running up to say hi. But not every dog does. Every dog needs, even dogs that need their space, to get out of the house and go on walks, and it’s not always possible to avoid people unless you live in the middle of nowhere. For the rest of us, it’s likely that we’ll encounter someone while walking our dog. 

The yellow ribbon is a tool to help let others know that, while you’re working on it, your dog is just not ready to be approached by strangers—and that’s okay. Tie a yellow ribbon or a bandana or a scrap of yellow fabric to your dog’s leash to help let others know that your dog is not a people-puppy. It’s a tool to help you as the pet owner, but it doesn’t mean that you can expect everyone—especially those without pets—to know what it means. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on your pet’s issues, if possible, or expect people to stay away if you do take your dog into a stressful situation.

The yellow ribbon is not an excuse to avoid proper training, nor is it a waiver of pet owner responsibility. The yellow ribbon means that your walking buddy has space issues. It does not mean that you can take your fearful dog into a park full of children and expect everything to go smoothly. If you know your dog is afraid of loud, rambunctious groups of kids, it is your responsibility as the owner to not put your dog in a situation where he has a slim chance of being successful. You cannot assume to let your guard down just because your dog is wearing a yellow ribbon, and while it is gaining popularity, not everyone knows what the yellow ribbon means.  

So spread the word. If your dog is wearing a yellow ribbon, let others know what it means. With education, the yellow ribbon can be a great tool for everyone. 

By Rachel Leisemann Immel