Caring Hands Animal Hospital helps spread awareness of the Yellow Dog Project. –Bailey Lucero-Carter
Some dog owners up their pup’s style with jewelry, ribbons and bows, and it’s all in good fun, but Caring Hands Animal Hospital is spreading the news that a yellow ribbon is not all flash and fashion. The yellow ribbon has meaning: caution, slow down, hold on, wait.
Thousands of dog owners around the globe are taking part in an initiative known as the Yellow Dog Project, which started in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada in 2012 to raise awareness about dogs that need space. While some dogs are perfectly comfortable with immediate and intimate human interaction, other dogs that are not necessarily aggressive may be afraid of humans and other dogs, or they may have gone through recent surgery and need space to recover.
Whatever the reason, the Yellow Dog Project advocates a system of proper conduct around “yellow dogs” and especially encourages people to ask permission of owners before approaching their dogs.
At Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Chantilly, the hospital began raising awareness for the project this year with laminated flyers and yellow ribbons available at the front desk. In addition, the hospital sends home a yellow ribbon and a flyer with surgery patients.
Jennifer Riley began tying a yellow ribbon onto the leash of her 8-year-old English bulldog, Rocky, after learning about the project at the hospital, where she works as the practice manager. “He’s a rescue,” says Riley. “We adopted him when he was about 2 years old, so we really don’t know a lot about his history, but he came to us dog-aggressive and children-fearful.” Rocky is easily frightened by fast-moving things like skateboards and bikes and becomes anxious when other dogs approach him.
But the yellow ribbon means caution, not danger. Riley says, “He is fearful around children but great with adults.” In addition to informing her neighbors about Rocky’s uneasy behavior, Riley brings treats with her to help outsiders introduce themselves. “That’s usually a good ice breaker,” she laughs.
Marci Streck, one of the veterinarians at Caring Hands Animal Hospital, also supports the project and has further tips for approaching a dog that needs space. Her number one tip: Always ask the human companion if it’s OK to approach the dog. If a dog owner says yes, Streck advises approaching a dog from the side rather than straight forward and crouching down instead of leaning over to meet a dog. “Even better, allow the dog to come up to you. Squat down and allow the dog the chance to approach you on its own, because in addition to asking the owner if it’s OK to approach the dog, you really need to ask the dog’s permission.”
Streck also has advice for “yellow dog” owners who wish to remain part of the community. “The biggest thing is to try and make every experience your dog has when you’re out and about as positive as it can possibly be. And watch your dog’s body language. If [it is] trying to leave the situation, [it’s] telling you [it’s] not happy.”
Whether you own a dog or are meeting a new dog, those involved with the Yellow Dog Project and Caring Hands Animal Hospital want you to know that yellow means wait. A dog with a yellow ribbon tied onto its collar needs patience and space, and giving a dog just that can promote safe and comfortable encounters among people and their fluffy best friends.