“Beware of Dog” or Yellow Ribbon. A good idea – or is it asking for a lawsuit?

by Susi on August 30, 2012

in Cane Corso, Dog Bite, Facebook, Susan Clothier, Yellow Ribbon

Post image for “Beware of Dog” or Yellow Ribbon. A good idea – or is it asking for a lawsuit?

Several days ago, I drove into the parking lot of a strip mall and saw two women waiting for my car to pass before crossing the street.  Each was holding the leash of a dog, and it was actually these dogs I spotted first because as a dog person, I always notice dogs. I might forget a face, and I can be relied upon to forget a name, but I always remember the dog.  

I noticed the dogs, too, because they were Cane Corsos, a breed you don’t see much outside of a dog show. They were robust, healthy examples of their breed and commanded attention, but ultimately, it would have been hard for anyone to miss these dogs: Each was wearing a thick (read: industrial strength) leather harness to which had been applied several neon-colored signs reading, “Do Not Touch Dog.”  I thought to myself that the only things missing from this picture were cage muzzles and spiked collars. 

I was really sorry to see this, and even sorrier that I didn’t stop to talk with the women and learn why they’d done this.  What was the average person to make of such signage? Were the dogs too dangerous to pet? Were the owners discouraging contact with strangers? And if either was true, what were these dogs doing out in public, let alone entering a fabric store? 

I was left to assume the worst and shook my head at the bad light this shone not only on Cane Corsos, a breed I like, but all dogs sharing a certain”look.”

There’s been a poster making the rounds on Facebook today, and although the messaging is more “warm and fuzzy” than the terse warnings attached to those Cane Corsos, I think it smacks of the same thing.

What do you think?

My jumble of thoughts regarding the notion of tying a yellow ribbon to a dog’s leash to suggest giving the dog “space” run the gamut.  On one hand, I think we presume too much “dog savviness” on the part of the general public. I’ve been a dog fancier for thirty years, but if I’d never seen this poster on Facebook today, I wouldn’t have known the significance of a yellow ribbon on a dog leash. Because I am a dog fancier, however, I also know there are better ways to deal with the situations listed on this poster than using a ribbon to ask for “space.” Responsible dog owners have control over the environment  to which their dogs are exposed, as well as the degree of “saturation” in that setting. If a dog has health issues that require minimal contact with other dogs,  should the dog even be in such an environment?  And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting? And finally, isn’t it just plain common sense and courtesy to keep one’s dog from getting in another dog’s face?  Rather than rely on a yellow ribbon to signal any number of issues a dog has, I’d rather see this fabulous article by Susan Clothier make the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and be included in material handed out to new dog owners. 

My final thought on using a yellow ribbon to indicate a dog’s need for space goes back to the Cane Corso story at the beginning of my blog. We live not only in a litigious society, but at a time when animal rights zealots are gunning for us. Is it really smart to telegraph with a yellow ribbon (or “do not touch” signs) that our dog may have “issues?” 

I’m reminded of a case that made the news some years ago. Two children, next door neighbors, were playing at the home of one of them. The family dog, normally known to be a friendly and gentle dog, nipped the neighbor child – thankfully not seriously – but enough to require medical attention. The bitten child’s family sued their neighbors, owners of the dog, and the case went to trial. The jury found for the plaintiffs on the strength of the fact that the dog owners had a “Beware of Dog” sign posted on their fence. Though the dog owners had posted the sign to protect their dog, the jury saw it as an admission that the owners harbored a dangerous dog.  

Everyone I knew who owned a dog promptly took down whatever signage they had on their property indicating a dog on the premises. Although it may be a stretch, and while it’s certainly not as blatant as the signs on the Cane Corsos, I can’t help but wonder if a yellow ribbon on a dog’s leash isn’t tantamount to a “Beware of Dog” sign. 

What do you think? 


{ 241 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise August 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

If your dog needs a warning sign, I don’t think it should be out in public.


Susi August 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Can’t disagree, Denise!


3dognite October 11, 2012 at 12:24 am

I agree with project concept and why there needs to something like this. Too many people who don’t respect a dog’s boundaries or don’t teach their children to respect the boundaries and end up crying “foul” when something bad happens or better yet, telling the person at the other end of the leash they don’t know what they’re talking about when that person ASKS them to respect their boundaries.
This project isn’t meant to aid in exposing the public to “dangerous dogs” but to educate the public about the fact they don’t know how to heed doggy language or an owner’s warning.


Susi October 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

I think most of us want a better educated public, but my dishwasher repair man and his intent to breed his two mixed breed dogs reminded me the other day that we are very, very far away from a public educated about most things canine. I prefer not to risk my dog’s well being or my own solvency by telegraphing with a yellow ribbon that my dog needs space. If an encounter between the dog and a child or another dog goes badly, that ribbon is tantamount to a vicious dog sign. My view, anyway.


Brigitte Blais September 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

That’s why I came up with DEWS for dog earls warning system, until you own a dog with issues you just don’t have a clue!


Susi September 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Oh I know why the DEWS system was conceived, Brigitte, and I don’t mean to dismiss your inventiveness. We dog people are a clever lot:




As an aside, I doubt one can be in dogs for over 30 years and not have had at least one dog with issues. I think it’s a brilliant solution but only when every pet owner is on the same page. For now, I continue to see owners allow their dogs to scream out to the end of a flex-lead to inspect an obviously terrified dog with a yellow ribbon on its leash. Some owners are simply clueless.

Terry May 18, 2016 at 6:09 pm

A viscous dog as with ANY PET OR OTHER ANIMAL KEPT BY PEOPLE should be controlled. You can put a damn red or yellow light on its head and Will not keep you from getting sued. Small children and people without dogs, in fact most people out there, do not have a clue about your collars. Aggressive dogs do not belong in public!

Collie Owner September 6, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I can disagree 100%!!! I own rescue dogs and senistive dogs. They are healthy and friendly towards people; it’s certain dogs they can’t handle. My dogs don’t like rowdy in-your-face dogs.
They love being outside amd seeing people and places, they just need space. No dog is perfect, some need a help. Exposer is key to these dogs, it takes time. We need the help of good dog owners to understand that certain dogs need space. It’s not a crime for a dog to be scared. It is simply a reaction to their surroundings and they need understanding people to be responsible with their dogs and mind ours.


Susi September 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I LOVE your line, “Collie Owner,” that it’s not a crime for a dog to be scared. What IS criminal is that the general public isn’t educated to know that in stress situations, “fight or flight” occurs and if it’s the former, a dog bite is inevitable, while the latter can simply ruin a soft dog. Good comments!


sara September 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Agreed, I own a resuce dog who’s experience in the shelter and possibly in the streets left him fearful and aggressive. As a responsible owner I worked with a trainer but there comes a point when training needs to be put into practice. Only time and exposure has worked for my dog and requesting boundaries for him throughout the process has been a huge part of it. Keeping your hands to yourself applies to strange dogs too!


Laura October 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

My dog is a rescue and she does not trust every dog who rushes up to her. She does just fine with dogs in the neighborhood that she has met gradually. However, just tonight, a woman came over to us to greet us with her dog but my dog immediately perceived the approach as a threat and reacted. I told her that my dog is a reactive excitable dog and needs to calm down before a greeting with a new dog. The woman still tried to get her dog to meet with mine — too soon and the results were not ideal. My dog lunged and growled at her dog and then she retreated indignantly. I sure could have used a yellow ribbon and wish people would understand its meaning.


Susi October 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

And therein lies the rub, Laura. Hoping other people understand the meaning behind the ribbon. I think until that day comes when the ribbon is universally understood by ALL dog owners, including those who don’t go on the Internet, attend classes or even go to dog parks, I would rather find an environment that caters to her need for a bit of space….Thanks for sharing your experience, Laura.

Rescue Owner April 11, 2013 at 3:28 am

I can’t agree more Collie Owner, we have 2 rescue dogs in rehabilitation who just need space from other dogs. They are loving dogs and amazing with people and children, but become extremely anxious when approached quickly by other dogs. All dog owners should be put through training to learn how to respect a dogs space, especially when on a lead. It frustrates me endlessly when people walk their dogs off lead, on a public street, when they can’t control them from charging at my dogs who are controlled on lead! It puts the progress of my exposure training back so quickly.


Susi April 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

I think we’re all in agreement that some dogs need more space than others, sometimes only temporarily, sometimes much longer. I think we also all agree that some dog owners have an appalling lack of sense, if not common courtesy, in allowing their dogs to charge into another dog’s personal space. Where we are parting company, it seems to me, is what to do about it. Mandatory classes in “Dogs 101” would be lovely, but it won’t happen. And there will always be people who miss the message, anyway. Those same people will be oblivious to a yellow ribbon, and I’m not willing to risk mine, or anyone else’s dog on the chance that this one person might understand its significance.


val February 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm

My dog wears a yellow ribbon, as he was born with brain damage and is also epileptic, he is a wonderful wee dog and is always happy to see people and children, however he cant cope with other dogs being to close, the other dogs realise there is a problem and we have experienced well behaved dogs trying to attack him, so we use the yellow ribbon to try and prevent dog owners from letting there dogs come to close, i have found that trying to explain this to every dog owner always results in them saying my dog wont hurt him he is friendly, however my dog just freezes and there dog nearly always goes for him, suprising there owners, now i just hope they notice the yellow ribbon and walk there dog on by, if they question the yellow ribbon i juat say my dog is ill and cant be aroubd another dog, this helps us…thought you might be interseted in why some of us use the yellow ribbon, i always let people know he is aproachable and friendly if they want to pet him.


Susi February 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Bless your heart for working with him, Val, though I think you might misunderstand. I fully understand the sentiment behind the yellow ribbon campaign. There are scores of reasons for people to want a buffer zone around their dogs, all of them understandable. But I always come down on the side of the dog and feel that until every dog owner is aware of the significance of the yellow ribbon, it doesn’t do much good and the best effort is thwarted.


Brigitte Blais September 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Some dogs are rescued from the worst environments imaginable and adopted out to family’s and become great companions, others don’t!
What’s the answer don’t take them out?
It’s not always nurture sometimes it’s nature, some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition to aggression, visit my website http://www.dews.ca and check out the Article on aggression and public misconceptions! I feel until you’ve owned such a dog specially a powerful one that the public doesn’t understand the need for awareness!
Time for responsible dog owners to have a tool they can utilize to prevent encounters from going bad!!!


Tara May 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

My dogs are well socialized, but have leash aggression. It’s a warning that people shouldn’t approach me with them on their leashes. Not dangerous dogs, just working on some training issues.


Susi May 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for writing, Tara. There will always be those mindless, inattentive owners whose dogs, when on a leash at all, will barrel to the end of it to insert their noses into our dogs’ personal space. I would rather take a proactive, defensive stance by protecting my dog with vigilance and care as to where I take him, and not depend on the general public to understand the significance of a yellow leash. When everyone has “read the memo,” and understands it, I’ll change my mind.


Barb May 20, 2014 at 2:27 am

I can disagree too. I have a rescue dog who is frightened and if in doubt he will bark, not bite! If someone goes behind him or runs over he gets frightened. I have another collie who is bullet proof in any situation and he will walk beside her. You have to take a dog out to train them in all kinds of situations to socialise them. This dog was kept in a small cage because the family’s other 2 dogs went for him, never really walked and fed a terrible diet. Sometimes you’ve got to be patient.
We have a harness for him with “frightened please give me space”


Jojo August 26, 2014 at 9:54 pm

If your kid doesn’t understand what a warning sign is, then I don’t think it should be out in public.


Susi August 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Honestly, Jojo, there are times I think that if a person doesn’t understand canine behavior and dynamics, s/he shouldn’t own a dog.


Jo November 18, 2014 at 3:50 am

Think it’s more the idiots who think they have the right to approach any dog are the ones who shouldn’t be out in public! If it’s not your dog, then leave it alone!
Yellow tags do not necessarily mean a dog is dangerous they could just be very scared of people! (and in my case not surprising as he was ill treated by sick individuals)


Katie June 15, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Thats so absurd! How do you think dogs get rehabilitated? It makes me so angry as i have a very sweet dog that does not want to be touched by strangers, even telling people this sometimes they still try.. I think if people could respect that not every dog is secure in people and ask owner before reaching to them then we wouldn’t need to wear do not touch signs or muzzles! A responsible owner is taking all the precautions necessary, but why should my dog that wears a do not touch sign plugs sometimes muzzle have to be locked up or away from me just because you can’t respect their wishes!


Susi June 15, 2015 at 10:22 pm

Katie, I’m not sure which part you feel is absurd: the yellow ribbon, or my own viewpoint that it isn’t the remedy people wish it was. I totally agree with you that if more dog owners were versed with dog-in-public etiquette, or even a familiarity with the dynamics of canine behavior, we’d all be better off.


katherine November 18, 2016 at 3:29 am

Clearly you have never rescued or had a sick dog?????


Susi November 18, 2016 at 9:33 am

Clearly, Katherine, you don’t know me. I’ve had sick dogs, old dogs, rescued dogs and newborns. I’ve carried infirmed dogs up and down stairs, slung them over my shoulder when they tired, and stroked their favorite spot as they took their last breath. I’m aware of their body language, critical periods of development, how they learn, and have learned to spot calming signals. It is precisely because of 50 years of dog ownership that I think the yellow ribbon idea is bone-headed until every person on the planet is on the same page about them.


Tom Mahoney August 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I agree with you and Denise for the most part. I can see one exception. If the dog is being socialized for some reason like a rescue situation, or perhaps early stage of puppy socialization, there may be a legitimate reason for wanting the dog to have some space. Your are certainly not wrong for speculating and seeing the potential for problems – -I would have too. On the other hand there could be a good reason, however the misguided the idea of the ribbon might be.

I think if I were in that situation, it would be better to use a ‘service dog in training’ vest. At least more people would understand the don’t touch concept. But I’d have to be desperate. We socialize our pups hard. We get people to come to the house and visit with them, play with them, and handle them. When they are out and about, the job is done.


Susi August 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I appreciate your thoughts, Tom. Like you, I believe a “service dog” vest is more appropriate for those dogs, and as for the rest of dogs in need of more cushioning, there are puppy kindergartens, “playgroups” for dogs owned by experienced owners, any number of options for training from Pet Smart to private kennels. AND, if responsible breeders are doing their jobs, they are the number one resource for owners. I doubt large scale commercial operations do that.


Cathy February 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

A service dog in training vest belongs ONLY on service dogs in training. Abusing that title leads to handicapped people with actual service dogs getting harassed because store owners are tired of people bringing their pets in.


Susi February 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I don’t disagree, Cathy. I’m happy to say that I don’t know of anyone who abuses service dog vests, but I should add that I DO know people whose show dogs are also their service dogs. These poor individuals are often accused of abusing the system as if being a show dog and a service dog are mutually exclusive.


Janet January 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Couldn’t we solve this by using a yellow vest with the words “approach with caution” or even “do not approach” written on it, instead of a ribbon that someone may or may not understand?
I have a dog that loves everyone and everything (including cats), and I would appreciate knowing whether or not to allow him to approach other dogs before the approach takes place.


Susi January 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Sure, Janet, that would work, but I remain fearful of the message implicit in the warning. We live in a litigious world anymore, and I will always fall on the side of the dog. If you had a bully breed, for example, and another dog started a fracas, the bully would probably get the blame, the yellow vest underscoring that you knew the dog had “issues.” It’s not fair, but it has happened.

Janet January 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Ok, maybe we can solve that by changing the message to “I’m learning, give space” or “I’m contagious, give space”. or, “I’m sick…”? It really doesn’t matter that it’s untrue, if it buys your dog the space they need, without any chance of someone not understanding the message intended (except small children who can’t read it).
I live in Canada, and I don’t think lawsuits are as common here, but I understand the need to cover your butt. My dog is a sheppard, lab, pitbull mix (he rescued me). He’s a very sweet boy with good manners, although I never let him go too far from me. I know if anything ever happened between him and another dog, he would get the blame, but I seldom worry much about it because he’s such a sweetheart.

Suzanne August 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Well, if I thought the yellow ribbon worked, I’d wear one myself! Some people just don’t get it. For the people that actually have manners, a ribbon is not necessary. For the rest, it would probably be ineffective. It’s bad form to let your dog get into anyone’s face or to pet without asking first. I agree with you on all points.
If I see a yellow ribbon, anywhere, I assume they have family in the Military…


Susi August 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Wow, now that’s a thought. The PEOPLE wearing ribbons. I like the way you think, Suzanne, and you’re right. A yellow ribbon makes me think either of Tony Orlando and Dawn, a missing loved one, or a military person.


Jill August 31, 2012 at 9:52 am

I am a foster puppy raiser for a service dog organization and as such, I can say that it’s entirely possible these dogs were in training. It may seem extreme to some, but quite frankly, it’s very distracting and detrimental to their training if they’re approached by a stranger and pet in a Public situation. These dogs are trained to pay very close attention to their handler and if someone comes up and attempts to pet them, they learn to NOT pay attention, which can be very dangerous for their future client. There are lots of vests that say “please don’t pet, I’m working” though, so if an organization’s name wasn’t displayed I do question what kind of training they were doing.

It’s also possible that they are show dogs and their handlers do not want any distractione for the same reasons. Either way, it never hurts to ask and verify, so we can all be more educated about what it means. I’m always happy to answer questions about the training program when I’m out working with my pup.


Susi August 31, 2012 at 10:18 am

Your comments are much appreciated, Jill. The Cane Corsos weren’t wearing any official logos or signage, and as you said, this made me suspicious. I’m well familiar with the vests worn by dogs in training by various organizations, but the Corso’s harnesses weren’t remotely like any of them. As a show dog exhibitor, myself, I, and fanciers like me, start puppy kindergarten and conformation classes early in a youngster’s life where the environment is a more controlled setting and the pups are exposed by inches to new stimuli. As the pup matures and becomes more “worldly,” experiences grow exponentially. Honestly, no responsible fancier I know would think it’s a good idea to thrust an unseasoned dog into the world all at once. As you say, education is key and I invite anyone with questions to post them here and perhaps get your feedback, if you’re game.


Jill August 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Absolutely! I’m very curious to know the story behind those Cane Corsos… One of the things I occasionally hear stories of is owners creating “service vests” for their dogs so they are able to take them everywhere, such as the fabric store you mentioned. Not to say that’s the case with those two, but who knows. While the law protects service dogs from being denied access to businesses, sometimes employees are afraid to question an animal with a strange vest/sign such as the one you’re describing. I’m very glad that businesses are so welcoming to our pups, however having a non-trained dog who may act out in a public situation can sometimes create a bad rap for those who genuinely need their certified and well-mannered service dog. It’s unfortunate.

And if anyone is interested, the organization I raise foster puppies for is Pawswithacause.org. They are a great organization and always in need of loving foster homes and raisers!


Susi August 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Jill, it’s a judgement call on my part, but there was something about how the Cane Corsos were presented (the heavy leather leads, the bold signage) that made me think there was concern for the safety of people reaching out to pet the dogs. I could be wrong, of course, but even a halti head leash would have been the better option, I would have thought, than how these dogs were presented to the public. It’s an interesting topic and response to the blog has been a bit all over the map.


Kim Campbell August 31, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Because under the ADA, Service Dogs don’t need to have a vest or harness stating they are SD’s, it isn’t uncommon to see owner trained SD’s wearing a harness saying Do Not Pet (which still rarely works) but no further ID. Puppies that are raised for SD programs are usually ID’d by a vest. More owner trainers seem to be training the big tough looking breeds, for their strength for mobility help, and because some of them like the status of a tough dog (just like others in the population), sadly there is no oversight, to assure an appropriate temperament or training for OT SD’s.
I do like the vests that say Dogs In Need Of Space or In Training (without saying Service Dog) on it.

Tam August 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

My son recently took a drivers ed course and there was signage all over the car he was driving that indicated that he was a driver in training, which is generally accepted as being a good idea. The drivers ed people recommended to us parents that there is also a magnet you can get for your car for when your teen has his/her permit and is driving, since they are still in training. I would suggest that perhaps this type of sign or ribbon might be a good thing in the dog world as well, and if it became accepted widely, could potentially prevent many harmful interactions between dogs, whether they are “in training” or are just not well socialized. I think I would be happy to know that a dog is not safely approachable from afar rather than finding out first hand by venturing a little too close!


Susi August 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Your comments take me back, Tam, to when my own kids were learning to drive. You’re right, of course, that there’s signage all over the cars driven by these student drivers. The difference as I see it, however, is that students (or their parents, anyway) sign waivers before operating the vehicle and not only do they absorb the responsibility of any mishaps, there’s an instructor on hand to act, if need be, as a witness. There is no such wiggle room when taking a dog out in public that might not be “ready for primetime.” As someone else mentioned in their comments here, there’s always that one person who ignores signs, ignores a training vest, and in the event of a bite, these days, the law tends to favor the victim regardless of the circumstances. Add to the mix that the dog in question might be a Pit Bull, and with a yellow warning ribbon suggesting an issue with the dog and I see a lawsuit waiting to happen. In a perfect world, I’m with you. I’d appreciate knowing from a distance whether a dog is approachable or not. As a responsible owner, I’d rather socialize my dog in a controlled setting among other dog savvy people, and as someone who’s been warily watching dog legislation, I see that we live in times which aren’t friendly to dog owners. Me, I’d rather avoid an ugly situation.


Deborah August 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I do not disagree with you in general, but I do have mixed feelings about signs and ribbons, etc.. However, the public is generally totally dimwitted. Years ago a friend had a Dalmation, Cruella. Super sweet dog with her family that included me and my overly friendly saluki (a contradiction in terms ). Cruella loved to go for walks and my friend was an excellent and educated dog owner as she had total control over Cruella at all times. Cruella however, was unfortunate to have a bad temperament due to fear and bad genetics, hence always keeping her next to my saluki who was mega confident and this made Cruella feel more secure. She adored my saluki and letting her take charge made life easier for Cruella.

However, thanks to Disney everyone went nuts over Cruella and Cruella hated it. People were told and told that Cruella was NOT friendly and did not want their attention, but that they could pet the goofy saluki bowing, spinning, dancing and prancing trying to get their attention. But no they wanted to pet the Disney doggie. People do not know what the word “NO” means.

Finally, my friend started putting a muzzle on Cruella ,more for her security and safety, but also as a last line of defense. One would think that would be a really good indication that this was NOT a friendly dog. HA!!!

We would take a long walk every Friday up to a coffee place have coffee, visit and the dogs would each get a cookie and then we would walk home. We would always place Cruella between us with my saluki out front to create a shield for Cruella so she could be comfortable and feel secure. Cruella LOVED these excursions, but we finally had to stop going because some idiot woman who was told to stay away from the muzzled dog as she did NOT like strangers and would snap. The woman stated, “Oh no! ALL DOGS LOVE ME!” and proceeded to push her way toward Cruella despite our very vocal objections and trying to keep this idiot woman away from Cruella. Well no surprise, muzzled Cruella snapped at her and this woman gets all offended. So that ended poor Cruella’s favorite outing. The handwriting was on the wall. Here was a wonderful dog, albeit with issues not of her making nor her very conscientious owner.

So I can somewhat see why these women had the signs. The saluki I have now is very typical of the breed and not extremely extroverted as my other one was. She is friendly, but on her terms and as with most sighthounds hates it when these dogs come flying at her in an exhuberant ball of fur. There have been times I wish I had a sign.


Susi August 31, 2012 at 4:54 pm

A compelling anecdote, Deborah, and sadly indicative of the general public’s ignorance with regards to sensible behavior around dogs. I can’t help but suspect, however, that even with a sign, the “idiot woman” would have ignored it to prove she knew best. How many times have we seen people extend a tentative finger to test a “Wet paint” sign? I would mention that the owner of the coffee shop I frequent (I’m there now!) trains canine companions who are always in their vest when in public. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people ignore the “do not pet, dog working” admonitions on the dog’s vest. To get the general public to comprehend a yellow ribbon would, I fear, be a herculean task. I still maintain that such signs are a liability for the times in which we live, but I do appreciate hearing from you – and my heart breaks for poor Cruella.


Lynn August 31, 2012 at 5:14 pm

That would be fine IF you could count on people (and their dogs) to have ‘courtesy and common sense’. The fact is they don’t, and it only takes one.

Animals are individuals, and nobody ever has 100% control over ANY animal. Horseback riders have been tying red ribbons on the tails of horses known to kick in company for a very long time, and others appreciate the warning.

We don’t need to be accepting the ignorance and discourtesy of others, we need to be *educating* them. If we don’t fight the AR driven ignorance and misinformation – and the idea that a well-socialized dog will tolerate *anything* from *anyone*, human or animal is AR misinformation – then we might as well say goodbye to all our pets, not just dogs.


jack galt August 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I have not read the comments, but my first reaction was to affirm many recollections of adults or children who approach a strange dog in ways that anyone with canine knowledge would simply say is wrong. Many make no effort whatsoever to have any verbal exchange before reaching for a dog on a leash walk with its owner. Many will hover over a dog’s head and then reach for it in a predatory mode to pet it without realizing that their own posture and body language in canine language is that of predation.

While I agree that putting a sign on your dog of any sort is a patent invitation for harassment, even intentional bait and taunting of a dog, I think the real issue is the fact that too many people have no idea what it means to be polite or kind not to mention approach a dog in a way that is proper and provides a good opportunity for a positive social interaction in the first place.


Susi August 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Well Jack, you’ve nicely packaged the short response to the issue. Too many people DON’T know how to behave around a dog, and for that reason, I maintain that a yellow ribbon fails to solve the problem universally, and makes the dog owner vulnerable to legal action. I’ve just read too much lately about dog legislation and the many ways in which dogs pay the ultimate price for simply having the wrong appearance. Can you imagine a Pit Bull on a leash with a yellow ribbon and a child running up to the dog and getting in its face? Any dog – any breed – will usually have a fight or flight response, but in a society that looks at breed and not deed, I sure wouldn’t be willing to bet my dog’s life on the courts responding reasonably. Well said, Jack, thanks for writing.


Tara September 9, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I would suggest many things. Training the public, training the dogs, training the owners. The ribbon is an out, an easy way to say, yah, well, my dog isn’t well behaved, and then walk away like nothing happened. It would be important, for the yellow ribbon, to maintain it’s level of effectiveness by only being used for situations (like training, or rehab). Not for the average dog owner.

Yes, your dog has issues. No that doesn’t mean the ribbon is a free way out. Find a trainer, deal with the issue at hand.

Just like we don’t use handicapped spaces as a general parking spot, there’s always that jerk that ruins it for everyone else. It happens everywhere.


Susi September 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I can’t disagree with your points, Tara. Well said.


Debbie August 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I have a rescue dog that I believe to be a Catahoula mix. As a puppy, she never liked to be petted by strangers and as she grew bigger her shyness led to a bark or a lunge. It took a lot of time and patience to get her to trust me and my family. I hired a wonderful dog trainer who helped me to socialize her. She will sit right next to me (on or off leash) when I talk with a stranger or a friend and I have her under very good control. Because she is a beautiful dog who sits calmly next to me, people instinctively reach out to pet her, bending over her head while reaching their hand out. This usually happens without their asking permission first. Even when they do ask permission and I say, “no”, I usually get a very rude response. When she doesn’t accept their affection, they usually take her rebuff personally and I get the lecture about the type of dog I have and what I should be doing.

I like the idea of the yellow ribbon to educate people in general that they should not reach out to pet a dog they do not know, especially without permission. After reading this blog, I do understand how this could result in a stigma. The problem remains how to protect our dogs from well-meaning, but ignorant people. The worst offenders are the ones who say “ALL DOGS LOVE ME” as they’re reaching to pet my dog who is backing away from them. There’s no easy answer.


Susi August 31, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Your story is a compelling example of a dog (and her owner) doing everything right, and still having an interaction end poorly. If I thought every human being on the planet would get the memo about the significance of a yellow ribbon on a dog leash, I might be persuaded. But when dogs are ripped out of their homes and put down simply for being the wrong breed, my allegiance turns to the dogs and their owners and what they can do to protect themselves. I fear a yellow ribbon just isn’t enough. Here on Planet Susi, children would be educated in school each and every year on how to behave around animals, from the horse mounted by a policeman, to a bear in the woods, and yes, to the dog on a leash. Debbie, we have our work cut out for us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Mellie September 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

Intersesting but common situation. An unpredictable dog in an any situation is always gonna be unpredictable…so why are we trying to force the issue by walking in public places ? Just playing devil’s advocate here. You may enjoy walking your dog in public places but if your dog doesn’ enjoy it, why are you taking it along ? Fear biting is really hard to untrain and is it really worth the stress and risk to take a cute little doggie into a situation that stresses the dog that much and risks someone being bit by your dog ?! You are correct that most people don’t speak dog and ignore their body language so this is why the owner must be wiser and not put their enjoyment of public excursions above their dog’s abilities and that of the general population. I work around animals all day but I am not a dog trainer and neither are most people, so I shouldn’t expect most people to be able to read a dog. We go by our past experiences with dogs and if you have never been bitten then you just don’t have that experience to go by. When you have been you always approach dogs differently…I would just hate to see some child hurt and someone lose their beloved dog due to the notion that Joe Blow can train dogs AND other people. Work with your dog on your own property and with people who are willing to help and do this under the experience of an actual dog trainer and don’t expect more of your dear dog pal than he can handle. By all means take your people loving dogs to public places , but not your scared, terrified, fear bitting dog. That isn’t really a fun time for anyone.


Susi September 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

We’re on the same page, Mellie, so naturally I agree with your remarks and like how you phrase it: “speaking dog.” We had an unfortunate incident here in Denver recently when a newscaster on live TV was bitten in the face by a dog (breed is unimportant here) who’d been rescued off an ice covered lake the day before. The situation was handled so badly from the beginning as to defy common sense, but more to the point, every dog savvy person I knew who saw either the live broadcast or the replay could tell that the stressed dog was telegraphing a fear bite about to happen. We all saw it – but sadly, the interviewer didn’t and continued to get in the face of the dog. She’s back on the air now after cosmetic surgery and looks great, but is wiser for the experience. And, to the TV station’s credit, they ran an educational series on how to behave around dogs and an “Interpreting dog language 101.” Better than nothing.


sara September 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm

So what do you do when you want to put training into practice? How do you know that wasn’t the case with these two dogs? I own a feisty little miniature schnauzer whose road to socialization has been a long and arduous one to say the least. He’s never attacked anyone unprovoked, but in the first year that we had him he was un-trusting and fearful of affection. Three years later he’s learned to socialize with friends and strangers because we’ve continued to work with him and given him the practice of being in public. That being said, a dog in a park is not an open invitation for play or petting. And what if you live in an apartment and have no other choice as to where to exercise and take your dog? Because I know my dog, I will not engage with people who disrespect mine or my dog’s boundaries because they assume they can pet any dog they encounter. I wish more people would learn that keeping your hands to yourself applies to dogs as well.


Kelly October 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Many people do not have the luxury of working with their dogs only on their own property.
What should they do then? Keep their dogs in their small apartment 24-7?

And even for those lucky enough to have a large yard, they are still going to have to expose their dogs to their fears in order to train. Now I’m not talking about just thrusting a terrified dog into a very scary situation (ie. Flooding) which I certainly do not recommend. I’m am referring to people who are actually very serious about working with their dogs on their fears. These people are generally going to be Counter Conditioning a dog to its fears (be it people, dogs, garbage cans, etc.) and BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training). These dogs are going to need to be taken out into public at some point or else they will not be able to progress past a certain point. These dogs are going to need to be exposed to their triggers many times. There is no way around going out in public if the problem is truly going to be addressed. 🙂
And sure an owner and dog can start with a trainer or a behaviorist in a controlled environment, but the trainer/behaviorist is not going to be with the dog and owner all of the time. The owner is going to have to do much of the work on his/her own and again at some point this will include public locations.

Furthermore, one of my dogs is reactive. While he is fearful of unfamiliar people and dogs, that doesn’t mean he he a complete mess when out in public. He absolutely LOVES hikes, walks, going to get ice cream, going to the lake to swim, training classes, etc. He is actually currently in agility classes (will actually begin trials in the spring!) What he does not like however is a strange dog tackling him (“just wanting to play”) or a strange person trying to pet or even pick him up (happens all of the time!)
At this point in his training he can happily walk with me in public places and appears to all to be a normal, well behaved dog (which he is!) He has eyes on me, a happy relaxed expression (he’s a big smiler), and relaxed body posture. He is fine even with people approaching, standing a few feet away, and talking to me. Heck, he often gets to play tug with his leash when I talk to people which he absolutely adores! 🙂
Really it’s all fun and games for him, until rude people insist that dogs love them or people allow their dogs to rudely approach. Honestly, I have my dog under control. The vast majority of the time, the problem is not my dog. The problem lies with people who do not understand dog behavior and people who allow their dogs to behave rudely towards other dogs! 😉

I see so many friendly, “people loving,” dog loving, yet ill behaved dogs out in public. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been jumped on and mouthed by ADULT dogs. (FWIW I rarely approach excitable dogs. Most of this time these dogs and their owners approached me and I certainly did not try to pet these dogs) or the number of times people have allowed their dogs to drag them to mine “saying “Don’t worry. He’s friendly” and then allow their dogs to try to jump at or try to mouth my dogs (despite me stepping in between and making it clear that their dogs are not welcome to greet mine). If reactive dogs “shouldn’t be out in public” then perhaps the same should apply to these dogs as well???? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone make that suggestion though…

By the way Susi, I absolutely LOVE the Suzanne Clothier article you linked to (at least I think it was you). We (my kennel club) have been using it for quite some time in conjunction with our various public education programs (we have several including one teaching children how to read dog body language and safely pet dogs). 🙂

As far as the ribbon goes, I see both sides of the argument and I don’t really have a clear opinion.
The possible legal ramifications certainly should be a major consideration.
On the other hand, I do know that a similar red ribbon tied to tails of horses that kick has actually helped a lot at least in my area. Really the idea is the same. The ribbon is a tool for education and a visual reminder of what was taught.


Susi October 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts, Kelly. Like you, I was of two minds about the yellow ribbon but ultimately came down on the side of risk management. When the entire world recognizes that a yellow ribbon means, “Space, please,” I might join on, but selfishly, I don’t think I want me or my dogs to be the “canaries in the coal mine” that point out the “leaks in the boat” (talk about mixing my metaphors!).

I’ll happily take credit for linking to the Suzanne Clothier article (He just wants to say ‘hi’) and wish I wrote it because it’s such a fine piece.

I loved hearing from you!


Dog lover March 6, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I have an idea! Why don’t ALL dog owners keep their dogs LEASHED when walking in a public area/park/hiking trail where a leash is REQUIRED? If we all read the signs and played by the rules, we could all live in harmony. I rescued my boy, not knowing his “protection” obsession. He is fine until another dog comes into our space. Thinking that responsible dog owners would follow the rules, i have tried several times to take him hiking, running, & walking in “All dogs must be kept on leash” areas. Boy was i WRONG. People are CLUELESS and they let their dogs run wild. I can understand a dog park where there’s no leash law, but we all should respect the rules and regulations when entering areas with posts & signage. Sorry, but unless it’s your own private yard, you should obey the rules. Because of irresponsible people not obeying rules, my dog can’t ever go hiking with me.


Susi March 6, 2015 at 6:17 pm

I like your idea, Dog Lover, but the reality is that some people are oblivious to rules or think they doesn’t apply to them. Our ultimate responsibility is to our dog, and sadly, protection these days comes with a price tag: Not being able to run free during hikes.


Bethany Madlo September 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

I am a dog walker and dog rescuer. #1: If the Cane C’s were in a public area w/ lots of traffic it’s probably safe to say that they had the wrong signage and were in some sort of therapy dog training or their owners were idiots. #2: As a dog walker it is our policy to NOT letthe public come up to and pet our dogs due to liability. You can never be sure when a dog might not like someone and I have NUMEROUS people in apartment buildings decide that they can just bend down and get in the face of one of the dogs that I’m walking while we are in the elevator or lobby of a building. Kids constantly run up to the dogs while we are on a trail without asking me. I would LOVE a leash sleeve that says “DO NOT PET” and I’m looking for a leash sleeve right now actually to help me w/ this. #3: I have a rescue dog that is great! We have done tons of training w/ him and socializing. WHILE we were training though, it was very difficult because some other dog owners would just run up and want their dog to play with ours. I needed my dog’s full attention. So in that instance an “IN TRAINING” sleeve would be excellent. There are many other dogs that have been so traumatized that will never be 100% over what happened to them and may need a “back off” sign. They should still be allowed to go on walks, but not in such a public setting.


Susi September 1, 2012 at 11:43 am

A great comment, Bethany, and one I’m really happy you shared here. If anyone reading this knows where Bethany can find such a leash sleeve???


shibby January 14, 2014 at 7:23 am


I bought a ‘training’ harness and lead for our puppy, not sure if you can get them in the states but they seem like a good idea in general, especially the training, working, deaf and blind ones.


Susi January 14, 2014 at 9:43 am

These I could get behind, Shibby, in part because a message is spelled out. Still, I would probably avoid wording that’s suggestive of an “iffy” dog for reasons I mentioned in the article, and I wonder about heavily coated dogs and the concern of the hair covering the wording. Thanks for sharing the link!


Sarah September 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Dogs will be dogs. On my recent road trip I stopped at a fast food joint where I noticed two dogs wearing clearly labeled “Service Dog” vests, an Airedale and a Rottweiler. I don’t remember the people except that one was male and one was female but I do remember thinking that both dogs were pretty decent representatives of their breed. I respect the working service dog label so kept voice and hands off. Imagine my surprise when the Rottie jumped on me as I passed his table. I happen to love the breed, recognized a non-threatening approach and just laughed when this boy checked out my purse but I suspect that the average “civilian” (non-dog fancier) might have been terrifiied. I had plenty of witnesses in that crowded atmosphere and work for a law firm …maybe I should have sued for the “attack.” No matter how many labels, laws and lawsuits, the ultimate answer will always be in the hands of the owner. The Rottie’s boss corrected his dog and I did not interfere in any way (but did realize later that he had not even apologized to me??!!??). Many people do not know to leave a working service dog/one in training, alone and small children certainly cannot be expected to understand yellow ribbons or to read labels. I agree with you entirely; some dogs do not belong in public for everyone’s safety and for the reputation of their breeds. I also think it’s important to recognize that sometimes dogs just forget – After all, they’re only human.


Susi September 1, 2012 at 11:41 am

“Only human,” – I like that. And I naturally agree with you and your fine points. Control is in the owner’s hands, and I, for one, would be very jittery about relying on a yellow ribbon. Several folks have suggested patches indicating a dog in training or at work, and I could get on board with that before a yellow ribbon or even “do not touch” signs – but ultimately, I tend to assume that if the general public can do something foolish, they will.


Cindy Long September 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

I say don’t do it. It means, just as the gate/yard sign, that says, “Beware of Dog”, that your dog is or has the propensity to be dangerous.
So if a dog with a yellow ribbon bites; no matter what the reason, that yellow ribbon says the owner knew it was a possibility (silly because all dogs can bite) that the dog would/might bite and yes, opens the owner up to a lawsuit.
I always used, “Keep the gate closed” or “Don’t let the dog out” on my fences.
How about the patch that Service Dogs use, “Ask before Petting” or “Dog in Training”.

ex-insurance agent


Susi September 1, 2012 at 11:37 am

Good to know, Cindy, especially from a former insurance agent! Thanks for sharing that here (and I like the patch idea)


chienblanc4csi March 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I strongly second Cindy’s response. As a former insurance agent my self, I agree that this is very important to know. It may not be fair, but it is reality. When I was a kid, one of the neighbor’s kids liked to ring our doorbell just to make the doxies bark, made my dad crazy. So he thought a “Beware of Dog” sign might scare the kiddies off, and actually, it seemed to work. But when our insurance agent stopped by (he was a family friend), he asked my dad to take it down immediately for just the reason that Cindy stated. That was in the mid 1950s, way before we had such a sue-happy society. I also speak as someone whose dog was attacked and hurt very seriously by another dog, I know first hand how much work it is to help a dog recover from such a trauma. He had a solid temperament to begin with, and attacking another dog was the last thing he would do, people weren’t even on his radar, but keeping him safe was my primary concern. A yellow ribbon wouldn’t have helped, and an experience that we had quite some time later illustrated how easily a yellow ribbon could have been used to completely twist the truth in case of any incident. My SAR team was training with a troop of girl scouts. There were two people with us that day as guest trainers, with two of the most obnoxious, nervous, unstable GSDs I have ever seen, the male was on two legs almost every time I spotted him. I wasn’t in any position of leadership with that team – if I had been, both those dogs would have been dismissed immediately as unsuitable for the job, because I know dogs, I know that what I was seeing was the tip of the iceberg, and the real dangerous animals that day were the husband and wife owners of these dogs. Total idiots, and egotistical, actually proud of their “tough” dogs. gggrrrrrrrr. I wish I had spoken out, but it wasn’t my place at the time. As I was standing talking to a 10-year-old scout and her mother, introducing myself and my polite dog sitting in heel position on lead, the female GSD approached us from behind – dragging her handler – and lunged at the backside of my dog, biting him on the base of his tail. The leash flew out of my hand as my dog panicked and bolted, running across the street with this ‘bitch’ chasing him, until he could reach a car and hide under it, safe from the jaws of this dog. The original attack that nearly killed him two years earlier had been a GSD. I found myself on my belly, sobbing and shaking, trying to coax my dearest, most loving, wonderful champion of my heart dog out from under the car, and at the same time screaming obscenities at the owner of the bitch. I was also trying to apologize to my dear Clue for breaking my promise to keep him safe, a total blubbering fool. The leader of the team had grabbed the leash of the GSD, pulling with all her might to get her away from the car, and immediately dismissed both dogs and handlers from the session, and told them they could not come back. These people were furious, stomped off, threatening us all with who knows what action, but I wasn’t really listening. I got my dog back after they left, and he seemed to have no teeth marks, but later there was a hematoma rising above his tail about the size of a half golf ball. I didn’t take any action, although I thought about it. A month later the team got a nasty letter from these people, with a cc of a letter that they had sent to the national SAR association we were affiliated with, saying that they wanted our team sanctioned in some way for harboring a “dangerous dog with a known problem with German Shepherd Dogs”. Apparently some of the things I said while I was sobbing on my belly in the street related to my poor dog’s previous attack BY a GSD, and these creeps felt they were discriminated against. By the way, my “yellow” dog was a PBGV, about 32 lbs. and the sweetest, friendliest dog on the planet. Yellow ribbon, or a public statement referring to a previous attack – twist it all around and this is how it can all backfire. After all the excitement died down, my wonderful dog finished our training session that day, with honors. He got his wits back, and did his job beautifully. I guess my efforts were worth it. The young girl scout was quite frightened, but my boy calmed her right down, he gave her kisses when he found her, and she said that if he was all right after that, she could forget about it. He lived to almost 17, I lost him last Labor Day weekend.

This dog was specially chosen from the litter for his temperament, which paid off in spades, especially for the families of the loved ones he located over the years, Good boy, I miss you.


Tara September 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm

To me this is much ado about nothing. Of course, this may be because I live in Canada, which doesn’t tend to have as many issues with lawsuits as the States does. The ribbon concept is similar to the TACT vests, but more discreet. I would actually tend to use the TACT vest more, because it is so much clearer. My dogs are beautifully behaved, and their appearance is very “soft” (one is a sheltie, the other is a sheltie/husky/corgi x), and I would certainly consider using either the vest or the yellow ribbon (if it became better known) for both of them at various points in their training.

As far as I’m concerned, no matter what visual cue people use, the idea is about protecting the dog, not the human. We live in a society in which everyone feels they should be able to pet every dog they run into, and that’s simply not fair to the dogs. When I bring my dogs into stores, it does not mean it’s a free-for-all and all of a sudden they have become public property – it simply means they are coming into a store with me. I do not want people touching my dogs without my permission, just as I wouldn’t strangers touching my children without permission. If people ask politely, and if my dogs show an interest in meeting them, permission is usually granted. If my dogs show no interest in meeting the person, or I am using my time to train my dog in a certain behaviour (ie. focus work), the answer will be “no”.

The second problem is people who know absolutely nothing about canine body language often want their dog to meet my dog, even when either/both dogs are giving off clear warning signals. I was at an agility trial last week, and I went to potty my dog in a nearby area. A woman approached with a shih tzu who was straining at the leash, barking and growling. Both of my dogs stayed quietly in a heel position, but stiffened. This lady had every intention of bringing her dog over to meet mine, insisting that her dog “only growls until he meets the other dog”. Of course I told her absolutely not, but this strange insistence on having every dog meet has become typical of our society. A visual cue may help owners avoid conflict, especially if they are uncomfortable with a verbal response since it sometimes comes off as rude.

I’m a dog trainer, and one of the first things I address in my beginners/puppy k class is “manners” – for the humans – not the dogs. We talk about why it’s rude to pet a dog without asking permission, why you should never introduce two dogs without the permission of the other owner, how to tell if the other owner has their dog under enough control to be confident in their ability to control the situation, etc. Unfortunately, most people who own dogs don’t bother to take classes. In an ideal world, people would become educated enough to realize they have to ask before touching a dog, but until then I think the vests are a great visual cue.


Susi September 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

An excellent post, Tara, loaded with common sense ideas. It reflects the “He just wants to say hi” article by Susan Clothier which I linked in the blog. People ARE ignorant about dog “etiquette,” but all too quick to blame the dog or its owner if the dog snaps (literally, not figuratively); And like you, my interest is in protecting the dog. For that reason, I remain less than enthralled with the yellow ribbon idea.


youcrankypants September 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I am going to take the Cane Corso situation off the table here, because that is a topic that is an entirely differently matter. I currently have an APBT. He is very gentle, plays well with other (including humans of all sizes/ages, other dogs, and cats…chicken, not so much, and my goats have put him in his place). That said, I have had problems with other off-leash “nipper” breeds coming after him while I have him ON-leash. He has behaved fine (I am more at risk because we frequently get tangled in his leash while he tries to get behind me). However, because of his breed, the owners of the off-leash Yorkies (for example), seem indignant if he barks at their attack dogs. When I first read this, I liked the idea, although it would have to be more broadly marketed to ensure everyone knew what it meant. But, after reading this blog post and the comments, I now think it’s just a big red flag that your dog is potentially dangerous. A good trainer will tell you to gradually introduce your dog into larger socialization circles…if your dog is not ready, and needs the yellow ribbon, keep him/her where they are safe and unstressed.


Susi September 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I love hearing from people with the Bully breeds because their reality is in such stark contrast to those of us with other breeds. Anymore, I’ve come to measure new “dog ideas” from the perspective of a Pit Bull terrier owner to help me decide whether the idea is all that good or not, and for that reason alone, I felt the yellow ribbon idea was not in the best interest of the dog or his owner. Your experience underscores it. As you said, a good trainer goes about exposing their dog to new environments and experiences gradually (it’s not a race, after all) and ideally, among savvy dog owners. I can’t tell you how much I wish things were different for your breed because I firmly believe that not only is it inherently wrong, but that it’s a slippery slope going from Pit Bulls to Rotties to Dobies to Boxers – and down the line. And yet statistically, it’s other breeds who have the greater incident of dog bites. Not fair.

Thanks for writing!


Christine with Shiba Inus September 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I can have training harnesses on my dogs and still have little yorkshire terriers on flexileads interrupt what I am doing. I can take a foster dog in an area to be socialized and do what I know is right, only to have someone else barge in thinking that they know better, or that as I am socializing this dog, it means they are supposed to be social with my dog (when what I am doing is teaching her to carefully walk on a lead). I live in an apartment complex filled with all sorts of breeds of dogs and only once has there been an incident because all of us dog owners communicate with one another. However, to the average person, a Shiba Inu is just an adorable fox and you would be shocked how many children run up and just embrace my dogs before I can stop them. I spend time and time again reminding people who to approach strange dogs or how their dogs are invading my dogs space. If we had a way to communicate it without being offensive, then to those of us who spend time working, training, and socializing dogs would have it much easier.


Susi September 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Your experience appears to be common, Christine, judging by similar comments made here. I can’t count of people educating their children on “dog etiquette” when most of them are equally ignorant, and until society has a more common sense approach to dealing with dog incidences and how to avoid them, I feel it’s up to us to protect our dogs and ourselves. I stick to my opinion that a yellow ribbon just won’t “cut it,” but I could get on board with a more visible vest…..


Traci Biegenwald September 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Ok, I feel like most of the comments so far are focusing on extremes and arent addressing the situations in the middle. We have a teenage female boxador who is going through some dominance issues with her best friend/sister at home and so must be kept separate from her and be walked individually while we work through them. We know she is absolutely solid with people and is still fine with most dogs unless the dog approches aggressively and then we’re not sure. When we take her on walks in our neighborhood (she has to potty and get exercise somehow!) we attempt to avoid close contact with other dogs we dont know, which we are successful with for the most part, but our neighborhood is chock full of dog owners ranging from the aboslute masters of control with their dogs on a short leash, to the little dogs on the extenda leashes that reach all the way across the street, to the off leashers who generally ignore everyone but could potentially be lured in by a puppyish adorable boxador who shows all the signs of wanting to play right up till you get close and accidently show a smidge of dominance. Another example: we have a friend with a rescued bulldog who is absolutely the sweetest thing ever and only ever shows any aggression when jealous of the attention paid another dog. Does he need a training vest? Ulikely. Must he be muzzled or kept at home? That seems like a vast overreaction. Could a yellow ribbon possibly alert someone that theres something to be aware of before they approach with another dog? Maybe. Will it help? Maybe. Isnt maybe better than no? I unerstand that the yellow ribbon will not solve the problem and most people will ignore/not understand it, but if we dont rely on it and it helps just a little bit even if its just with our peace of mind then I’m all for it. Our dog is Not fear aggressive nor is she at all aggressive towards people. Im not afraid of a lawsuit. If the unthinkable happens and our dog injures another dog we would absolutely do the right thing and offer to help with vet bills, etc. I dont think that will happen. It kills me a little to have to tell you that my dog cant play with your dog right now, but I will. Our darling girl is a mistake rescued as a wee puppy from a backyard boxer breeder from far away. She’s going through some issues right now that are minor and shouldn’t force her to be locked up, only to leave our house to pee and then quick back inside before another dog comes by. If a yellow ribbon on her leash avoids one possible near confrontation that could set back her training it is well worth it in my book. Just look at it as an extra precaution in a just in case situation that may help inform someone of a possible concern. (may get icy when wet/deer crossing)
Anyway, thats my two cents. I agree it shouldnt be a failsafe if your dog is a danger (I know my dog ate your face, but I DID have a yellow ribbon), but some of us with the smaller problems can use all the extra help we can get.


Susi September 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Traci, I commend you for thinking of “what if” scenarios, and in the end, each of us has to do what is right for us and our dogs. Because you’re out with your dogs quite a bit, and if you decide to try the yellow ribbon, I, and I bet others, would be keenly interested in your observations and experience. If you’re game, report back?


Traci Biegenwald September 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Absolutely! Will let you know how it goes!


Jess September 4, 2012 at 7:21 am

well when i first saw this i thought it was a great idea. i have a douge de bordeaux and she got attacked by a dog when she was a pup and ever since she has been a bit funny with other dogs so to be on the safe side we keep a distance from other dogs.
but just recentrly there seems to be an increase in off the lead dogs. and not saying this is a problem but i think dog owners should have the respect for the dog ahead that is clearly on a short lead but no they are leaving their dogs off to run over to my dog even though she looks very wary. the owner of the other dog then has a go at me. had they but their dog on a lead it would not have been a problem and you cant say dont walk the dog because that is just unfair.
So maybe we need something like this ribbon idea to stop this because i have seen it happen many times. dog on a lead and dog off a lead. dog on lead feels threatened and a threatened dog is unpredictable.
oh and not to mention the dogs who dont even respond when their owners calls it back.
whatever happened to responsible dog owners although i will say that this is probably only about 1:5 and most dog owners are still very responsible it just seems that in my area people just dont care and let their dogs wander all over the place and run up to whoever they like


Susi September 4, 2012 at 9:08 am

I’m sorry this happened to your Dogue, Jess. We work so hard to properly socialize our puppies, to help them learn that the world can be a lovely place. And all it takes is the thoughtless owner of another dog to undo it all. I imagine there are leash laws in your area and perhaps reminding (in a friendly tone) these folks that they exist for a reason? That said, once your Dogue is full grown, she’ll have a formidable appearance and the tables will turn with regards to other dog owners being so quick to let their dogs approach her off-lead. It is for those days ahead that I worry about the efficacy of a yellow ribbon. Sadly, the times in which we live seem to rely a good deal on a dog’s appearance and not its behavior. You can do everything right and still be accused of having a dangerous dog simply because she looks the way she does. It’s simply not fair, but until people either wise up or take more personal responsibility, I’m leery of a yellow ribbon having much impact.


Jennifer September 4, 2012 at 11:49 am

There are many reasons dogs need space. As I have a dog that “needs space” I think this is a good idea (only if it’s accepted knowledge by all that this is the meaning of the ribbon and people know to stay away). My dog is a rescue I’ve had for 9 years and was used as a bait dog for fighting prior to my adopting her. She can be very agressive when approached suddenly but other dogs. (please also note my dog is not a pitt so her look is not intimidating) Yes responsible dog owners should know to keep their dog out of another dogs face. But sadly not all dog owners are responsible. My dog has every right to be able to go outside for walks and trust me when we see someone coming towards us with another dog I cross the street, I move out of the way if I am able, or I cinch her up close to my heels so she is controled and to ensure not only the saftey of my dog but that of the other persons. I have also pulled my dog off to the side and made her sit and wait in a safe distance while others pass us. Sadly, my dog as been approached because A. people use retractable leashes and don’t stop their dog from coming toward mine B. because their dog is friendly they feel that it’s ok if their dog approaches mine . C. you have your dog off a leash and it runs toward me as I’m walking my dog down the street. D they aren’t paying attention and E. They just don’t have control over their own dog when walking past another person and let it approach anything. Note my dog will make it known from a distance she does not want to be bothered. She can be introduced to other dogs in a controled setting but not just approached on the street by stranger dogs. If all dog owneres were responsible maybe we wouldn’t need signs to inform people to stay away or even to ask before approaching our dogs.


Susi September 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I’m sorry this happened to your dog, Jennifer. Like your dog, our family dog was stolen from us and miraculously recovered a full nine months later by police who’d broken up a dog fighting ring. He also had been used as a bait dog, and while he lived out the remainder of his life in comfort and adoration, there were some behaviors he’d developed that we were never able to erase. Your experience resonates with me.

I’m all the more persuaded that the public isn’t ready to embrace the concept of a yellow ribbon when they can’t even grasp basic dog etiquette. We have our work cut out for us. I appreciate your comments, Jennifer.


Chris September 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I agree with this > If your dog needs a warning sign, I don’t think it should be out in public.


Susi September 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Chris. Everyone’s comments have been so interesting!


Maddy December 3, 2012 at 12:49 am

It is a bit naive for some to just assume that a dog needing space means it should not be aloud out. If it is on lead and under effective control then whose fault is it when an untrained and disobedient dog comes flying across the park. I happen to have a young vision impaired dog who has been attacked by another dog before leading to mild anxiety when dogs approach. She has no peripheral vision or long distance and dogs coming up from behind would, to her, just magically appear in her face. I have just recently purchased a ‘dog in training – please give me space’ jacket for the shear fact that there are many dog owners out there who let their dogs either run up to whoever or let them pull into whichever dog they please, then give me a full lecture on what a terrible dog owner I am for having an aggressive dog and that she shouldn’t be aloud out in public, yet she’s the one with obedience titles and at a significant disadvantage when in unfamiliar surroundings.
I hope people learn that warning signs are not just for ‘dangerous dogs’ but for those learning to live with illness or injury or past traumatic experiences. The worst thing you could do for reactive dogs is to never take them out.


Susi December 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Well said, Maddy.


Lee RideFar September 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Why stop at aggressive dogs? Let’s get motorcyclists in on this too.



Susi September 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Another thing I wouldn’t have known had it not been brought to my attention – although I’m mighty curious about “the world and new speeding laws being a scary place.” Should such a rider BE on public roads?


Jess September 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I too, saw these flyers up on Facebook and thought it was a great idea. After having read all the above comments I also have reservations about the “yellow ribbon warning”. I have adopted 2 GDSs (German Shepherds). My most recent one was abused, one ear, scars, broken teeth etc. He is fear-aggressive. Very dog friendly but not so people friendly which is hard since most dogs out in public are attached to people via a leash. 🙂 As a dog owner of a “special needs” animal I feel it is my duty to not only correct his bad behaviour but also to protect the public (no matter how often they try to endanger themselves by approaching strange dogs). I have been slowly introducing him to more and more stimuli in our walks, starting out on farm roads then onto fitness walks during times when there are fewer people etc. I always use a muzzle, I am hyperaware of approaching people and he wears a bright red puppy pouch to hold water and my inhaler that makes him highly visible). I think that the yellow ribbon used IN CONJUNCTION with other precautions such as a muzzle and keeping him focused on the walk rather than people would be a great help. The yellow ribbon should not be used as an excuse to not control your dog or not continue to work on behavioural problems. And I think all schools should teach students how to approach dogs and signs put up around public walks/parks that tell people how to act appropriately around strange dogs. If my dog ever attacked someone (god forbid) then I take full responsibility for not controlling my animal. I’m also fortunate (sort of) that like Bully breeds, German Shepherds make people nervous and few rarely coming running towards him. It took years for my ancient GSD to have his behaviour to be corrected and he is nearly bomb proof. I think there are some merits to the Yellow RIbbon warning until something better comes up and more education is disseminated through the masses. But thank you all for posting the above comments- it gave me a lot to think about and agree with many of you.


Susi September 6, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Jess, I commend you not only for doing everything right by your dog, but in taking him in and working with him. He’s lucky to have you! I think the one thing you said (among many) that really resonated with me is the wisdom of putting up posters in dog parks educating dog owners about proper dog etiquette. At the AKC Eukanuba dog show in Orlando, there are huge placards that educate the public on how to approach dogs, it’s fabulous. Poster at dog parks,etc. would be the place to introduce the concept of a yellow ribbon since there’s no other way for the average pet person to know about its meaning.

I appreciate your comments!


Nan Ash September 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I personally like this idea. When I went to rescue my new family member I was under the impression I was going to adopt an 8 month old Akita/Newfoundland little boy. I knew as soon as I saw him he was a Chow mix and was well over 2 years old. BUT, I fell for him and brought him home. He was left in the woods and I quickly found out that if you clean (move furniture) or vacuum he panics so bad he shakes and drools on himself (even after 7 years with me!) He loves to go for walks and I take him in the evenings when there will be less kids out. He is scared to death of people but loves his walks. If people knew or this became something that became common knowledge it would be a great benefit to dogs everywhere to be allowed to have walks. I would love to see these posters reworked with different breeds and slightly different wording posted at parks, community events, printed in newspapers, handed out at pet stores, and on and on… Education is the only way to eradicate ignorance.


Susi September 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Nan. Education is critical – and I, too, would love to see children taught basic behavior around dogs and learn how to assess canine body language. Posters would be a good beginning for the parents!


Esty September 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

People seem to be assuming that dogs who have these ‘space’ issues are dangerous dogs and shouldn’t be out in public. Couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of my dog. He was chased very viciously by two GSDs when he was 18 months old. I have no doubt if they had caught him, they would have killed him, but being a whippet, he outran them. Until the incident he was a well socialised dog. After this he developed fear aggression. He thinks every big dog is going to kill him and barks like crazy til they pass. We have worked with trainers and behaviourists and with many hours work have got him to the stage where he can pass most dogs now without barking. But it only take one dog in his face and we are back where we started – barking and anxious. This dog is amazing with people, children who approach him, and out of my three dogs is the best with our foster dogs or guest dogs. But, after his attack he barks like crazy at any dog who comes near, and gets himself very stressed. For this reason, my dog needs his space – not because he is going to attack, but because every time a dog gets too close it reinforces his idea that other dogs are dangerous, and sets all our many hours of training back weeks.
People need to know that it is manners to give other dogs space and to put their own dog on a leash when passing an unknown dog, but many people do not do this. You wouldn’t find it acceptable if another person ran up to you and started shouting in your face or touching you – you would show your displeasure. But some people think it is ok for their dog to do that to another dog, and label the other dog aggressive if he shows he doesn’t like it. Until people learn manners and recall their dogs, maybe a ribbon would get the message across?


Susi September 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm

From the perspective of a dog fancier (someone who shows and/or breeds their purebreds), your message rings loud and clear to me. We work hard with puppies to help them learn that the world is a generally nice place, that dog shows are fun, and other dogs to be respected and tolerated. Nothing undoes our work like a thoughtless dog owner who lets their dog breach personal space. So I can well imagine your dismay when, after long hours of working with a dog who has had a negative experience with dogs, an equally thoughtless owner ruins your progress. It’s disheartening, to say the least. That said, I maintain that while the yellow ribbon is a nice idea, it will take a great deal of effort to train a largely oblivious public how to understand its significance. Given their general ignorance about other dog issues, I come down on the side of protecting the dog from other dogs, thoughtless owners, and a society quick to sue in the event of a dog encounter ending poorly. I do appreciate your point of view!


Paula September 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

I live in a busy suburban neighborhood; lots of children, joggers, people with strollers, and many dog lovers. Everyone has the right to walk their dog, no? Of course. This is also a neighborhood of dog lovers, and there are so many of them…it’s not uncommon for us to chat while our dogs check one another out. Being that my toy poodle is a total sweetheart and loves other dogs, I’m always on the look-out for potential trouble. So, I can appreciate an owner who knows that his or her dog can’t handle random dog/people attention. It tells me, “Hey, I’m a good guy–but, I’m off limits to you and your dog.” I would not want any of my neighbors to avoid walking their dog altogether–just because it’s anxious. Of course, if a person’s dog is deadly dangerous and poorly socialized, that’s a whole other bowl of beans.

It would be ridiculous for people who have anxious dogs to bring them to places like, say, PetSmart. But, in the spirit of common space like your own neighborhood or the local dog walking trails, I don’t think the yellow ribbon is so terrible.


Susi September 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for sharing your opinion, Paula. Within the context of your neighborhood, a yellow ribbon could probably work as long as everyone is on the same page and it’s one big happy family where one is unlikely to sue another. The crux of my own view is that it’s a risk to hope that people you don’t know (let alone their dogs) will control their leash or the dog at the end of it, or not take legal action if a misunderstanding occurs between the dogs. I recently saw someone with a green ribbon on their lapel. I had to search my memory bank. Red is for AIDS awareness, pink is for cancer awareness, what on earth (no pun intended) does green mean? I never did find out, and for all I know, I should have planted a tree that day. Hoping that the huge population of dog owners understand the significance of a yellow ribbon on a leash is a risk I’m not willing to take. And just for grins, if you were to see a dog with a knot in its leash, maybe several, what would that mean to you?


thee September 10, 2012 at 3:42 am

I think this is a valuable idea. I live in the suburbs and walk my dog around the neighborhood. Twice in her lifetime (that I know of – she was a rescue dog and I don’t know her early history) my dog has been attacked by other dogs. Therefore, it is a very anxious time for her when other dogs meet her for the first time and her initial reaction is to snarl and growl to defend herself. I wish other dog owners would not allow their dogs to run up to us when we are walking down the street. “Oh my dog is friendly he/she won’t hurt your dog.” is invariably the answer when I ask the other dog owner to please move along. Please understand, I’m not concerned about your dog. I’m concerned about mine. I wish you would give us some space without me having to cross the street to avoid you or having to grab my dog and hold her or pull her away from your dog who is now snarling and growling as well. I like this idea. It is a polite way to warn you to leave us alone so these walks could be pleasant for every animal involved.


Susi September 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

I hope you had a chance to read the article linked in my blog post by Susan Clothier, “He just wants to say hi,” what you describe is universal and why I’m not optimistic about the yellow ribbon idea catching on. We wouldn’t allow our teenagers to run up to a stranger and get in their face (I would hope!), and yet some think that it’s perfectly acceptable for their dog to do it. Common sense, people! If the yellow ribbon idea was run as a TV commercial several times a day for a year – maybe then…….


Kelly September 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I understand where you’re coming from, but I disagree with the fact that reactive dogs should never be in public. If that’s the case, how are you supposed to exercise them? How are you supposed to work on their reactivity? I think the people advocating for a yellow ribbon have the right idea by not only marketing it as reactive dogs, but also dogs in training for service, or recovering for injury; that way a yellow ribbon doesn’t mean admission of guilt. As someone else said; it’s not a crime to be scared.

Like some other responders, I too have a rescue dog who is reactive. Not sure where he got it, but it’s something we have to always work on. He’s also a high energy breed, so I have to take him running to burn off his energy and keep him somewhat level to reduce and manage his reactivity.

I do my best at all outlets to reduce or eliminate the chance we are going to be put in a situation, but it’s not always completely avoidable. The previous commenters have it right… these days people simply don’t have “dogsense”. Sometimes, no matter the evasive maneuvers I try to pull to keep us out of a scary (for him) scenario, people don’t seem to recognize that I’m crossing the street or ducking around a corner in avoidance. Maybe if I had a bright yellow ribbon, and maybe if they knew that ribbon meant I was asking for space, we could avoid more stress on ourselves.


Susi September 27, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Kelly, I appreciate hearing from you. Your comment includes the core of my objection to the use of the yellow ribbon: You write, “These days people simply don’t have “dogsense”. Sometimes, no matter the evasive maneuvers I try to pull to keep us out of a scary (for him) scenario, people don’t seem to recognize that I’m crossing the street or ducking around a corner in avoidance….” Unless there’s a massive campaign using print, radio and television, most people will be unaware of the significance of a yellow ribbon tied to a leash. I’m not willing to risk my dog’s safety, or any of the progress I’ve made on his issues, on the hope that the person heading my way with a rambunctious dog knows what it means. Our dogs rely on us to keep them safe and there are better ways to teach our dogs about the world than at the mercy of an ignorant public.

Understand, too, that I don’t think I said “reactive” dogs should never be in public. I said they should be in a controlled environment until they have a change to get their “sea legs” underneath them. It’s called desensitization and exposure to stimuli is done by inches. Precisely as you said, reducing or eliminating the chance that you are going to be put in a situation is not always completely avoidable – so why not help a dog learn to acclimate in a controlled setting before taking on the world strange dogs?

I remain an advocate of the dogs and stand by my opinion. Unless we can be assured that the entire world knows of the yellow ribbon significance, we’re using our dogs as guinea pigs to ascertain which stranger is aware of its meaning, and which isn’t. I’m not willing to risk my dogs to find out.


Kelly September 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Of course I’m always responsible for anything that happens to us out there, whether I had control over it or not. I need to always advocate for my animal.

I would never just assume that if I put a yellow ribbon on my leash that immediately everyone that I know will get it. That’s just naive.

But maybe someone will get it. Maybe someone will ask me about it, and I can explain what it means.

Reactive dogs are a handful, and anyone that has one knows that you should take any help you can get. And that’s all that I see this as; another tool on my tool belt in making sure that my dog has a calm, safe, enjoyable time out in the world.


Marilyn Lewis September 28, 2012 at 3:53 am

I run NarpsUK that is a membership organisation for pet sitters and dog walkers. I would like to support the Yellow Ribbon campaign and am thinking that I would like to put a poster up at my Discover Dogs stand in November and also at Crufts next year, I would also like to give out Yellow Ribbons free to anyone to wants them. Can someone tell me who are the founders or organisers of this campaign as I have been searching for the last hour but can’t find anything on here – not sure I am allowed to have a poster made without permission?


Susi September 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Hello Marilyn! I’m not aware of any organized effort behind the yellow ribbon campaign but I would imagine that if you wanted to use the poster which appeared on my blog, an inquiry on Facebook might get you some answers. A Google search also revealed other variations of this poster. You’re wise to be concerned about using someone else’s image, such things may be regarded asWhile I’ve taken the position that a yellow ribbon campaign would only be successful if everyone with a dog knew about the meaning behind the ribbon, a concerted effort in a smaller environment might see some success with it. If you pursue it, I’d like to hear from you and how things went. And good luck at Discover Dogs! It was my pleasure to help “man” the booth there (a a voice of the “yanks”) a few years ago.


DHat October 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I can disagree 100%!!! As a pitbull owner, I would NEVER have this on my dog…..Will you ever see the “little old lady with a Border collie” that bites kids or pisses all over the house or on people have this little nice ribbon that states “im the retarted off breed of 2 mutts” …. the answer is no…..so why the hell would i put that TAG on my Pit….never ever ever


Susi October 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm

That was pretty much my point, too. I feel the yellow ribbon is tantamount to a red flag indicating an “issue” that could be misused by those who mean our breeds harm.


Jessie October 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I’m 50/50 on this. Only because my dog Cali, who’s a Shar-pei/Retriever mix is a rescue. We were were sheltering her until we could find a home but decided to keep her. We’ve had her for about 2 months due to few weeks of trying to lure her close enough to catch. Where I live, out in the desert, a lot of people toss their dogs out to get rid of them which is what happened to Cali. So she has a lot of issues which are being worked on, one of them is she doesn’t like dogs, though she gets a long with our other dogs, the other is people due to possibly being abused. I’ve been working on introducing her to other people and animals, so far it is working but out on walks she goes rigid and presses against me. I’ve also had a dog run out of it’s own yard to greet her, where I had to basically drag her away from the other dog while that owner ran out to get it. Yeah, the other dog was saying Hi, however to Cali..All dogs are a threat at this point in time.

I fully support this yellow ribbon idea however I disagree of hiding away reactive/aggressive dogs due it being unfair. Exposer is key to these dogs, it takes time. A lot of time in some cases. A yellow ribbon like warning is a polite way to warn you to leave us alone so these walks could be pleasant for every animal involved. And it should be spread more.


Susi October 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jessie, and bless your heart for taking in “Cali.” If the whole world knew about the yellow ribbon idea, it might work,but there are always those people (usually the ones who need to know about it the most) who are oblivious to its meaning, or perhaps can’t even see it in time before their dog charges up to meet yours. Over the weekend, I was out of town at a dog show and had my two dogs on lead. Dogs belonging to a couple of gents on a hike ran up to investigate my dogs, and their attention was not appreciated. While my dogs don’t have issues, I don’t like strange dogs getting in their faces. A yellow ribbon wouldn’t have helped us because the other dogs were off lead,the owners were too far away to see a ribbon, and I doubt they would have cared, anyway because they called out, “They’re friendly.” Friendliness wasn’t the point. People never seem to regard their own dogs as a threat or consider that other dogs just want to be left alone.


Christa October 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hi I’ve just stumbled on this website after searching for info on the ‘yellow ribbon on leash’. while i havent read all the comments, i found them interesting but I have to say seemed to miss the fact its also for dogs which may have an injury or illness and are normally very friendly but may not feel happy with the aproach of another dog under those circumstances. I personally would have used a yellow ribbon for my beutiful girl sadly now running free at rainbow bridge. She was the sweetest friendliest girl ever but as her health declined and the lymphoma spread to her spine she was unhappy is someone went to touch her but was in no way aggresive in public and I feel she had every right to walk with me in a public place as normal while she was able. I’m sure other dogs through old age get grumpy is someone tries to touch them if they have arthritis or poor eye sight etc. I think the key factor to the yellow ribbon is getting the message out to the general public as well as other dog owners what it signifies so it become as well known as a white cane is the sign for a blind person.


Susi October 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I’m glad you found me, Christa, and I’m glad you wrote! I hope you’ll read all the back-and-forth comments made to the article as many of them make excellent points. If you have the time, I’d like for you to also read my recent article, “Canine Body Language: You Should Know the Basics,” because it alludes to why I stand by my opinion that the yellow ribbon, while a grand goal, doesn’t serve the dog in reality – at least not yet. I’m sorry your lovely girl is over the bridge, and I do “hear” what you’re saying. I’m afraid, however, that the rest of humanity hasn’t caught up to us.


Leanne October 17, 2012 at 11:36 am

I think the yellow ribbon is a good idea! clearly it will take some time for everyone to understand what it means, but i think it will be worth trying to get the message out there… i think it will be a good idea because it will be something that warns people, because i have seen times where people just walk past dogs with there dogs not thinking that it might not be a good idea, and yes i understand the thing about saying dogs who go for other dogs should not be put in an environment where other dogs can walk past them to get them worked up but, like i saw someone elses comment alot of dogs are friendly to people and to dogs they know and have met gradually, but do not like it when dogs get in there face which alot of dogs get very exited when they see another dog and run over to them, and some owner let this happen without giving it another thought, then get upset when a dog starts growling at there dog… but i think if everyone tried to get the word out about the ribbons it would cut down on incidents, as i said it will be hard, and as someone else said even harder to get the word to people who do not go on the internet but i think it would be worth a try… and i don’t think it will come across as dangerous dog i think people will just see it as a warning that the dog is abit wary of other dogs or people, i mean if they were very dangerous hopefully the owner will have sense to put a muzzle on them while they are out lol but i think it’s a good idea for dogs that just get abit wary and have tenancies to growl… i have seen people with dogs when even the other dog is growling they do not get the message and still try to introduce there dog to the other dog… but hopefully something will come of this and alot less incidents will occur ”Hopefully” i think it is up to animal lovers to get the word across, even if it’s just mentioning it in random conversation or posting it on the internet somewhere, telling your grandparents as they tend to pass the massage on when they are on a ramble with near enough everyone in the high street lol =)


Susi October 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Thanks for sharing your opinion, Leanne. You are not alone in your views, and my thoughts on it remain the same. Ultimately, I fear it puts a dog at risk – but in a small community where dog owners know each other, it might work….


Healthy Hound October 18, 2012 at 6:46 am

I believe this is a good campaign if the public is educated on what it means. Just because a dog has a ribbon tied to its leash does not mean it is vicious. Saying a dog “needs space” usually equates to the dog being “bad” in the general public’s eye, unfortunately.
Just yesterday I was telling a client with an rescue dog about this campaign, saying that if we did do this with just a ribbon (no signage) then it may prompt people to ASK what it meant and the owners could explain what their individual dogs needs are. Assuming most of us here are dog savvy we would completely understand the different possible meaning of these yellow ribbons. Unfortunately through the years of working with dogs and their owners I have realized that the general public has little knowledge or experience when it comes to dealing with unstable dogs.
This campaign will work if it focuses on education of other people not isolation of the “problem dog”. IMO this is the only way we will help dogs and their owners. EDUCATION is the key 🙂


Susi October 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

I would agree that a massive campaign would be the only way this idea could work, but this is easier said than done. How long have we been espousing spaying and neutering pets? How long have we been discouraging breeding dogs for reasons other than improving a sound, healthy purebred show dog? And yet apparently my appliance repair man missed that memo. He intends to breed his two rescued-off-the-street Chihuahua-poo-doodle-mutts (bless him for taking them in) because he feels motherhood will make the female a better dog. Where’s he been?

It will take only one person oblivious to the meaning of the yellow ribbon to let their dog undo months of work with a dog, spook a puppy, or worse. I’m not willing to take that risk with my dog until I’m sure every last person knows what the yellow ribbon means.


Heike October 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I have got three rescue dogs. All are large and very friendy, living with a toddler and a baby. One is very hyper and full on. As soon as we see anyone, we put our dogs on their lead and step out of the way. Today we met someone with her little dog. Sadly she did not use any common sense and left her dog of lead. It ran straight to us and got bowled over, letting out a yelp. She then proceeded to shout at us for having an aggressive dog!!! I think the public should certainly be more informed about yellow ribbons, or anything that says “Give my dog space”. But also use your common sense, please!!!!!!


Susi October 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Yours is a story I’ve heard often, Heike, and it is baffling to me as well as to why people fail to use common sense, if not courtesy. I’m to believe that even a yellow ribbon would fail to deter such people who apparently live in their own bubble.


Amanda November 8, 2012 at 11:07 am

I think this is a great campaign that needs more recognition and public awareness! I have a rescue that i’ve been working with that is an amazing and sweet dog but gets very nervous when approached quickly. He needs space and time to feel comfortable enough to play with another dog. The yellow ribbon campaign is for people who walk their dog in the neighbourhood in on-leash areas, not for irresponsible owners that take their dogs to dog parks or off-leash areas and don’t want to take responsibilty. I quite often walk my dog through a path in the local park that is an on-leash area and have people walking there with dog’s off-leash that let them run up without even asking. People really don’t have any common sense or respect when it comes to dog’s….they are still animals, people forget that. If this campaign took off I think it would be a huge step forward.


Susi November 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

Thanks for sharing your opinion, Amanda. I was of two minds about the yellow ribbon but ultimately came down on the side of “risk management.” Until the entire world recognizes the significance of a yellow ribbon (be it through posters at shelters and training clases, etc) and knows it means, “Space, please,” I don’t think I want me or my dogs to be the guinea pigs. As you said, people as a whole don’t have a lot of common sense when it comes to dogs and I’m not confident they’d see, or pay attention to, a yellow ribobn before their dog reaches the end of their flexi-leash and the damage to my dog has been done. Just how I see it.


Ziggy November 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I think you’re missing the point a bit.
My 10 month old dobe is a touch lead reactive. He barks at other onlead dogs who get too close. No lunging, no snarling, no aggression, simply barking through excitement and a touch of defensiveness. Now, Im working on this and he is improving. However, it means that while Im out with my dog on a walk, I’d rather people didn’t let their dogs rush up and greet him. Not because he will hurt them, he wouldn’t, he’d rather avoid them, but because Im in the process of training him and one unruly dog can un-do all the progress I’ve made so far.
Im gradually lessening the distance he can get to other dogs and not react, and I’ve worked damn hard and we’re finally seeing some results.

So what if I want a little sign to say ‘please give us some space, we’re training and don’t want to interact with your dog right now’, why is that a problem? What harm is it doing?
If people understand what it means, awesome, they’ll give us space. If they don’t, well, nothing lost.

Sometimes you CAN’T avoid other dogs. I live in a city, I have to walk my dog around streets, paths, through town sometimes. On 90% of his walks, we’re going to see another dog. If I can avoid it, I will. But sadly, its just not always possible.
Im a responsible owner, doing the right thing and working on my puppy’s behavioural glitch, and taking steps to make that as easy and pain free for me, him, and other dog owners.

If Im working with my pup from a distance and gradually working on getting him closer to on lead dogs, treating for no reaction, and building that up, the last thing I want is a boisterous onlead dog lunging excitedly toward mine and ruining it all and setting him right back.

Maybe your argument would have some validity if everyone using these ribbons was doing so because they have snarling, aggressive, dangerous dogs that would rip the throat out of another. But I’d guess they’re the minority. The people I know using these simply have dogs that are either fearful of others, had a bad experience with them and need confidence building, or, like mine, are in training that we don’t want other dogs gate-crashing if it can be helped.


Susi November 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Ziggy, I enthusiastically applaud the work you’re putting into your Dobe. It’s yeoman’s work, it’s not easy, and the progress is often seen only by you. In the end, I have to believe that there’s a special place in heaven for folks like you who put in the extra mile.

That said, I respectfully reply that I DON’T think I’m missing the point. It is precisely for the timid, shy or reactive dogs that I’m less than enthusiastic about the yellow ribbon campaign in anything less than a controlled environment. If you’re encountering folks walking their dogs who are aware of the significance of the yellow ribbon (the humans, that is, not the dogs), that’s great! You are working with your dog in the proverbial “village” that will help “raise” your dog to be all the dog he can be. It’s in the city environment or the world at large where best intentions aren’t enough and ignorance reigns supreme. I’ve seen six months of work unravel in the time it took me to walk my dog from one end of a city block to the other, or from the grooming area of a dog show to the show ring. For me, the risk isn’t worth the chance that the people I encounter are aware of the yellow ribbon’s meaning. I’m not opposed to a national movement to educate the public about a yellow ribbon on a leash, but until its meaning is as understood as plainly as, say, a flag at half mast, I’m not willing to use my dog as a teachable moment.


Liz November 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with these two women not wanting people to pet their dogs. Their dogs may not be aggressive at all, perhaps, they get overly friendly and may start jumping on a person who approaches to pet them, perhaps, they are in training and the owners want few distractions, or that they are desensitizing them to new environments. Why do we judge these women so harshly? When on the other side of it, I see plenty of aggressive dogs, with no warnings and the people are woefully unaware or uncaring as to the public’s safety when it comes to their dogs. “What was the average person to make of such signage?” You cannot control a person’s reaction to the sign, but you can control your dog and how people interact with it. “Were the owners discouraging contact with strangers?” It seems they were discouraging contact with strangers that was not controlled or initiated by them. Do you realize one of the first things a person does when approaching a dog, that sends the absolute wrong signals, is reaching out their hand over the dog’s head and looking the dog straight in the eye. In reality, they should offer a treat, reduce eye contact, or even crouch and let the animal approach them. This, of course, is to take place after the owner allows the person to do so. Let people think what they want. We are going through the same problem with our dog. We have a blue merle Border Collie puppy with piercing blue eyes. At 4 months old, when we are out with our puppy, people will approach him without asking our permission. Because of this we have been dealing with submissive urination and a growing fear of men or larger framed individuals. He absolutely loves to be petted, but controlling the environment is the only way to safely desensitize him. People see a puppy and they immediately seem to forget all inhibitions and feel that they NEED to pet it. Previously, we would tell people they can not pet our dog because he is in training, some are understanding, others tend to act upset or even angry when told they cannot touch him. We’ve purchased a vest for our puppy to wear on walks that has an emblem that states “NO TOUCH, NO TALK, NO EYE CONTACT” – IN TRAINING.

And on the flip side of this, you have to get your dog out into the world and socialized if you ever want to see these behavioral problems addressed. And doing so in a controlled manner, is the only way the dog is ever going to associate a new environment as a good experience. A sign, signal or spoken word to indicate that you don’t want your dog touched is a good way for your dog to see and experience new environments, without having strangers bearing down on them. Because of the color of our dog and his blue eyes, people stare him down when they approach him, making him nervous and submissively pee. Am I wrong to not want strangers to pet my dog, when I am responsible for the outcome of that encounter? I think not. I think I am doing my part to protect my dog, protect the public and work towards the goal of raising a well-rounded canine good citizen.


N November 30, 2012 at 8:03 am

I think the notion that every dog that has one of these ribbons on them is “bad” in all situations is a vague generalisation. I think it is those owners who have no control to stop their dogs running over to these dogs that need to look at themselves. I repeatedly have people allowing their boisterous and obnoxious dogs come over to mine who don’t bat an eyelid until they are in their space! Then it is fair game. I have a dog who has a fear anxiety towards other dogs and even if when people are asked to get their dogs or they can see I have put mine on a lead they continue to take no responsibility for their dogs actions. So I’m sorry for you to think that by alerting others in advance to these such dogs (even elderly/sick) that is like waving a banner saying I have a dangerous dog, you are seriously wrong. Yes there might be some people who will have dangerous dogs but this posters points out about those dogs that are ill/fearful etc. I don’t see why these dogs should not be entitled to a walk because the general public cannot train their dogs to recall when asked to!


Susi November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

I agree with you, “N,” that the ribbon in and of itself should only indicate that the dog’s owner requests personal space for their dog; my “beef” is that as you said, far too many other owners are oblivious and I’m not willing to take the chance with MY dog that they’ll know the significance of the yellow ribbon – or care.


Lorali Soppe December 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm

I also disagree highly!! I just so happen to have a dog whom is not good with other dogs. She is absolutely wonderful with people and would not hurt anyone, but for some reason she goes nuts when aother animals are around.That does not mean my dog does not deserve to go for a walk and get exercise. Due to her past I feel it is not her fault this has happened and being a Big breed dog, she needs these walks for her health. I agree with N’s statement as to many people don’t even think twice about just walking up. This is a good warning to please stay away for their own or their animals safety dependent on the situation.


Susi December 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I don’t disagree with those who’ve come in favor of a yellow ribbon as long as we lived in a world where everyone was on the same page. Sadly, I’ve seen first hand how people can be oblivious to what the rest of us think are clear signs indicating a special needs dog, i.e., a yellow ribbon; I, myself, am not willing to risk my dog.


Barry January 24, 2013 at 5:35 am

You have pretty well summed up how I feel about it..I could see it for the purpose of an indication of ‘dog (person) in training’ but it is more an appeasement for lacking dog owners..
Yellow Ribbon Campaign..just Facebook fodder


Susi January 24, 2013 at 9:19 am

Thanks for endorsing my own thoughts on it, Barry. In the months since the Yellow Ribbon campaign I’ve yet to see one on a leash.


Lauren February 3, 2013 at 12:12 am

i saw this “yellow ribbon” idea a few months back on facebook, i thought it was an AWESOME idea! although i havnt bothered to do it with my dog at this stage as i dont believe enough people would know what it meant so it would be kind of pointless. i can see where you are coming from and i admit if i saw it on a doberman or some kind of large, powerful dog i might think it a bit crazy to have this dog out in public if it was in fact dangerous. however…. i have a jack russell x mini foxy from the pound who is aggressive with other dogs, and sometimes takes a dislike to strangers as well.
although i am in complete control of my dog (he weighs 5kg so it is not hard!) i would like this warning for people who are not in control of their dogs. i live in a place where we are lucky enough to be allowed to take our dogs on the beach all year round, i love to do this and my dog loves it too, however ive become less and less inclined to do this because sooooo many people insist on taking their dogs to the beach off the lead. even though this is not legal. and there are plenty of dog beaches where they can take their dogs off the lead. people with friendly dogs need to understand that we are not all that lucky! it seems rediculous that my tiny little foxy should be kept at home, just because people cant respect the rules and keep their dogs on a leash in leashed areas. at least a ribbon or something would create awareness for people.


Susi February 3, 2013 at 10:43 am

No dog should be kept home and denied outside walks with their people – but even months after writing the article, I haven’t changed my mind. The real challenge is for people to keep their dogs from running up to another dog – and this is true in any setting: dog park/dog show. As you said, Lauren, not enough people are aware of a yellow ribbon’s significance on a dog leash and until that changes, nothing else will.


Lauren February 3, 2013 at 12:18 am

by the way i’m not saying that larger dogs with the same problem as mine should not be allowed out either, as long as their owner has full control over them they have every right to be able to walk their dogs. people just need to keep their own animals from running up to any and every other dog they see


Deb February 23, 2013 at 7:16 am

I have a rescue dog. She’s adorable with people of all ages, but she thinks all dogs are going to attack her, so she shows aggression if another dog comes near. She’s never off lead and I always take her where there aren’t lots of dogs about. But occasionally a dog will run up to her. I shout the the owner to please call their dog as mine doesn’t like dogs, but they just don’t listen. I’ll try the yellow ribbon. It undoubtedly will make people ask why it’s on her lead, so this will spread the word. I’ll also ask friends to share it on FB. My dog is always on her lead…why should our walks be spoilt because other dog owners don’t think: “That dog must be on a lead for a reason” It’s not rocket science.


Susi February 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Thanks for writing, Deb. I err on the side of the dog, and I refuse to put my dog at risk in the hopes that a yellow ribbon with deter the oblivious owner whose dog is on a 12′ flex lead from allowing their dog to get in my dog’s face. Either we all know and adhere to the yellow ribbon idea, or it won’t work – and when people don’t even understand why it’s wrong to allow their dog such poor behavior around other dogs, I hold out little hope that a yellow ribbon will do the trick.


name February 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I have a pitbull who tends to be fearful around new people. She does very well when people ignore her, but she can get scared and bark or even jump if someone comes right up and tries to pet her over the head. Her trainer recommended a service dog type vest with a patch on it to let people know to give her space. I made one with “Please ignore me – thank you!” and another with a stop sign that said “No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact.” People try to ignore a dog anyway once they see the service-type vest (and I want to be clear that mine was in no way claiming that she was a service dog and that we were not taking her into places that don’t allow pets). This was INCREDIBLY helpful for my dog. Not only were we able to go out without risking scary encounters with strangers, but when people started giving her more space she was able to build up her confidence. Once she started feeling more comfortable with strangers I stopped using the vest. She still doesn’t like people to approach her quickly, but she now shows curiosity about people we see on the street and she will never bark at someone just because they happen to be walking in the opposite direction and to look down at her as she passes. I think the effect that these kinds of visual cues can have in terms of the owner’s ability to train the dog and to ensure the safety of both the dog and anyone the dog encounters far outweighs any concerns about breed image. My dog is a reserved but friendly dog now. If I hadn’t had this tool at my disposal she would still be barking at strangers and would look like one more vicious pitbull (she’s not, she’s a cuddlebug through and through!)


Susi February 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I think you stumbled upon your own solution, name. I’m delighted it worked for you – and that you created your own distinctly different from an official service dog vest. Perhaps others will try your method?


Hannah February 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I have a dog that would qualify for a ribbon…I had some thoughts, and wrote them down here: http://mrstewartswonderfullife.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/the-yellow-ribbon-campaign/


Susi February 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Thanks for sharing the link, Hannah.


Me Shell February 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm

This is an awesome poster – Where can I get some. As a dog trainer I want people to know that the dog I am working with is not to be approached. Often I am working with rescue dogs or dogs with aggression (usually fear based) and I want people to put THEIR dogs on a leash so it doesn’t run up to mine while we are working. The yellow ribbon do not mean it is going to attack anyone walking by. Dogs should be trained to be respectful and have good manners if they are going to be out in public and ESPECIALLY if they are going to be off leash. . I think it is a great idea


Dawna February 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm

There is so much naive judgement in your post… you are assuming the worst in people and their dogs. I rescued my dog 11 years ago, he has been through extensive training and everyone marvels at how well behaved he is… but if another alpha dog gets in his face, or even just surprises him unexpectedly he will respond with aggression. Because of this I only socialize him with other dogs in environments that I have control of… I avoid public dog parks and I have him very well trained to heel when we go for walks or runs. What I cannot control is other owners that walk their dogs off lease in areas that are not public dog parks. What I love about the yellow ribbon is that it allows me to let people know that they need to keep their space. For you to suggest that I keep my dog away from environments with risk is so unbelievably naive and judgemental… are you suggesting I never bring him outdoors? Good grief I have done everything within my power to mitigate risk but I cannot control other owners, nor do I blame them if they have never had a dog with strong alpha tendencies, the yellow ribbon just allows them to be aware. Get off your high horse and support this brilliant project.


Susi February 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

While I appreciate your thoughts, Dawna, they are contradictory to each other. You fault my opinion for keeping dogs away from high risk areas, yet you go on to say in other sentences, “Because of this I only socialize him with other dogs in environments that I have control of…. I avoid public dog parks.” So how are you better than me by socializing your dog in environments in which you have control? Silly woman, we are saying the same thing. We are in agreement that we cannot control other people, many of whom fail to understand their dog’s own nature, if not dog dynamics. I will continue to fall on the side of the dog. If you wish to sacrifice your dog in the hopes that a yellow ribbon will telegraph to ignorant owners to keep their dogs out of your dog’s face – have at it. It’s a feel good measure that will not prevent incidences until every person with a dog understands its significance.


Diane July 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Well said Dawn!


Dawna February 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Wow your lack of self awareness and judgment is relentless. You are right, you are right about everything, the rest of us are silly non dog loving idiots.


Susi February 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Dawna, you have done me the supreme favor of illustrating to my other readers exactly the kind of person we’re up against. Thank you for that.


Dawna February 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I am truly ashamed to have allowed myself to engage in this unenlightening exchange of words… we simply disagree about something we are both passionate about. All the best to you.


Christina March 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

I feel that an actual vest that says “DO NOT TOUCH DOG” is a lot more helpful than a little yellow ribbon. It’s a great idea, but unlike the vests, not everyone understands what the yellow ribbon MEANS; actual text obvious and gives no excuse to ignorance.
You also want to get the point across immediately and from a distance, and text saying “DO NOT TOUCH” on the dog’s body is a lot better than a little ribbon dangling around on a dog’s leash. On top of that the only way you’d know that “yellow ribbon = do not touch” is if you saw the FB image or asked someone with a dog sporting a yellow ribbon on its leash already.
If it’s the harshness of the vest’s text, and it being worn by a stereotypical breed, that hurts your feelings, at least there are vests that are just as impacting but say, “Dog In Training GIVE ME SPACE” instead.


Susi March 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I’m in agreement with you, Christina. A vest is more easily seen, better understood and allows for specific messages. You need only read the comments from others, however, to see how many others feel differently.


Magdalena May 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

Sadly all of my working dogs from puppy to adult have vests with patches that say Please do not pet, in training, or working dog do not pet and everyone goes right up and dives in to pet them. They are not a danger to people or other dogs but people do not possess this magical common sense you are writing about. I don’t let strangers pet my dogs. Period. Does that mean since strangers exist in the world I have to keep my dogs in my backyard or only out with like minded handlers on a training field. Dogs love to walk, not all people like to make friends with people who can’t read.


Susi May 8, 2013 at 9:28 am

It’s a dilemma, Magdalena, to be sure. I have no issue with the patched vests of which you speak – and in fact, appreciate them! More people “get” them than do not (though as you’ve found, some people fail to read just don’t care) and make far more sense. A little yellow ribbon? Not helpful, in my view. Not easily seen, not understood, and in the end, it’s the dogs who take the brunt of it.


Leah March 12, 2013 at 7:32 am

I am a responsible dog owner of an aggressive dog. I keep him away from other dogs and control his environment. This morning a woman let her dog run away from her and it came bounding down the sidewalk toward my dog. I stood in between them and grabbed the harness of the small dog. My dog growled and nipped as the small dog managed to get in his face. The other dog owner made a rude comment to me regarding my dog hurting her dog (my dog didn’t hurt hers at all). If my dog had a yellow ribbon and the other owner understood what it meant maybe she would have picked up her dog faster. Not to mention, there are Bylaws against untethered dogs in our city. So frustrating.


Susi March 12, 2013 at 10:16 am

I commend you, Leah, for recognizing your dog’s reality. Too many dog owners (like parents, I suppose) fail to recognize that their kid is a bully, or that their dog is aggressive. It’s not against the law for a dog to be so, only when it acts upon its tendencies and something unfortunate happens. Good for you – seriously! That said, the key word in your comments (and thanks for sharing it, btw) is the word “if.” IF the dog had a yellow ribbon that the other owner had understand. If. The crux of my article is that the yellow ribbon is NOT universally understood and until every dog owner in the country is known to understand it and acts accordingly, it would have made no more sense for me to write about it than to write about the significance of a service dog’s jacket. And even then, there are people ignorant of the importance of not petting a service dog. We’re not there, and I’m not sure we ever will be. I’m not willing to risk my dog’s personal safety on the hope that other dog owners understand a yellow ribbon. And that was my point. When every pet shelter, every training class, every veterinarian clinic, pet food store, spay/neuter clinic, etc. has their walls covered with “yellow ribbon” awareness posters – or put another way, until there’s a concerted campaign to raise awareness of it, I won’t be trusting it.


kim March 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

I own a rescue dog who suffers from nervous aggression when on his lead. He is extremely social off his lead, and is good with dogs he knows when on his lead. He is also big into chasing cars and livestock, in fact, just say if it moves, it must be chased.
Having common sense, I do not attempt to walk my dog in dog walking hotspots when he cannot be let off his lead. It is unpleasant for me, other dog owners and, most importantly, my dog. Luckily I live in the countryside, so meeting other dogs off their lead is not usually a problem.
HOWEVER, there is only one road which leads out of my street and into the big wide world, and for 9 months of the year, it is part of a caravan club dog exercise area…
Sadly, the majority of their clients see no issue in allowing their dog to run at another strange dog on a lead (that’ll be mine) to say hello, often too far from them to exercise any control over their dog when they discover mine has become aggressive.
Why do I not allow my dog off his lead in this area? Because over the sparse hedge is a 60 mph road, lots of cars to chase.
My plan this year is to stick one of these terribly offensive yellow ribbons on the lead – and print out one of the yellowdog poster to stick in the caravan site shop, in hope of educating them in what the ribbon means, as no one has so far been successful in educating them in dog behaviour, body language or even just dog walking etiquette.


Susi March 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I sincerely wish you the best of luck, Kim. You sound like a conscientious owner, something I can’t say about the people who think nothing of allowing their dogs to charge at another dog. It’s not that I think the yellow ribbon is a bad idea, it’s that I don’t think enough people know about it to make it effective. I continue to see people attempt to pet a service dog wearing its jacket – and how long have we been told not to do this – what, 20 years? At the end of the day, my job is to protect my dog and I won’t risk it.That said, I commend your efforts to publicize the idea by blanketing the area with yellow ribbon posters – and just maybe if enough people do it at dog parks, training facilities, Petsmart, etc., the idea might have a fighting chance to catch on. I appreciate your comments!


Wendy Brown March 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I have a dog who loves people but does not like to be approached by other dogs when she is leashed. That’s a dog on a leash or a loose dog. She will try to defend herself. We are fine if we are out walking and see another leashed dog approaching we will try to cross the street or yell at the approaching folks/dog that she is afraid and give us space when we pass. And we should be able to walk because we live somewhere where there are leash laws. I can control her and the other folks if they can control their dog we are fine with a couple of feet between us. The real issue I have is loose dogs. I don’t take her places that there *might* be loose dogs such as parks, but you would be amazed how many people either walk with their dogs off leash (we have leash laws) and don’t/can’t control their dog on voice command, so the dog just runs over and sets my dog’s alarms off, or just loose dogs roaming the neighborhood alone, or dogs in front yards, who come right at us from several houses away. I had one guy who walks his dog with no leash – his dog ran up and approached my dog (leashed) in our own front yard and went straight up to her face (not good doggy manners at all) and my dog bit the other dog on the neck after I could not get the dog to leave her alone. The owner seemed surprised as I was trying desperately to call his dog off that my dog freaked out. In my own yard. On a leash. Once I got my dog inside the house I came and spoke to him and tried to make him understand that HIS dog is breaking the law by being off leash. I have seen this dog since both lounging in the guys’ unfenced front yard, wandering several houses down, and being walked with him off leash again. You would think he would have learned this lesson after his dog was bitten, but alas…..no. He is endangering his dog by having it off leash and uncontrolled. Some people just do not understand. I should have the ability to take her on walks. Don’t approach dogs you don’t know and don’t let your dog approach dogs you don’t know. Simple stuff.


Susi March 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

You’d think it IS simple stuff, but it’s stuff that eludes too many people making it not worth the risk of relying on a yellow ribbon. The scenarios you describe are so common, and I wish I could blame people for being stupid, but I’m beginning to think it’s more than that. I once had a neighbor who held a PhD – a bright woman who nevertheless allowed her Chow Chow to roam free. We lived in the country and she loved the romantic notion of driving up to her house to be greeted by her dog running towards her. She chose not to acknowledge the disservice she was doing to the neighbor dogs, let alone to her own dog since we had several coyote clans living around us. There’s something almost visceral going on in how people choose to ignore common sense when it comes to their dogs and children. I appreciate your thoughts, Wendy.


Christina March 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

Simply put I do not exactly agree with the “yellow ribbon” idea BUT I do agree that having some sort of “sign” on the dog is okay. Just because a dog is not friendly with people or other dogs does not mean the owner should not be able to walk the dog around their neighborhood or the area they live. The dog needs to be walked and get it’s exercise regardless of the behavorial issues. The “sign” simply keeps a bad incident from happening. I would much rather stop something from happening in the first place rather than have to deal with it after the fact when it could have been avoided. I agree that the “signs” give the public the option to think the worst and we do not want that either but I’d much prefer that than for their to actually be a confrontation. To be honest, we all wish the general public was as considerate and responsible as we all are – as dog enthusiasts. I have been an advocate, rescuer, foster parent, etc. for years. I work in a rescue and wish that I could make everyone understand that the so called “dangerous” breeds should not be labled that way. Having a “sign” on the dog in public to avoid a potential problem is by no means a “fix” but it should help keep the general ignorant public safer as well as keep from causing a potential problem with your beloved dog. So, as it stands I am in favor of such things for the moment as a “bandaid” for these situations, until something better presents itself. I do not think it is appropriate to tell people they can not walk their dog(s) outside of their home/yard just because they are not friendly with other dogs/people. They need to be responsible about everything and keep the dog(s) leashed at all times and be in control.


Susi March 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

Christina, I agree with you on many points, i.e., preventing a problem before a situation becomes one, and the harm in “labeling” dogs – but I think it’s human nature to avoid the Pit Bull wearing a “needs space” sign because of the bad and often fallacious press the breed has received. Sadly, a stereotype begets more stereotyping. As owners, we can control where we take our dogs and until a dog is bullet proof, dog parks may not be a good idea. There are those dogs which will never overcome issues, and we can bet there’ll always be ignorant owners oblivious to dog etiquette. I’m not inclined to trust a yellow ribbon to keep the two apart. That said, this could change if every dog owner was issued a “memo” informing them about yellow ribbons, but since I still see people trying to pet service dogs wearing their very informative jackets (the ones that say “don’t pet me, I’m working”), I don’t hold out a lot of hope for even that to work. I do appreciate your comments, Christina, and agree that signage is better than nothing, but boy, wouldn’t I love to see dog basic training required for every dog owner.


Larkin March 27, 2013 at 10:04 am

It’s interesting to me how many people who have dogs with “issues” have “rescue” dogs. Just an observation, not a judgment. What I truly don’t understand is the general “pet owner” population’s obsession with taking their dog to public places– often inappropriately so. You CAN control your dog’s environment, and even out in public, you can find places to walk where you simply will not encounter another dog or person. Even in a city. But no, people who are so enthusiastically embracing the “Yellow Ribbon” project want to take their “Yellow Ribbon” dog to street festivals, pet supply stores, dog parks. They assume that the general public will understand and respect this newly established signal to give them wide berth; good luck with that. You are your dog’s advocate, it is up to you to keep him or her out of situations that he or she cannot tolerate. Not every dog has to be able to “interact” with the public, and it is borderline cruel to force some dogs to do so. No Yellow Ribbon is going to change that. If only more people respected their own dogs as sentient creatures with individual quirks.


Susi March 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

Like you, Larkin, I’ve noticed the connection between dogs with issues, and the origins of those dogs. With some of the backgrounds behind shelter dogs, it’s a marvel they can face the world at all, and I regard the volunteers who work with these critters as nothing short of heroic. It is, however, the foolish person who adopts a dog without contingencies in place in case the dog has serious problems. I’d be interested to know how many dogs at shelters are “returns” because their new owners were simply unequipped (or unwilling) to deal with stress chewing, aggression, barking, etc.

We’re on the same page with regards to the Yellow Ribbon campaign, so naturally I agree with all your points. If you think it’s interesting to see the number of dogs with issues, scan the comments to the Yellow Ribbon article here and note the backgrounds of the proponents of the idea as compared to those who, like us, think less of it. By and large, it strikes me that well meaning shelter/rescue workers and those who’ve adopted a shelter dog come down on the side of using the ribbon as if it’s a quick fix.


Aliza April 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I have a dog with “issues” and plan to get a yellow ribbon for her leash just as an added tool. I don’t take my pup to dog parks or out for a stroll. I take her to the vet where, what a shock, there are other dogs. As far as I know my vet doesn’t make house calls so I don’t really have much choice. She has to go to the vet at least twice a year, sometimes more often because she is on meds for seizures. What do you suggest I do to keep from taking her “out in public”? Unfortunately I can’t assume that other dog owners will be as courteous (or intellegent for that matter) as you suggest and keep their distance. The vet visits are not a positive experience for me or my dog so helping others at the office to know to give us some space just seems like a good idea.


John April 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm

This sets a very bad precedence and is one if the more dangerous ideas I’ve ever heard of involving dog care.

1) If you can train your child to identify and acknowledge what a yellow ribbon means on a dog then you should be able to teach them to ask before they approach or try and pet a dog
2) Once you’ve taught your child how to avoid a yellow ribbon are they now going to feel comfortable just walking up to dogs that DO NOT have a yellow ribbon?
3) If a ribbonless dog bites someone, will the owners now be held liabl?
4) If this is such a great idea then why don’t we apply it to hand guns? “Don’t touch the hand gun with a yellow ribbon, it’s loaded and dangerous.”


Susi April 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

John, this is a fabulous comment! You’ve raised excellent points (and dang it, I wish I’d raised them!) and I very much appreciate you sharing them here. You’re spot on and I agree with every word.


Evelin morales April 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Its funny how on the reasons why a dog might “need” space it doesn’t even add that the dog might just be a crazy aggressive killing machine which some dogs just are. My little Japanese chin and many other victims have been attacked by these dogs that simply need a “little space” i think if a dog needs one of those yellow ribbons they should just be put down. just a day on the news their was a attack on a little chihuahua by a pit bull at the dog park. i’ve noticed big dogs like to go after the little ones. Its sad and a serious problem.


Susi April 27, 2013 at 12:05 am

By and large, people in the dog fancy know their breed and their particular dog, and realize that to certain breeds with a strong prey drive, a Japanese Chin equals a Chihuahua equals a rabbit equals a rat. These folks know to hang on to their dog and why. I get frustrated, however, by the number of pet owners at the dog park or on a trail who don’t respect, let alone understand what a prey drive is in their dog, and invariably, they seem to be the ones whose dogs are either off lead or allowed to bolt to the end of a 15′ Flex Leash to get to another dog. I “get” that good hearted people want to save a shelter or rescue dog, but some of these poor creatures come with issues and a yellow ribbon isn’t going to protect them or any other dog. It presumes too much on the part of the owner AND the dog. Until the dog is “bomb proof” in a controlled setting and is gradually worked into doggie society, it has no business being at a dog park. It’s simply too unfair to all concerned. I appreciate your comments, Evelin.


Diane July 5, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I had a little dog draw blood on my rescue pit Evelyn! That small dog should be put down as well. You are so ignorant that you should not own a slug! All dog owners need to be responsible and accountable regardless of breed. Are you one who lets your rat run and terrorize others?


Clive May 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I encountered this for the first time today. It has obviously reached the UK. I was walking my very friendly lurcher in a park known as one to walk dogs off the lead. He ran up to two dogs on the lead, one of which was wearing a yellow ribbon on it`s lead, which tried to attack him. The owner said “can’t you see the yellow ribbon? He needs space.” To which I replied ” Sorry, I thought he was expecting someone back from the war.” Even if I had known about the code it was too late to prevent my dog from approaching as he is very sociable. If these owners want their dog to be left alone I suggest that they walk them in parks where leads are compulsory, I have to pass 2 on the way to the one where I can let mine run free.


Susi May 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I appreciate your comment, Clive, and underscores my own sentiments about the yellow ribbon scheme. It means different things to different people but ultimately, it’s the dog that bears the brunt if the owners “get it wrong” no matter whose leash it’s on. I agree with you entirely.


Rob May 6, 2013 at 3:57 am

I’ve found myself in numerous arguments over the yellow ribbon project. I think it is well-intended. However, I have concerns and also can’t help but wonder why don’t we flip it and put a ribbon on the dogs that are okay with others instead.

— It relies on the dog owner, responsible or irresponsible to indicate their dog needs space. Will an irresponsible dog owner do this? Who is more apt to put a ribbon on their dog, an irresponsible dog owner with a dog that needs space, or a responsible dog owner with a friendly dog?

— Why not indicate a “friendly” dog? Again, I am more apt to approach a dog that is INDICATED as friendly, rather than having to discern between unfriendly (yellow ribbon) and unknown.

— It’s all relative to the situation the dog is in and the opinion of the dog owner, is it not? My dog is very friendly. I wouldn’t think to put a yellow ribbon on him. However if a gaggle of children bum rush him and get close into his face, he may become defensive. (Yet, he gleefully tolerates my child and child’s friends.)

— When all is said and done, all we really know is that when we see a yellow ribbon, we have a responsible, informed dog owner with a dog that needs space. In lieu of a ribbon we know nothing. In either case, should not common sense prevail and you don’t approach the dog without first engaging the person walking the dog?

— Why are we focusing on negative messaging — yellow ribbon = problem dog — versus positive imaging — how about a green ribbon to indicate a friendly, marshmallow of a dog?

— Also, if the dog needs space, why would a responsible dog owner take their pet into a space that could be problematic? I know a few pet owners that have latched onto the “yellow ribbon” as a way to have their pet in places that they should not be in, and use the “yellow ribbon” as a way to justify doing. That is, in the past they would not take their pet to the crowded park, and now feel that it is “sanctioned” so long as they have the yellow ribbon on their pets lead.

This initiative has been in place for a while and has gained traction. I think it is admirable that someone is doing something. I do, however, question that it is approaching it from the wrong angle.


Susi May 7, 2013 at 9:31 am

You make excellent points, Rob, which make sense to me. I agree that the yellow ribbon scheme tilts negatively – if not ambiguity. Somewhere in the comments, someone else mentioned the confusion over its significance to military families or those missing loved ones. If one MUST use anything to indicate a “dino” dog (dogs in need of space), I’m be more inclined to go with a loud, neon colored jacket easily seen from a distance.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rob.


Clive May 10, 2013 at 5:48 pm

It isn’t owners approaching “d.I.n.o” dogs that are the problem. Even if all dog owners knew the meaning of the yellow ribbon it would not stop friendly dogs off lead approaching and being attacked. Sometimes the length of a lead is not enough to stop the start of an attack that may be begun by the “d.I.n.o” but ended by the threatened and maybe more powerful dog that approached. Would it be the unsocialised dog on the lead which would be destroyed or the otherwise friendly dog that defended itself? The solution is for owners to stop using the yellow ribbon to walk their dogs in places where dogs are known to run free. I don’t know what it’s like in the USA where this began but here in the U.K. there are plenty of spaces where all dogs must be on leads. I have to pass 2 on my way to the park I can let my lurcher get the run he needs to expend his energy and keep fit. This scheme is just a way for lazy, irresponsible owners to walk their untrained dogs close to home.


Robbie Van Winkel May 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I would like to point out that any awareness program would not work if there was no movement or sign to support the cause. Who would know what a pink ribbon would be associated with breast cancer if folks never wore the pink ribbon to RAISE AWARENESS. For all the talk that this program is negative in connotation (how many people may have felt the same for the pink ribbon), the whole idea would be to raise awareness. Earlier posts of a vest instead of ribbon would just restrict some owners who may not be able to spend so frivolously.

The idea that a person may sue you for having noted that your dog may be dangerous, I believe may have merit, but in the end I believe a lawsuit may be inevitable. I point out all the lawsuits stemming from LACK of caution labels, e.g. Coffee too hot, watch your step, etc.

I also believe people who are willing to take action of awareness should not be considered the lazy ones. Dogs are not the issue, the owners are. It is not due to dogs off leash approaching your pooch (putting yourself and canine in this situation if they have certain issues is obviously a terrible idea), but the dogs that ARE on leash whose owners have zero etiquette or knowledge of etiquette. You may run into other dogs and owners on leash wherever the walk might take you, it may be impossible to avoid such situations. The problem is not the untrained dog, but the untrained human. The yellow ribbon gives the chance for someone to ask what it is for, ergo, raising awareness for the program and teaching the ignorant.

With or without ribbon, you may have to SHOUT and SCREAM at other dog owners who just may not understand, and if they approach with their dog anyway, then they may be the ones rehabilitating their four-legged friend, continuing the cycle.

I think that all pet owners should approve and push these kinds of programs for all of those people who cannot, will not, do not read blogs about dogs. What I think this program really needs is a push from the canine world, in the form of some type of walk or event, to gain traction with common media outlets, such as the news, to raise awareness.

If you don’t think that this particular movement is feasible, then the community needs to come up with some alternate awareness program with visual uses. Again, would anyone have realized the severity of breast cancer without the pink ribbon to associate it with? Think about other diseases/movements and you’ll probably find that most or all have a logo or ribbon associated with the movement. Visual cues go a long way.


Susi May 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm

And therein lies the problem, Robbie. As you pointed out, the problem is untrained humans, but it’s the dog that suffers the consequences. I agree with you as well that it will take a concerted effort to get everyone aware of the yellow ribbon significance. Until I see flyers in training classes, Petsmart, dog parks, veterinarian offices, etc., I’m skeptical we’ll get there.


tumbles June 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I love the idea of the yellow ribbon. I have a maltese/bichon who was attacked many years ago and since then has never been the same. She’s made huge improvements over the years with me trying to re-socialize her, but she still can get extremely aggressive with other dogs when they get inside of her bubble (about 1-2 feet). I DON’T take her to the dog park, pet store or anywhere I know that being in close quarters with other dogs is unavoidable.. HOWEVER, she needs exercise and deserves to see the outdoors on walks. She is very well controlled, never off leash, never on an extendable leash, but we have this issue of people with dogs on those “extendo” leashes who despite my obvious attempts to move (KEY… WE move out of the way) as far away as possible, just let their dogs bolt up to mine before I can say something… or when I get caught off guard. My dog sports a yellow ribbon and it has helped in a few cases… it has caught the attention of 2 people in the last few weeks long enough for them to stop and ask before approaching (no, they did not know what it was before asking). So good? I think so. But it doesn’t replace the responsibility of the owner and nothing ever will. it comes down to RESPECT and not to assume that all dogs are friendly, want you to pet them or want to meet your dog.


Susi June 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I’m happy to have heard from you, Tumbles, as you’re the first person to report on the success (or lack of) of the yellow ribbon. You’re so right that it often comes down to respect, but I think it also involves willful ignorance on the part of dog owners who fail to educate themselves on how canines work. They assume that every dog is the same, that their own is perfectly adorable to everyone, even when charging to the full extent of their flex lead. We have a ways to go.


Mimmu June 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm

My 3 year old dog Rommi is quite excitable. I’ve been training him and he listens quite well now, but he’s still very energetic with other dogs, especially strange dogs. He’s gotten used to the dogs living in our neighbourhood but taking him for walks in the town is quite difficult. I’ve been trying to gradually increase his exposure to other dogs and get him to walk by them without him making a racket of it. But what has often happened as I tried to calmly ignore the other dog and walk away is that the owner of the other dog allowed their dog to get close to mine. I mostly managed to keep Rommi at my heel when out in populated places, but they allowed their dogs to come straight up to my dog to “socialise” . When I told them that I’d prefer if they’d remove their dog they’d ignore me and one woman even told me I was a stupid young girl who knew nothing about dogs.
When I met up the dog trainer after meeting that woman we were talking and she told me about this company that has a traffic light system for dog collars, harnesses etc. But the best part being that not only are they colour coded (green-friendly, yellow-no dogs, red-caution) but that the meaning of the colour is actually written on the collar. The same company also makes collars and leads and other things with various other texts, like adopt me, working, nervous and so on. The plus about them is that as long as people can read and understand english the concept should be understandable to everyone. (website of the company: http://www.friendlydogcollars.com.au/)
Rommi has been wearing the yellow no dogs harness for a month now, and we’ve been rarely troubled by other dog owners.


Susi June 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Rommi is lucky to have an owner who’s taken the time to understand him and work with him. It’s baffling to me how ignorant or nasty people can get when some of us object to them allowing their dog to get into another dog’s “face.” I appreciate the time you took to write, Mimmu, and am happy to have the link to the “traffic light” system of leashes. I was never a fan of the yellow ribbon campaign, but this color coded system could work. I’ll be sharing it on Facebook to see what the reaction is of other dog owners. Thanks!


June Davis June 20, 2013 at 6:19 am

My dog has issues with other animals but is friendly with all people …I don’t take her around other animals , if it can be avoided.. She has health issues too and just easier to keep her away from others.. BUT when she goes to the vet’s, thats a different story , so she wears a yellow ribbon there and I always tell anyone in hearing range, “This dog does not like other animals, she is deaf and she has health problems that sometimes make her want to be left alone . please do not let your animal approach her ,thankyou …” So far everyone has been very supportive ..


Susi June 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I’m glad you found something that works for you and your dog, June, though I do wonder if your pleasant request that others respect your dog’s space isn’t more effective than the yellow ribbon on her leash. I’m less trusting of a ribbon that others may or may not see…..


Diane July 5, 2013 at 11:36 pm

People need rehab nd we don’t vilify them. So why when an animal needs rehab, usually because a human hurt them, are people so intolerant? It is too easy for people to blame others. Stop touching that which does not belong to you…dogs, pregnant belles, etc…. These being deserve the right to enjoy the world as much as you! If YOU can’t repect other being’s space YOU stay home!


Mel July 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

I think it’s a good idea. My dogs don’t like other dogs. I have 2 staffys.
Today walking them in kununurra wa we went past 2 dogs not on a lead,
The first dog came running over and mine snarled and I got very nervous. Not just for my dogs but for the other dog. It was with 3 little girls.
We managed to get away. My husband with the 2 dogs and I had a pram with 2 kids under 3.5 yrs old. The next dog not on a lead was a little yappy dog. Needless to say it came too close to my bitch and she managed to give it a good nip. Thank god my dog didn’t grab it around the neck! Even if I had a yellow tag I still had to tell to all these kids to grab their dog.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that if your dog needs a yellow tag it shouldn’t be walked.
My dogs have every right to be walked on a lead, everyone else just needs to put there dog on a lead too or lock it up. This was also very frightening for my kids to see.


Susi July 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

Precisely because of the experience you had, Mel, I’m still not on board with the yellow ribbon idea. I fear that too many people will view it as a “one size fits all” substitution for common courtesy, training and knowledge about dog behavior. As you said, even if you’d had a yellow ribbon on your leach, you had to inform children to grab their dog to avoid an unpleasant outcome.


J J July 31, 2013 at 1:34 am

The past two days I took my small dog to the park for a walk, same as always. The only difference, I chose my yellow poop/waste bags to take with, and to make it easier for me, I simply tied one each day to my dog’s leash. Well, imagine my surprise, when yesterday two people quickly left. Then today, one person came up and asked what happened to my dog, did he bite someone, receive a shot, attack another dog?? What?? She then said attaching the yellow bag meant something was dangerous about my dog. So I took the bag off, put it in my pocket, but she quickly left, as she was still concerned for her dog’s safety. What? Checked my computer, vets are recommending this for warnings. The bags I purchased came in different colors, from now on, when I take a yellow one, it will be in my pocket. But it does make sense. More info should be “out there” about this good idea.


Susi July 31, 2013 at 9:55 am

Until the whole world is on board, JJ, I stand by my concern that the yellow ribbon is an invitation for trouble – and mostly at the dog’s expense. Somewhere else in these comments, someone has shared a link to a system of colored dog leashes intended to perform the same way: an early alert system for the status of our dogs’ approachability. The trouble is that most people allow their dogs to approach first, then ask questions later. Go to any large dog friendly venue (but go without a dog) and then just watch. It’s staggering how oblivious many people are to common dog etiquette, if not courtesy. Nope, not putting my dog at risk by hoping a yellow ribbon will do the trick. It’s either ignored or misunderstood, just as your yellow waste bag was. I do appreciate hearing from you, however, and sharing experiences and ideas.


Jo August 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I have a dog that has been attached and bitten more than once, she is fine with an dog that has good manors but hates dogs that lunge, rush up, jump at her ect. I do walk her in quiet out of the way places, at quiet times and places were dogs are suppost to be on leads however many people do not respect the law and and allow their dogs off lead. its pointless reporting this believe me I’ve tried. I now walk with everywhere with an umbrella, I do ask dog owners to call their dogs as my dog is nervous. Some are great, some are hopeless and have no control and thier rude sometimes aggessive dogs rush up to mine. Here’s where the umbrella comes in. I extent the handle and hold the umbrella out forming a barrier or sheid between us and the fast approaching dog. This has been a god send. Has saved us from two in counters that would have been very nasty. Allowed an owner the time to get thier dog after it had run 150 feet to attack mine, she’d only had it a week and it did not listen yet as she told me! Using the umbrella in this way has given us both more confidence and my dog is less nervous now she trusts me more to keep her safe. Having read all the above posts I’m undecided about the ribbon issue but will swap my umbrella for a nice bright yellow one if I can find one.


Susi August 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm

A great suggestion, Jo, and I’m glad you shared it here (and I’m sorry it took so long to post your comment – I just found it!). Umbrellas are used in Canine Good Citizen tests and I imagine your dog would pass with flying colors! I remain opposed to the yellow ribbon concept until every dog owner in the US has also read the memo on its meaning, and even then, there’ll be inconsiderate dog owners oblivious to their dog’s rudeness. BTW, I found a yellow umbrella on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rainkist-Compact-Folding-Umbrella-Yellow/dp/B0043Z1TUI


Rachelle August 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I absolutely think this is a great idea, but I think a sign saying “DO NOT APPROACH” would be better. I don’t really care about what other people think… I care about the safety of my dog and the people around my dog before I worry about politics. My dog was shot with a taser when he was about 6 months old. He is a Mastiff, so he was very large at that point. He was in our front yard (fully fenced) and a toddler went running down the street with a toy above her head next to our fence line. My dog got excited and started barking at her to throw the toy… sticking his butt in the air and pouncing around. He never did jump on the fence, but he was visibly active. Apparently this angered the father of said toddler, so he shot my dog with a taser. He has been absolutely TERRIFIED of children since and will become aggressive if he sees a child. The ONLY WAY POSSIBLE to fix this situation is exposure training. There is no other solution. The only way to expose a dog to children when you don’t have any or know anyone with children is to take them out in the world. My dog should not be punished for something that was done to him. He was never aggressive toward children or anyone else for that matter before that day, and until he learns that not all people are evil, he will continue to have signs on him. No matter how many times I tell people to STAY BACK and not let their children pet him they absolutely refuse to listen. I have actually had to yell at someone to get their child away from him before. “Oh, she is used to big dogs, it’s fine.” “No, he doesn’t do well with children. Please get her back.” “No, she’ll be fine. Go ahead, pet him.” “NO, SHE IS NOT FINE. GET YOUR CHILD AWAY FROM MY DOG.” And as this guy was pushing his kid toward my dog she got nervous and ran behind my dog… Prompting him to get nervous and snap toward her. He didn’t make contact with her, but the father sure gave me a dirty look regardless of the numerous warnings I gave him…. and had he actually made contact with her, my dog would be dead right now… I don’t care if certain dogs have a bad name and putting a label on them could possibly make them seem vicious… I care about my dog being alive. He is fine as long as no one approaches him, but if a child gets in his space, he gets nervous, and the only way to teach him it is ok, is if he can be around children without them approaching him… the only way I can get people to leave him alone is by putting a sign on him. Fine by me. If someone wants to judge the situation before they know any details, that isn’t my problem. My job is to protect my dog, by protecting the people who could sue me and have him put down if something happens. Nothing else.


Susi August 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I’m horrified by what happened to your dog, Rachelle, utterly horrified – the poor dog! As a parent, I understand the father’s fear, but as you said, had he been exposed to dog posture and body language, the whole thing could have been avoided. As far as I’m concerned, this should be taught in health education classes at school from the earliest age. I would also like to be five inches taller. As you said, however, and the whole reason I still can’t get on board with the yellow ribbon idea, is that our job as dog owners is to protect our dogs, and a plethora of colored ribbons flying off a dog still won’t get some people to PAY ATTENTION. I’m not willing to sacrifice my dog’s safety on the chance that someone understands a yellow ribbon. I do appreciate your comments, Rachelle, and wish you continued good luck as you try to undo what was done to your loveable dog.


Brigitte Blais September 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

In a perfect world where dog’s are walked daily working dogs have jobs retrievers retrieve so on we would have more content and happy dogs.
However in this day and age most people get a dog and realize they don’t have the time for walking never mind training, half the dogs end up in shelters for adoption, so for the people who are trying to do the right thing by adopting these abandoned dogs sometimes end up with more than they bargained for.
What do we tell them stay out of the public area’s muzzle your dog? would a signal not be a great way for these owners to communicate from a distance their wishes to the public?
That’s how I came up the DEWS System Red bandanas don’t approach, Yellow bandanas caution ask first and green bandanas friendly BUT ask first . I chose the street light colors because they are easy to learn specially for children, my Bullmastiff had issues and I loved to walk her, I loved to put a backpack on her so we could pick up garbage on the path and she had a job to carry it. Those were the good days before she tore an ACL.
The first time she showed aggression towards other dogs was a no turning point for us.
I was lucky enough to have the funds and the time to take her to a behaviorist (JC-St Louis) of Calgary worked with us! He made me realize that some dogs are born with a genetic predisposition of aggression and with such a powerful dog I would have to basically keep her away from other dogs.
I took all the necessary precautions to keep my dog safe as well as the public but I had no control over the person who had her dog off leash running at my dog screaming “its ok my dog is fine!!!) or little children running towards her hand up to pet her on the head.
( For more info please view my website) http://www.dews.ca


Susi September 11, 2013 at 10:13 am

Your dog is luck, Brigitta, to have a owner work with him and not, say, dump him off in a shelter because he’s too hard to handle. You’re so right that many dogs end up in dog pounds for that very reason. I love ingenuity and free enterprise and wish you the best of luck with your product idea. It makes sense – but again like the yellow ribbon idea – it makes sense when everyone is on board and got the same “memo.” Pet dogs in Colorado are often decked out in bandanas and I’d be hard pressed to know the difference between one of them and a dog wearing yours. Perhaps over time, other pet owners will have heard of the color system in scarves or leashes to signify another dog’s approachability – until then, it’s up to us to protect them against less attentive dog owners. Good luck!


Nicole October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

I am in the pet industry, owner & entrepreneur. I would just like to come forward to say that no one has a right to judge a dog based on it’s owners view on protection or training. These warnings on pets could be from a number of just reasons, including but not limited too: Dog is sick, dog has immune disorder, dog has skin disorder, dog is in training, dog is in therapy training, dog is blind, dog is deaf, dog is injured, dog is recovering from surgery, dog has recently had worming/flea treatment, dog jumps, dog barks loudly, dog scares kids, dog gets very excited, etc. The last thing a pet owner wants to do is put their dog at risk of hurting someone or something. I have met, literally, DOZENS of people in my city who use the yellow ribbon system, NONE of which own an animal that has attacked or even attempted to attack, anyone, ever. Maybe if you had asked the question it would have shown a very innocent reasoning, perhaps event the cane corsos owners had simply just groomed the “show pets”. Just my thoughts, based on my experience.


Richard January 20, 2015 at 5:46 am

I agree. I also used the spike collar before just because I was so sick and tired of strangers and their children coming to me when I tried to train my mastiff in public to proof the training. I just put on the spike collar so I could work with my dog without being interrupted. It was really excessive and even when it was very clear I was talking to my dog these people would come and ask “what is his name, how old is he, could I pet him could I touch him…” I even got “could I ride him?” One time a guy stopped me when I was trying to train my dog to keep looking at my face when heeling next to me in an open mall and asked me if my dog was a mastiff. I tried to ignore him then he yelled at me and said I was being rude to him. He made such a big scene I had to stop my training, sit my dog down, just to turn to him and “yes, he is” then all the usual questions. I finally stopped him when he asked to pat my dog and I told him my dog was in training. He said I was a cruel owner to not allow my dog to be touched. He then just walked forward and pat my dog against my wishes, with a look that meant he was sorry for my dog, he said ” I know, I know, poor dog…” With a spike collar all these idiots magically disappeared.
As long as they did not make physical contact with my dog nor talk to me, I did not mind them taking pictures, or watching on the side. I actually liked to have a lot of people around us for training purposes but just please do not keep mugging us, give us some privacy, please!
I use the yellow ribbon and when asked I explain to people what it means. I still protect my dog and look out for him. Yellow ribbon is not a replacement but it is a signal and gives me a chance to educate ignorant people.
You should not judge a dog because of what he was wearing. I always look at the behaviors and the dog’s body language as well as the owner’s behavior when I try get an idea if the dog is well trained.
A little tiny poodle in a cute dress could be a crazy aggressive maniac; a pit bull with a spike collar could be very friendly and harmless.
There are many reasons why someone chooses a certain outfit. Same with human, a person with tattoo, leather collar around his neck, chains and piercings everywhere… does not mean he is a criminal. Just how he likes to express himself.
I want to reiterate yellow ribbon does not mean “my dog has a problem” or “my dog has issues”; it is just that I want to politely ask you to respect my dogs space and ignore my dog, as simple as that.


Jan October 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

I just looked this up today when a neighbor enlightened me. I had no idea either. Having said that, I think each case is individual. I agree with the other commenters when they say it’s a great idea for rescue dogs.

My dog is not aggressive so I can’t speak personally but I disagree with the notion that just because a dog is bad he shouldn’t be in public. I would NEVER, EVER shield my dog from the world, make him too sheltered and not give him the proper socialization he needs. Granted there are some terrifying dogs out there but I’m sure their owners are smart enough to not “risk” their dogs’ well-being by only relying on that ribbon.

I see no harm in the yellow ribbon if the dog is aggressive but obviously there are exceptions.

The public should definitely be a bit more knowledgeable, myself included.


Faye November 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

I have a rescue dog who was very poorly socialized as a puppy & young dog. He has come to us at approx 4 years of age and is very nervous out and about on the street of people and dogs coming too close to him. He is perfectly friendly with people who approach him slowly and calmly and friendly with dogs as long as they are introduced slowly and correctly (i.e walking around a park for a short while side by side before allowing nose to nose contact). Since adopting him I have realised just how much people invade his (and my) personal space when I am out and about on the street. People have very little respect for dog’s personal space and seem to think they can practically step over them if they get in their way. However, it is vital to expose dogs such as this to the world in a careful, controlled manner using positive training techniques in order for them to overcome their issues. To suggest that a reactive dog should not be around other dogs until they’ve overcome their issues shows just how little knowledge whoever wrote this has about dog behaviour, psychology and training. How on earth is a reactive dog going to overcome their fear of other dogs without being around them at a controlled distance?? I ensure that my dog is on a short (but loose) lead and I have a positive training programme in place to distract him away from things he perceives as scary and try and build up a positive association with these things in his mind. This is not going to happen overnight though. He has had four years of non-socialization which is not going to disappear overnight and will take time, effort and patience on my part. If neccessary and I am going to be in a small, tight space (such as the vet’s waiting room) with other people and dogs I muzzle my dog for safety.

I think these yellow ribbons and vests are a fantastic idea to educate the general public not to approach ANY dog unless they ask the owner from a safe distance first. In the same way that you would not approach a random person you did not know and hug them or pat them on the head, is it appropriate to do this to a dog you do not know? On one occasion I had taken my dog out of the way, onto a grass verge away from the pavement as there was a couple with a dog and an elderly couple walking slowly along. I put my dog into a sit and was training him to focus on me and he was doing excellently until a jogger decided that he could not possibly wait for the elderly couple to pass and decided to try and squeeze between me, my two dogs and the elderly couple. Therefore, he ran past at full speed a couple of inches from my reactive rescue dog’s nose. Very inappropriate. My dog responded by lunging after him and barking loudly out of fear. The jogger ran on unharmed but my dog was shaken and scared and I had to try and get him home without him barking/lunging at anyone else because he was so wound up.

Ultimately, the general public need more education about dogs in general. I always say ‘Think about whether you would do what you are about to do to that dog to a person. If you wouldn’t, then don’t do it to the dog (i.e. hug a random stranger or pat him on the head or run past them at full speed inches from their face)’ A previous comment was correct in saying no dog owner wants their dog to hurt somebody. My rescue dog is a beautiful, affectionate dog who loves people and children and other dogs but only in the right (calm) circumstances. I just wish people woud give him a bit more respect and personal space. If these yellow ribbons/vests/bandanas help people to do that then I’m all for them.


Susi November 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

Thanks for sharing your opinion, Faye. Like you, I’m all for using any device that helps a dog, but key in your last sentence is the word, “if.” I wrote the article someone casually at the time, but response to it had made me extra aware of watching the dynamics of when dogs and their owners encounter each other. By and large, people can be scandalously inconsiderate of “etiquette” and think nothing of allowing their dog to invade the space of a complete canine stranger. By then, the yellow ribbon is a moot point, and my original objection continues to be my objection to it. Until the entire dog owning world knows of – and looks FOR – the presence of yellow ribbon on a leash – its purpose is worthless. I’m just not willing to take that chance with a shy or skittish dog, it’s not fair.


carolyn November 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hello, I came across your site when I was trying to find how to buy a yellow ‘my dog needs space’ coat. I’m curious as to whether or not you have ever owned a rescue dog? I have a rescue terrier – these are his good points: great with children, people, full of charm, great with other dogs off lead. His bad points: can run off for hours after squirrels, hence the need for him to be on a lead in certain environments.
He was found in a pack of dogs, and was in a rescue centre for months – on the lead he is reactive, based on insecurity from his background (he doesn’t like certain breeds and the RSPCA suspect he might have been attacked in the past). He wouldn’t bite but he would snap and lunge – if he did this with certain breeds he would end up a cropper, and it wouldn’t be his fault if a dog came bounding up out of nowhere.
We are working on this but if you read dog rescue sites you will see that some rescue dogs (and somesomes non rescue dogs) are snappy on the lead. When a dog is on the lead, the walkers ettiquette is to keep their dog away for this very reason. However – many many people don’t seem to realise this. If you were to contact your local dog warden he would say that if a dog attacked another dog and one dog was on the lead it would be the fault of the owner who has let their dog run up in the first place. That is the official line. As my dog has issues (as do most other dogs if we’re all being honest with ourselves) then the yellow ribbon scheme is brilliant for letting other walkers know not to let their dogs run up. They should know this already but unfortunately not everyone does. How can this be a bad thing? My dog is great and has as much right to exercise as any other dog – he is not dangerous but just like us, some dogs have their issues. I’d like to stress that this scheme is not just for ‘dangerous’ dogs but for anyone who wants to just have a peaceful walk with their dogs `(these will people will already be avoiding big groups of dogs and confrontations by the way but have no choice) . Owners who choose this are taking responsibility which surely should be applauded? I resent people saying any dog that has issues shouldn’t be out – if we said that about people, they’d be an out cry.


Susi November 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Yes, Carolyn, a rescue is part of my family as I write. Having been “in” dogs since 1978, I’m aware of the issues dogs can have as a result of poor socialization, abuse, and bad experiences. I continue to stand by my article for the reason you, yourself said. You wrote,” As my dog has issues (as do most other dogs if we’re all being honest with ourselves) then the yellow ribbon scheme is brilliant for letting other walkers know not to let their dogs run up. They should know this already but unfortunately not everyone does.”

“They should know this already but unfortunately not everyone does.”

I am unwilling to subject my dog to the better than average chance that another dog owner will be ignorant of the significance of a yellow ribbon. It takes but one rude dog and one oblivious owner to undo months of training, or cement an earlier trauma a dog has experienced. Why on earth would I risk that? Why would I trust a yellow ribbon to carry such power?

It’s my job to protect my dog; until I know that EVERY dog owner understands the ribbon concept, I’m being foolish and failing my dog miserably by subjecting him to situations where s/he may encounter people who “missed the memo” about yellow ribbons.

As you said, all dogs can have issues. They can have issues with other dogs, people with umbrellas, men wearing hats, etc. and serious dog trainers don’t rely on a yellow ribbon. They work with a dog until it is “bullet proof,” limit the dog’s exposure to predictable environments, or avoid public venues. Sure, you have a right to walk your dog in those public places. And so do others. They also have the right to be felony stupid and ignorant of dog dynamics. And we already do something similar with people. Young drivers first learning to operate a car aren’t thrust into a highway situation. They learn in parking lots where there aren’t other cars and progress to quiet neighborhoods and country roads. We don’t expect other drivers to know there’s a student driver in the car. We expect the student driver to learn, get more experienced, learn faster response times and not be a danger to others. There’s no public outcry over that. It’s common sense.


Mr MJ Langdon January 4, 2014 at 10:38 am

My partner and I own a 6 month old border collie, we spend a lot of time training her inside and out.
We are struggling to calm her down out walking due to members of the public giving her attention, if you give a dog attention for doing something wrong it will get worse because the dog will think it’s doing right.
As people don’t listen to us when we tell them, we have attached a yellow ribbon on her lead see if that stops people from spoiling her training!


Susi January 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm

You’re quite right, MJ, that reinforcing behavior happens whether the behavior is desirable or not! And like little kids, some dogs feel that attention of any kind is better than no attention at all. Let us know how things go with a yellow ribbon attached?


Wolfie January 10, 2014 at 11:54 am

I think its just high time people teach their kids and learn respect for dogs, my boy is a rescue super loving to us but other people not so much he was heavy abused before we got him. He is so cute so people, mostly kids, run up to pet him then the adults freak when he growls and bare teeth. there need to be way to show hey my dog isn’t friendly with out making them seem like a bad dog.


Susi January 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

You’re absolutely right, Wolfie. We probably wouldn’t even be discussing this if people had better manners and taught some to their dogs.


Pepsi January 11, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I use this for my dog. He’s in training and can be aggressive towards people and we take him on walks to show that people won’t hurt him.


Susi January 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

And does it work for you, Pepsi?


RLM January 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I completely disagree, I believe certain dogs should be given space, they love there people and can sense something is wrong and if you approach the dog to closely, you can trigger the protective side of the dog. The yellow ribbon is letting people know stay clear, don’t be dumb and just take the warning. Dogs like this can be in public and behave fine. Just to be safe the owner uses the ribbon….. I think you get my point, just be smart when you see the ribbon and problem is the avoided.


Susi January 19, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Thanks for writing, RLM, but I think you must have had experiences with the general pet owning public. We’ve lost count how many people think nothing of having their dog run to the very end of a flex-lead at full speed which invariably startles the dog within their landing zone. They fail to recognized a stressed dog by insisting that their dog is “friendly” (and completely missing the point), and are oblivious (if they ever knew) to calming signals. I believe it’s my job to protect my dog, and that means doing what a yellow ribbon can’t: Anticipate ignorant owners. I wish it were otherwise.


May January 26, 2014 at 1:55 pm


My dog is afraid of adults. She ignores them and gets on with her life. However human adults are needy and always need to get into a dog’s space. Well that CREATES FEAR. So stop being so selfish and leave my dog alone. She’s happy and doesn’t need more friends. She has me and all my family.


Rachael February 18, 2014 at 8:22 am

I love the idea of this project however it does not take the responsibility off from the owner. You still need to be aware of your soundings and if they are children in the area make sure you keep a good eye on your pet even if they are wearing a Yellow Ribbon. . http://www.hupy.com/library/can-a-yellow-ribbon-prevent-iowa-dog-bites-.cfm


Susi February 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

Good advice for any time, Rachael! Thanks for writing.


Justin March 23, 2014 at 6:51 am

I see both sides of this, but the fact of the matter is you have a responsibility, as a dog parent, to voice your desires and intentions. If someone ignores them, you may legally be more protected. In your anecdote, the beware of dog sign was detrimental, but ONLY because they allowed the children to play with the dog. Take the opposite: I have a dog that is leash reactive due to experiences (multiple) with ignorant dog owners. On one occasion, my dog (a lab/am staff mix) was trying to say hello to another dog (mine on, other off leash) while on a walk. That dog slipped under mine and bit my dog’s stomach. Another time, while hiking with us, again an off leash dog approached. The dog was not aggressive, but kept going low on my dog who perceived this as a threat. In any event, both times, had the other dog been on leash, this never happens. Fast forward to a few weeks ago: while hiking, we approach a woman and her son & dog. Kid begins to let dog off leash, which, both my wife and I say (yell really) please don’t do that, our dog is leash reactive. They say “it’s fine, buster gets along with everyone”. Suffice it to say, when “buster” started running towards us, my dog immediately tried to get in front of me (I had firm control of leash, so she couldn’t leave my side), took a defensive stance and growled. My wife interceded, grabbed the other dogs collar and dragged him to his owners. She then loudly admonished them for not obeying state park leash rules, ignoring our warning, and generally being idiots. What’s worse, Cassie (our dog) was now on edge for the next 2 hours of the hike because of that incident.
In any event, giving others warning isn’t opening yourself to litigation, it protects you from it. If I tell you not to approach my dog, and that warning is ignored, I’ve given myself AND my dog a defense in court if litigation were to follow. Furthermore, in your anecdote, the warning was revoked by the owner voluntarily allowing the children to play. The beware of dog sign shouldn’t have done anything other than give the plaintiff’s attorney the ability to say “they knew the dog could be aggressive, yet allowed the children to play with (him/her) anyway.


Susi March 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

The way I see it, Justin, a dog owner’s first responsibility is to his dog. A yellow ribbon may offer an owner some degree of comfort in knowing that they tried to avoid a bad situation, but honestly, how much comfort is it really if your dog is dead or suffering from multiple dog bites? My strong hunch is that your dog could have been festooned in yellow ribbons in any of the circumstances you described, but an idiot dog owner is an idiot dog owner and they routinely fail to pay attention to overt signs, let alone covert signals. I think I actually winced at the part in your comment that recounted a dog owner saying, “it’s fine, buster gets along with everyone” as their dog barreled down on yours. How did she not know that her own dog may have been at risk? Personally, I’m not willing to find out if a court would see a yellow ribbon as a show of effort, and here’s one more reason why. Nearly ten years ago, the pet dog of one neighbor bit the child of the other neighbor. It wasn’t a bad bite, and, in fact, the dog had been regarded as a calm family pet. Still, the child’s parent chose to sue the dog owners. The jury deliberated and found in favor of the plaintiff. During interviews, many of the jurors said their decision was influenced by the presence of a “Beware of Dog” sign on the dog owner’s fence. The jurors said they felt it was a tacit admission that the dog owners knew their dog was dangerous, though the dog owners put the sign up to protect their dog and their property. A yellow ribbon, as I see it, is another form of “Beware of Dog.”


Meg March 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

Good article. This was the trivia question on freekibble today. I would think a dog with a yellow ribbon had an owner who served in the military, not that they needed space.


Susi March 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, Meg! A whole lot of people interpret a yellow ribbon as a remembrance of military men and women, if not for someone missing or far away. In my view, until every single dog owner recognizes the yellow ribbon as a signal to back off, it’s pointless.


Sarah April 5, 2014 at 12:07 am

I work at a no kill animal shelter and there is dog there that I really want to adopt. She is a gorgeous 25 lb dog that is sweet, loving, and gives lots of kisses to those she knows. I take her for walks everyday and so many people want to meet her because of how beautiful she is (she looks like a fox). When you look at here you would have no idea how many behavior issues she has. She is fearful with new people, aggressive around food, play bites, corrective bites, and has a major heart condition. I hope to take her home soon and if I do, I know how much rehabilitation she will need and part of that is to take her on walks were she will meet lots of people slowly and calmly. I plan to get a leash and front harness that says “caution” so that people know to ask me how to properly say hi to her first. Because of her looks and size, people see her as harmless and I need to make sure they are properly warned that they need to go slow if they want to meet her. She warms up with the right introduction and she needs the socialization but a surprise greeter could result in another bite in her record and more importantly, another reason for her to fear people.


Susi April 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Thanks for writing, Sarah, and thank you for the work you do at the shelter. I commend you for taking in this sweetheart with your eyes open. Issues will arise, as you know, in your journey together towards canine good citizenship, and while your “caution” harness may help some, I urge you to be vigilant at all times with her. You don’t mention her name or her background, but shelter dogs without proper socialization at critical points in their puppyhood may never fully be comfortable with new situations as other, more careful reared dogs are. She’s lucky to have you and I wish you both only the best. Let us know how things go?


Flo the westie April 26, 2014 at 8:23 am

When I was a little pup I had a few bad encounters with my own kind with owners that couldn’t or wouldn’t control their dogs,this has left me terrified all dogs. Why should I be kept in because of this. My mum has just bought a yellow dog Tabard to wear, ribbon not enough!


Susi April 26, 2014 at 9:56 am

As you grow up, Flo, your mistress should be exposing you to other dogs in controlled, tiny doses along with extra special treats you get only when you show even the tiniest bravery. Grown-ups call this behavior modification, and it can take a long time, or not much time at all. It needs to be down with love and patience, and I’m sure your person will show you both. I bet you look smashing in your yellow Tabard, and I agree that a ribbon isn’t enough. I worry, however, that the same ignorant people whose dogs scared you will also be ignorant of a yellow Tabard. I’m hoping she helps work you through the fear you learned from bully dogs even as you show off your “pretty in yellow.”


jas May 9, 2014 at 8:03 am

When I would take my dog to the pet store she loved it.
She needed to be socialized. She just too hyper. This lady was walking her dogs towards me since moved my dog and I out of the way and she purposely made her dogs go towards my dogs face! My dog snapped, and she yelled oh, god! And I looked at her and I was pissed but I said sorry and moved my dog even farther away and gave her a reprimand, and to this day I wish I had a yellow ribbon or something to signify that my dog isn’t ready for stranger dogs! I still can’t belive this lady trusted a complete stranger! Maybe it’s my fault, but if I saw someone purposefully moving their dog away from me I would not get closer to it even in a store!
Of course my dog doesn’t go in stores any more. She’s getting worse… I think. I wish she was learning
But I think she’s regressing. Grrr.


Susi May 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Without seeing you and your dog in action, Jas, I’m not sure what might be the issue as to why your dog isn’t improving, but is it possible you’re unwittingly reinforcing behavior you don’t want? My suggestion is to find a training class that will teach you how to teach your dog and if you tell me privately where you live (city/state), perhaps I can help you find one. Consider looking into Karen Pryor’s articles and videos on clicker training your dog (do a You Tube search on Karen Pryor), it’s amazing what clicker training can do, BUT, it requires just the right timing and I’d feel better if you could get access to a class. Let me know, perhaps I can help.


Kayla & Orlando's Human May 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm

While I think that the yellow ribbon is a good idea in theory, in practice, as many of you have expressed, most people (canine owners or not) will have NO clue what it means.

After reading more about the ideas of the yellow ribbon (see additional info at http://theyellowdogproject.com/The_Yellow_Dog_Project/Home.html), I decided to test out the idea with my two dogs in various places. Many of the places had just people and others had people with their dogs. Not ONE person understood what it meant. The most common comment/statement had something to do with supporting our troops. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I was asked if I lost a soldier close to me to have a yellow ribbon on the dog’s leashes.

I have to say, that even though I am familiar with the idea of the yellow ribbons, I agree with those who made a comment in regards to supporting our troops. Remember when yellow ribbons wrapped around a tree or a pole were very common? We would see them everywhere. When I see a yellow ribbon, even today, that is the FIRST thing I think of, and I don’t care what the ribbon is attached to. I immediately think about soldiers.

For me, if a ribbon around a dog’s leash or collar were to be of a specific color, it needs to be red. People understand that red means “STOP”, or anger, or something like that. Yes, yellow, means “caution” and I get that. But again, how many people are going to end up like many of the people that I “tested”?

Both of my current dogs are rescues from abuse situations. Both of them are also certified therapy dogs with a national pet provided therapy organization. It took a lot of training, and a lot of telling people not to approach Kayla with their dog, and telling men not to approach Orlando quickly or pet him on his head. After constantly repeating myself over and over and over, I found a relatively simple solution.

I purchased two backpacks from a pet store, which can be used for anything, so not a waste of money. I then went online and purchased four “IN TRAINING” patches. That is all they say…”IN TRAINING”. I sewed (loosely for easy removal later on) one onto each side of the backpack. Anytime my dogs had the backpacks on, NO ONE approached them with out without dogs. I would hear…”Oh, that is cool. Those dogs are in training”, or I would be asked what they are in training for. I would be honest and say that they are abuse cases in training to become better dogs, and the smiles and cheers would ensue.

A few years later, I have good canine citizens who are wonderful therapy dogs. We visit so many different places, and I do attribute the backpacks to helping them through their troubles. Again, the ribbon is a good idea, but it can mean different things, and sometimes us humans need things spelled out for us. “IN TRAINING” works.


Susi May 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for weighing in on this controversial topic, Kayla. I’m in agreement with much of what you’ve said and prefer the remedy you’ve created to solve the problem: “In training” patches. Well done.


Sarah August 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I think the problem the yellow ribbon is trying to solve is to stop people and other dogs from approaching the marked dog. I always have my dog under control but there are a lot of people who don’t follow leash laws because their pets are super friendly and love to meet other dogs but one of my dogs, a Shepherd, doesn’t like other dogs running up to him and will attack the other dog if this happens. This doesn’t mean he should be sheltered and kept at home, he’s a great dog who loves exercise and other dogs, too, but requires a some introduction and caution when meeting a new friend. Even the most gentle dog could potentially bite a child if that child just runs up to a dog unexpectedly.


Susi August 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I agree with you, Sarah – it follows the practice in horse circles of tying a red ribbon to the tail of a horse prone to buck. That said, until every dog owner is aware of the yellow ribbon logic, it will fail the dog who needs a wide berth and doesn’t get it because the other dog owner “failed to see the memo.” Personally, I don’t want MY dog to be the one to educate the public, and I imagine most of us don’t want our dogs to be test cases, either.


James September 5, 2014 at 1:22 am

I have a dog warning on my gsd

The reason is simple I don’t want people touching my dog he is well socialised with my family and close friends and most importantly my vets hes not nervous but do I want him to trust and be touched by anyone who can get to him if you want to stroke a dog buy one of your own it’s that simple not the fact people have savage dogs

Would you want people stroking your face as you try to go about your daily routine (no touching =no conflict)


Susi September 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

If this works for you, James, mission accomplished, but I still maintain that we have a long, very long way to go before we can assume that the average person understands the significance of a yellow ribbon. Personally, I feel it’s my job to be that go-between between my dog and a person who gets close enough to pet him. I don’t trust the ribbon.


Jennifer December 31, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Simple solution: Parents, teach your children proper dog etiquette. Never, ever touch a dog without asking the owner.


Richard January 20, 2015 at 5:15 am

I use this. To me, it works same as “in training do not pet” but just more simple.
If someone does not understand it is not a big deal as my dig is very well trained and very friendly with everyone and every dog.
I do not want other people or dogs to interact with my dog when my dog is on leash for the sole purpose of engagement training.
My dog competes in obedience and is also a therapy dog. I do not allow my dog to interact wither other dogs when he is leashed. When he is off leash he is allowed to play.
A lot of dog owners do not understand that, they think socialization means to let their dogs meet and greet every dog in sight, which is totally wrong! I take my dog to public so he is exposed to all sorts of people, sound, echo, floor surface, unexpected movement, people…but that does not mean I want other people to touch my dog without my permission. My dog is very friendly among old people, school children, and everything in between but that is not because I let him say hi to each and everyone we meet. Socialization is achieved by exposing the dog to people, but interacting with them is another matter.
As my dog’s pack leader I promised my dog to protect him and I intend to keep that promise until the day my dog passes away. There are many un-trained ill-mannered dogs out there who have been very poorly trained by their owners. Owner always say “he is friendly, just want to say hi” but a lot of them would show signs of aggression and even bark when approaching my dog. It is my job to protect my dog from these dogs who approach my dog uninvited. Yellow ribbon tells them to leave me alone. If they think it is because my dog would attack them that is their perception but regardless, I would not let them get close to my dog.
Just because my dog is out in public does not mean my dog wants to be touched, pet, and “say hi” to all dogs; just as my children are not prepared to be touched, hugged and kissed by every stranger and children that pass by them on the street.
To give a dog space means just that–to respect a dog’s privacy and just leave him alone. It does not mean he may attack, or that he is unfriendly, just as it does not mean a person is anti-social if he/she does not say hi and smile to everyone he/she sees on the street.
If I want my dog to play I would bring my dog to places for that purpose. If I am just walking with my dog please leave me alone. My dog does not need to say hi or be pat by strangers, he is absolutely fine without these uninvited attention. That is pretty much the message.
Yellow ribbon does not mean the dog has any problem, it just means “please ignore me.” That is all. It is very similar to “Service dog in training, please do not touch”.


scott April 8, 2015 at 7:41 am

I was walking my uncle’s dog today up the park, i let him off the lead to let him have a nice run around, when he raced to the top where a lady and her dog where walking, as dogs do he went to see the dog and the lady said “my dog will hav him!” and i said “well your dog doesn’t have a muzzle” she said well ” can’t you see the yeloow ribbon” it was impossible to see a “TINY SPECK OF YELLOW” , when i was at the bottom and she the top I took my dog away from this lady and her dog and check my dog for bite marks.
personally in my opinion and being in dangerous distance of this yellow collared dog i think that these dogs should by law all have muzzles on always on leads or be put down beause i think a tiny yellow ribbon i going to do anything it’s a stupid idea as u cannot see it unless your 3 metres away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Susi April 10, 2015 at 10:44 am

You make my case, Scott, that a yellow ribbon is not the solution unless it’s the size of a door.


Khadijah July 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm

If someone’s dog doesn’t like other dogs, and has the possibility of snapping at another dog, it doesn’t mean that they have to be muzzled, locked away, or put down. All dogs have their limits and I’m sure when your dog has had enough with another it would snap. You should be in control of your dog, if someone says that their dog doesn’t like other dogs around it, you should keep your dog away. Even if you let your dog off leash to run around, you should be 100% confident that your dog will listen to your commands. If you can’t keep your dog away from others, you’re the one who shouldn’t have a dog, or train it before you let it off leash.


TruckersMom November 16, 2015 at 10:42 am

Wow really, try no compassion. Your dog should have had better control over your dog and NEVER let them run up to a leashed dog, that is considered aggressive and threatening behavior. Your dog was the aggressor in this situation not hers.

My dog wears a yellow ribbon (BIG BOW made of duck tape so everyone can see it) because he is terrified of strangers. But I guess if you were whipped from puppy hood and then dumped in the woods when you wouldn’t hunt and were scared of almost everything you would be a little scared too. Trucker is a beautiful Redbone Coonhound and not a common sight up north so everyone wants to run up and pet him, this causes him to hide behind me and shake violently. When people don’t stop coming even when I explain he is very scared of strangers please back away he will low growl to let them know he is uncomfortable. He is so scared that he goes catatonic and locks up even after these people leave, so I can’t remove us for the situation unless I pick up my 60lb dog and carry him (I am 5′ 1 and 115lbs that’s ridiculous).

What am I supposed to never take my 2 year dog out because people don’t know who to leash their animals or respect others wishes? He does amazing at off-leash dog parks because other dogs make him feel comfortable and he has even started opening up to the other dog owners there, but I have to but a Thundershirt on him in order to show the other dog owners that my dog is a “yellow” dog (he is nervous).

All this said, I wouldn’t trade my Trucker for the world. But it is irresponsible dog owners and rude people that cause people who want to give rescues (un-adoptable dogs) a second chance a very hard time.


Susi November 16, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I’m not sure who it is to whom you’re responding, TruckersMom, but if it’s to what *I* wrote, a few thoughts. I’ve not suggested that your dog never go out among the public, but it’s precisely BECAUSE there are irresponsible, rude (and I would add “clueless”) dog owners out there that I can’t support the yellow ribbon idea – not yet, anyway. Too many people are oblivious to dog owner etiquette, let alone the meaning of a yellow ribbon. Your boy deserves a controlled environment that will help him acclimate to the world at large IN SMALL DOSES, and if you haven’t already started, I’d strongly suggest clicker training to help him learn that not everyone is as horrid as the cretin who so abused him. He’s lucky to have you, but it will take time and a little help from your friends to help him through his; I feel sure you can.


Khadijah July 5, 2015 at 3:22 pm

I disagree whole heartedly!
Just because a dog has a warning sign or a ribbon on their leash, it doesn’t mean that they are going to straight out attack you If you approach them. It can just mean that your dog may be frigtended easy or it doesn’t like to be smelled all over in their face by other dogs.
Some dogs need their space. I just wish people had more common sense to realise that!
I love the idea of colour-coded ribbons on leashes. It lets people know to be cautious around your dog.
It frustrates me when people think that they can just walk up to every dog they see and assume that it isas friendly as their own dog. Not all dogs love having other dogs stick their noses in their face!


Susi July 5, 2015 at 7:23 pm

I’m not suggesting that a yellow ribbon is indicative of a vicious dog, Khadijah, though I have implied that if a dog is hyper-aggressive, it needs more than a yellow ribbon indicating that it’s not to be approached. What I’m flat out saying is that it the job of a dog owner to protect their dog, and a yellow ribbon isn’t a reliable way to do it. As you said in your other comment, not everyone has control over their dogs. Not everyone has common sense. Ask any veterinarian about “famous last words,” and they’re apt to tell you that it’s the phrase, “Oh, my dog doesn’t bite,” just before it does. We’re asking a lot of a ribbon and I’m not willing to risk my dog’s well being on faith that other people see it it, let alone know what it means.


Lucy Flanagan July 27, 2015 at 2:49 am

That’s a very good point and I’m glad you brought it up – the legal exposure you sustain when you put yellow ribbon on your dog or any announcement about your dog’s supposed issues.

I have heard it said – don’t know if this is true – that my city government is averse to posting signs in its off-leash areas warning people of the dangerous things that could occur there – like, for example, “you could be knocked down by galloping dogs” – because it would thereby expose itself to litigation for not warning people of every possible thing bad that could happen in an off-leash area. Alternatively, it could be accused of setting up a dangerous venue. Are there any lawyers out there who would like to comment?


Susi July 27, 2015 at 10:32 am

Thanks for weighing in, Lucy. I hadn’t heard that about off-leash areas warnings, but it makes sense. Years ago, there was a case involving a dog bite by a family dog who nipped a neighbor child. Even though the neighbor children were friends, the child’s parents sued the dog owners. A jury found in favor of the suing party because they perceived the “Beware of Dog” sign the dog owners had on their fence as an awareness that they had a “dangerous dog,” even though the dog owners had put it up thinking it would protect their dog. These days, dog owners have to be excruciating careful.


Jennifer April 15, 2016 at 12:08 am

I’m coming to this very late, via a Google search for vests to warn others of my dog’s fear-aggressiveness toward other dogs. I’m not sure if these comments will still reach the writer, but I’d be curious to find out how he/she (sorry, I haven’t explored the blog deeply to locate gender) feels people with aggressive dogs should go about keeping everyone in their communities safe.

I’m a dog trainer (this term has become fuzzy, lots of folks call themselves trainers and turn out to have simply spent a lot of time with dogs, so I will clarify and say that I apprenticed a master trainer and Animal Planet consultant for two years and have practiced professionally for 8 years). I have a dog (a hound/pit mix) who is dangerous ONLY TO OTHER DOGS and, as a result of our environment, cannot be effectively trained to be otherwise. I choose to put a leash that reads NO DOGS on him because we encounter illegally off-leash dogs almost on a daily basis. And not just in parks or at public events, but right outside our door. I also carry a noise deterrent…an ultrasonic pitch emitter…and pepper spray intended for use against dogs. I’m extremely serious about keeping dogs away from mine because I know he will grab and lock onto them if they force contact.
The reaction of most to that statement is to vilify him, and I love to reveal the myopic and judgmental nature of humans by listing the effect before the cause. My dog has been attacked twice, once as a pup in a dog run and again as an already sensitive adult. The second time was particularly traumatizing because an aggressive dog had escaped from its collar and came barreling toward me and my two dogs. It went after my boy, and when I blocked it, my hand was mauled and is still deformed. I think I deserve a huge gold star for remaining calm as I tied my arm off to make my hand stop squirting blood and walked my dogs home as if nothing had happened. All I cared about was imprinting a mellow and collected memory of the ordeal on them so that they wouldn’t be further damaged.
I spent the next several months working diligently to positive-reinforce my boy’s reaction to approaching dogs, and it would be working if we weren’t bombarded by uncontrolled dogs so frequently. Each time the control is taken out of my hands and I’m forced to strangle my dog instead of happily handing him a treat, his problem is worsened. I cannot muzzle him because many of the off-leash dogs commonly found near us are large and untrained. An extremely irresponsible dog owner walks his three intact, huge pit bulls off-leash just one short block from our home, and they have pursued other dogs before. If they came face to face with my dogs, it would be dogmageddon. I can’t sentence him to death so that everyone who feels their little dog doesn’t need a leash can do as they please.
I’m curious what the writer feels should be done about a dog like mine. Should I not try to prevent disaster (at least when humans are able to recall their dogs in time) by warning others of my dog’s issues with visual cues? And what does it mean to make sure questionable dogs are kept away from people and other dogs? What about those of us who live in cities, where avoidance of people and dogs is impossible?
The statement that a responsible dog owner can control his dog’s environment is not accurate. Of course I don’t take my dogs to the park during legal off-leash hours. That’s my end of the deal. The other end is for fellow dog owners to control their dogs. My boy is an impressive soldier at my heel unless he is forced to react. I’m hoping you simply haven’t considered this sort of scenario and may reevaluate what you have come to think of as fact.


Susi April 15, 2016 at 10:22 am

Hi Jennifer, your comment has indeed reached me, and I commend you for having an unvarnished assessment of your dog, and for sticking with him. Here’s the essence of what I’m “hearing” you say: Your dog has aggression issues with other dogs, and other dogs have attacked your dog, in large part because of their inattentive or irresponsible owners.

And yet, irresponsible owners are suddenly expected to change their behavior because of a yellow ribbon on a leash? The essence of my opinion is that a yellow ribbon will not modify the conduct of clueless dog owners who’ve already failed to keep their dogs under control – at least, not until every dog owner on the planet gets the proverbial memo about yellow ribbons. Avoidance, counter-conditioning, behavior modification or drugs are alternatives, but if you feel it helps, tie a yellow ribbon on your dog’s leash and hope for the best. Personally, I would bet that given the dogs and owners you’ve been encountering, it won’t make a dent 75% of the time.

You ask me what I would do with a dog like yours which presupposes that I’ve never had a dog with dog aggression issues. I have. One does what one has to do to protect one’s dog, one’s own safety, and from a lawsuit. Vigilance becomes second nature. If you’re not able to avoid other dogs at all, then your other alternative is to personally educate other dog owners in your immediate vicinity about the challenges you have with your dog and hope they respond positively and not take advantage of the situation.


Michael Egger May 6, 2016 at 7:07 am

My girl, Bacardi, was a dog who was used as a bait dog, the result is a wonderful and sweet dog who is very afraid of people and unpredictable with other dogs, alternating between severe fear and mild aggression. She has just as much right to be out as any other dog. If you see a dog with a warning vest or collar, don’t be a self righteous ass and assume you must be a better dog handler or that my dog is dangerous , she is only dangerous to ignorant people who think they now better then the owner of the reactive dog. I really didn’t find the original post to be offensive, just the comments by some of the more ignorant posters.
Bacardi has never but anyone, more has she attacked another dog. She is a beautiful dog that was so horribly mistreated and abused that she bears scars and bite marks all over her body. Don’t assume that you know why an owner chooses to put a warning vest on their dog, just be respectful and above all else, mind your own damn business unless you have some kind words for the owner. I’m not speaking for myself but for the many owners of abused and mistreated dogs who have decided to devote a considerable amount of time, love and patience to dogs that otherwise would be euthanized. If you see me with my dog and you would like to ask questions, please feel free to ask away. Just respect that I know what triggers my dog and that I am responsible enough to take car of her. Respect the vest, keep your dog at a distance and understand that not all dogs can be expected to act the way your dog does.


Susi May 6, 2016 at 10:09 am

I’m sympathetic, Michael. A dog of my adolescence, my parent’s dog, really, was snatched out of their car and vanished for six months. Long story short, he was recovered during a raid on a dog fighting ring in a town 30 miles away. After my dad’s death, this sweet Cairn Terrier spent his remaining years with me. He was never quite the same, but he was loved and had good “sunset years.” Thank you for writing!


Michael Egger May 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Thank you Susi, sorry for the rant. When I take Bacardi for a walk I run the gamut of people who want to test to see if her vest, which reads : Caution; Reactive dog, do not approach w/out permission!

I once had a lady who wouldn’t keep her dog away, saying “if they fight, they fight, dogs will be dogs.” It was the craziest thing anyone has ever said to me.
I hope your terroir is doing well. Thank you for your input. It is nice and interesting to see what other dog owners with common sense think when they see her.
For the most part I meet people who are friendly, curious and respectful. They ask questions and Bacardi has won some new friends.


Terry November 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm

On our camping trips I keep a yellow ribbon on my ‘dog aggressive’ basset hound plus I always keep an eye out and he’s always leashed. If I am able to talk to other dog owners they do ask about the yellow ribbon and I tell them. Wish I simply had cards in my pocket to hand out also.


Susi July 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I’ve come to decide, Petco, that I may need to write some more about this as I’ve made some observations based on the comments made to the first article about the yellow ribbon.


May January 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Are you an expert? I think it’s clear you have no clue on the matter


Susi January 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm

It goes without saying that what I write on MY space is MY opinion, May. You are free to start your own web site and wax as eloquently as you have in your brief and ever so helpful comment. Thirty years in dogs does not make me an expert because I’ll never live long enough to know everything there is to know. I am, however, an expert on my opinion based on my experiences. I stand by my opinion that the yellow ribbon is not a “fix all” answer, and if you wade through the other comments, you’ll find that the more experienced the individual, the more they don’t like it either. That said, put a yellow ribbon on your dog and knock yourself out. It’s your dog.


Melody January 30, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Ribbons, scarfs, does not give you control of your dog or someone elses dog. Only training, socializing, and knowing dog language will help you in any given situation. If I’m out with my dogs my attention should be focused on them,knowing my surrounding,keeping them as well as others around us safe. Scarfs ,ribbons give a false sense of security .


Susi January 30, 2015 at 7:42 pm

I agree wholeheartedly, Melody.


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