The Yellow Dog Project: Awareness for Dogs Who Need Space
Most of the time I write about how to encourage a well-socialized, polite, and friendly dog. This is a critical element of being a responsible dog owner. But there will always be some dogs who, for one reason or another, simply don’t do well with other dogs or even people other than their owners. In this case, the best solution is to recognize the situation, accept it, and help your dog by managing his exposure to the things that disturb him.
The term “dogs in need of space” or DINOS™ has been coined to describe these dogs. Dogs who are handicapped or recovering from surgery may feel restricted in their movements (and therefore less able to use normal canine body language) and may be in pain, which can make anyone feel grouchy. Dogs with abuse in their past, or those who are simply of a more nervous nature, may overreact to other dogs or people approaching them. Even dogs who ultimately will become confident and comfortable in social situations must go through a period of training, and having adequate space during this phase will allow them to focus without the distraction of other dogs and people.
The Yellow Dog Project is an organization dedicated to spreading the word about these dogs and to establishing a readily recognizable, worldwide signal: a yellow ribbon or other patch of yellow on the leash or collar which lets everyone know that this dog should not be approached.
They provide free, downloadable posters and other resources, available in multiple languages, which can be posted in public places and shared with friends and family members. Social media, like facebook and twitter, has been significant in getting the message to the community of dog owners, trainers, and businesses.
While your ongoing goal should always be working towards a dog who is well-socialized, you may find yourself with a dog who, whether for the short-term or long, just can’t achieve that. It doesn’t mean giving up on this dog; it means understanding and respecting her and providing her what she needs – space – to be comfortable.
The Yellow Dog project supports owners and their dogs in this venture. So now you know: if you see a dog with a yellow ribbon or patch, allow that dog to have his space. You can also help by telling others who may not have heard about Yellow Dogs and sharing the posters in your community wherever dogs gather.
NR Tomasheski is a dog trainer who spent seven years as co-owner of a canine daycare, boarding, and grooming facility in Sherman Oaks, California. She has competed with her own dogs in agility, obedience, and rally.