There is a simple notion sweeping the globe to aid owners of dogs that, for whatever reason, need to be given space. It has been dubbed the Yellow Dog Project and is symbolized by a piece of yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s leash. It does not mean that the dog is ‘aggressive’. Rather, fearful or reactive dogs will put on a show of aggression in an attempt to scare off something that frightens it, which can include people, and especially children.
For various reasons, some people upon seeing a dog on a leash in public with its owner feel they have the right to pet it without asking permission. Even more disturbing are those that allow their children to rush over to pet a strange dog without permission of its owner. Both of these actions on the part of uneducated people can lead to a bite, even from a normally non-aggressive dog.
I own a reactive dog. Reactive dogs are those you see lunging at the ends of their leashes, growling and snarling at people walking, jogging or riding bikes, or at other dogs. Dogs can become reactive for a myriad of reasons but it is not because they are abused. A truly abused dog will shut down, showing little or no reaction except a tail tucked under its belly and shaking hind legs. A reactive dog is afraid of whatever it is lunging at and is attempting to scare it away since the leash prevents it from fleeing.
I used to walk my dog with a backpack in an attempt to wear off his excess energy. The backpack had a handle on the top of it. However, I found that people who stopped to ask me about the handle would suddenly reach out and lift up my dog upon learning that yes, I did use it to lift my dog into the car. Can you imagine the impact this would have on an already reactive dog? If you can’t, try to imagine how your young child would react if a stranger suddenly lifted them up.
Knowledge of the Yellow Dog Project does not seem to be prevalent in the Okanagan, and those that have heard of it do not truly understand its meaning. It is my hope to educate those people who are misinformed or uninformed. People upon seeing that yellow ribbon on my dog’s leash will understand his issues and give us the space we need. Or if they are willing to participate in his training, ask permission and we can work on his anxiety around people in the proper fashion. I also hope that other people with dogs needing that extra space who were unfamiliar with this simple tool will start using it. People do not understand what issues your dog may have. It is up to you to let them know. And I can’t think of a less expensive way than a bit of yellow ribbon.
For further information, visit the Yellow Dog Project website.
Article written by Karen Brandt