Daisy the Boxer came to us as a foster puppy from the Humane Society. She was too young to be adopted when they found her wandering as a stray. After our weeks of fostering were up, we just could not imagine sending her away so we adopted her into our family of Monte, a Rat Terrier, and Rocky and Athena, Shih Tzu littermates. Monte, the eldest, helped socialize the large new puppy despite his being blind. Everyone got along and Daisy loved playing with her new siblings.
Sometime after Monte passed, Daisy entered adolescence and began to react to other dogs in a defensive and then aggressive manner. Even the Shih Tzus she loves to play with could get on her bad side if there were toys or food involved. We sought the help of an animal behaviorist and worked on training her to respond to commands. While her behavior with Rocky and Athena improved, it became obvious that other dogs were still a problem.
A big, energetic dog like Daisy needs walks around the neighborhood–maybe you’ve seen her in her pink sweater. When Daisy goes for a walk on her leash we take extra care to ensure everyone’s safety. We shift to the opposite side of the street to avoid other dogs and keep both hands on the leash for control. If we see dogs approaching we often use commands to get her to sit and even lay down to reduce her interest in the other dogs.
Despite these efforts, well-intentioned people try to introduce their dogs to Daisy. Daisy loves people and would be glad to make any person’s acquaintance, but strange dogs make her very tense. She will give them a stare to warn them off, and when they continue to approach she becomes upset and barks and growls to warn them off. She has never caused injury to another dog, and most folks get the message as soon as she starts her barking. There have been a few folks who have persisted despite the barking and then I have to tell them Daisy is not friendly to their dogs, but at this point she is agitated, the other dog often reacts in kind, and everyone’s lovely morning walk is disrupted.
This is where the Yellow Dog Project comes in. Like Daisy there are many dogs that need a little space. It could be aggressiveness; it could be health issues, or dogs that are being trained. The idea is to help these dogs and those around them by using a yellow ribbon/bandana tied to the leash in an obvious way to indicate that the dog needs space.
The only way this works is if people are aware of what the yellow bow signifies and since walking up to an owner of a dog with a yellow ribbon and asking may already put you too close to a dog that needs space, awareness needs to be raised in other ways. The yellow ribbon isn’t a cure. It’s not an excuse to allow bad behavior or a pass to avoid training and expecting good behavior from your dog. It is simply a way to communicate, at a distance, that a particular dog needs some space. If you see dogs with yellow bows and ribbons, please give them that space.