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Your Happy Pet: Tie a yellow ribbon on your dog

Original Publication Date: January 13, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

We all know what a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree means, but do you know what a yellow ribbon on a dog's collar or leash indicates?

Just as the yellow ribbon on the oak tree gets your attention, so should a yellow ribbon on a dog. The yellow ribbon indicates that the dog needs a little extra space.

The use of a yellow ribbon was introduced by The Yellow Dog Project. It is a nonprofit organization that supports a global effort to help raise public awareness about dogs that require a tad more space than most.

The Yellow Dog Project is recognized in 45 countries and has educational materials translated into 12 languages. The purpose of the Yellow Dog Project is to communicate proper techniques to approach a dog.

Children have a lot of energy and often run up to pet a dog. Not all dogs understand this and can become fearful.

A yellow ribbon around a dog's collar is to help children recognize that they need to proceed with caution. With proper education, all parties are put in a less stressful environment, which in turn reduces opportunities for an unforeseen accident.

A yellow ribbon does not mean that a dog is mean or aggressive, but it tells you that its space should be respected.

There are many reasons for a dog to wear a yellow ribbon. The dog may have a new handler who is unsure of how the dog will react to strangers. This may be especially true if the dog is in foster care.

The dog may have fear or anxiety issues or may become overly excited when confronted with children, other dogs or new situations.

A yellow ribbon may just indicate that the dog is elderly or infirm and doesn't need the stimulation of a new encounter.

Of course, there are dogs who simply are not child-friendly, dog-friendly or people-friendly and prefer not to be approached.

Respect the warning of a yellow ribbon and do not attempt to bring your child or dog over for a greeting. Instead, maintain your distance and give the Yellow Dog and his or her owner time to move out of your way. If the owner of a Yellow Dog indicates that you may approach, do so with caution.

Always ask before petting a dog. This is an important step even if a dog is not a Yellow Dog. It is important to teach your kids the meaning of a yellow ribbon and to always ask permission before reaching out to pet any dog.

Have you ever seen a dog wearing a yellow ribbon? Did you know what it meant prior to this article? Do you have a dog that may need to wear a yellow ribbon? I would love to hear your thoughts on the project.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at