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The Yellow Dog Project

Behavior and Training  •   Mary Shaughney  •   Jun 25, 2018


It’s hard to resist the urge to greet every dog that walks past, but should you think twice before reaching out your hand for a quick pat? Have you ever paused to say hello to a dog, only for him to growl or back up behind his owner?

What is the Yellow Dog Project?

The Yellow Dog Project, a non-profit organization, educates the public on how to safely greet unfamiliar dogs to reduce bad interactions. Many dog owners are choosing to label their dogs who need a little extra space in public by tying yellow ribbons to the dogs’ leashes or collars.

Which Dogs Need Yellow Ribbons?

A dog with a yellow ribbon on his leash may need additional space when out and about for a variety of reasons including health issues, rehabilitation or training.

Dogs with fear or anxiety may not recognize the friendly intention of an outstretched hand. Some dogs can be reactive or scared around other dogs and are undergoing training to learn to behave in a positive manner in public settings.

Dogs with the yellow ribbon on their leash are not necessarily aggressive. Just like people, some dogs are more outgoing than others. A dog who prefers his personal space may become defensive when someone unfamiliar gets too close.

Other dogs who wear the yellow ribbon suffer from medical conditions that can be painful to the touch. Someone who pets a dog without asking wouldn’t know where a pat might unintentionally cause pain, so the yellow ribbon is a reminder to ask the owner first before interacting with a dog.

How to Greet Unfamiliar Dogs

While it is especially important to go slowly with dogs wearing yellow ribbons on their leashes, there are some basic rules that should be followed anytime you approach an unfamiliar dog.

You should not approach a new dog without first asking permission from the dog’s owner. Only pet a dog if the owner gives his approval and the dog is showing relaxed or playful body language. You don’t want to threaten a dog by bending over the top of him to pet him. Instead, squat down to be on the dog’s level. Do not put your face in the dog’s face or attempt to hug or kiss a strange dog.

Avoid petting an unfamiliar dog’s muzzle, legs, feet or tail, as some dogs are sensitive to these areas being touched. You should also understand basic dog body language - a tail tucked between the hind legs, ears folded back, a lowered head, or a lack of eye contact are all signs that the dog is not comfortable.

Teaching Children to Greet Dogs

If you have children, remember to explain to them how to approach and interact with dogs of all shapes and sizes. Many kids become excited when they see a dog and will run towards the dog, shoving their hands in the dog’s personal space. This can be scary for dogs and dangerous for children. The AKC has several tips to help you teach your family the best practices to prevent dog bites.

Teaching Your Dog to Greet Other Dogs

Ensure you know proper safety when it comes to introducing dogs. Teach your pup how to politely greet other dogs and know when your dog is uncomfortable. Not all dogs like other dogs, so ask the other owner before allowing your dog to initiate an interaction.


How You Can Help

Educate those around you about the Yellow Dog Project. Spread the word about why some dogs have a yellow ribbon tied onto their leash and the importance of respecting their need for space.

Go online to to learn more.

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