The Meaning Behind Those Yellow Ribbons On Dogs

Yellow Dog Project
Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

Walking reactive or anxious dogs in public is challenging, especially when strangers and dogs walk over to greet your dog. It’s best not to walk fearful dogs around triggers that scare them because it will only make it worse. Sometimes, avoiding scary triggers is impossible during potty walks though, especially for apartment dwellers and for those without backyards. Due to this issue, a smart individual started The Yellow Dog Project, which has gained popularity within the dog world.

What is the Yellow Dog Project?

The Yellow Dog Project is a movement to help dogs get the space they need during walks. When walking through a public area, it’s nearly impossible to identify a reactive or anxious dog unless you’re skilled in dog body language. If you have a reactive or anxious dog, the Yellow Dog Project recommends tying a yellow bow on your dog’s leash to signal to others that your dog needs space.

In general, the color yellow means caution and to slow down just like police caution tape and yellow traffic lights. When choosing a yellow bow, it’s best to use a larger brightly colored yellow bow, so it’s easily seen from a distance. Of course, if your dog is frightened by the bow, it’s best to introduce it slowly until your dog learns his or her yellow bow makes treats appear.

Does the Yellow Dog Project Work?

The Yellow Dog Project is a fantastic way to ensure strangers won’t approach your dog—that is if strangers understand what the presence of a yellow bow means when attached to a dog’s leash. This idea works best for apartment dwellers who must cross paths with other dogs and people daily due to limited space.

To ensure fellow apartment dwellers learn what a yellow bow means, hold a meeting within the apartment complex with all dog owners, families and children. Additionally, post The Yellow Dog Project flyers in common areas, such as community mailbox locations. If implemented, your neighbors will understand that yellow ribbons attached to a dog’s leash means to never approach the dog.

Try a Yellow Vest

You may find that attaching a yellow ribbon or bow to your dog’s leash may actually draw more attention, causing others to approach your dog since not everyone will know what it means. If you find this to be the case for you and your dog, purchase a yellow vest or harness that states “Do not touch,” “Do not pet” or “Do not approach.” This will make it clear to passersby.

A Word of Caution

When walking a reactive dog, always keep your distance and know when to head home. A yellow ribbon or vest won’t keep a dog safe; that’s the pet owner’s job. If a fearful dog’s behavior worsens during walks in public, then it’s best to stop walks and seek advice from a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer.

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