All dog owners share a similarly awkward experience at some point while walking their dogs. It can happen when their dog is leashed on a public sidewalk or when their dog is running free in a large park. In either case, eventually a well-intentioned stranger will approach the dog with all of the wrong mannerisms. Whether said person is a small child, a non-pet owner, or just someone with no tact, they immediately rush the dog, reaching over the dog’s line of sight to pat its head.
Unbeknownst to this stranger, the dog might have just had an uncomfortable veterinary visit. Maybe the dog is animal or people aggressive because of inherited traits or due to a rescue situation. Perhaps the dog is well adjusted and perfectly “normal,” yet something about this particular stranger provokes a fear response. Before the owner can offer a warning, the stranger has been bitten. At the very least, there’s an uncomfortable growl and lunge from the wary dog.
Tara Palardy, a doggy daycare owner in Alberta, Canada, has pioneered the perfect solution for such a predicament. She has established The Yellow Dog Project in order to spread awareness about dealing with DINOS, or “dogs in need of space.” Her viral campaign focuses on a simple concept: placing a yellow ribbon, bandana, or collar on DINOS. With the idea gaining traction, one can expect to see more and more yellow identifiers on dogs in public places.
A dog donned in yellow apparel does not necessarily mean that the dog is a dangerous dog. The yellow garb does serve to spark the necessary discourse that should precede any canine encounter. In one instance, it might prevent an aggressive dog from responding to a stranger’s advances. Under more innocent circumstances, a stranger speaks to the owner about the yellow ribbon and approaches a friendly dog with better body language after gaining valuable insight.
It’s important to always engage a dog’s owner before engaging the actual dog. A stranger who is relatively unafraid of dogs will always be more favorably received than a person who exudes fear. One should always offer the top of their hand confidently to a strange dog so that their hand is under the dog’s muzzle (and line of sight). Finally, reading a dog’s response and its owner’s reception to this approach will dictate whether the dog should ultimately be touched or greeted any further.
The Yellow Dog Project’s success hinges on the spread of information. Like a traffic light, the yellow ribbon or collar is only useful if enough people understand the signal. If you know that your dog is protective or tense around strangers (or if you just don’t want everyone hectically rushing your dog without asking), start sporting a yellow marker on your dog during its next walk!