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Yellow dog project

“Don’t say hello to a dog wearing yellow!”

What is it?:

The Yellow Dog Project is an education campaign that lets people in public spaces know that a dog needs space by using a clear visual aid: a yellow lead, collar, ribbon, bandana or vest.

This acts as a quick and easy guide to gauging a dog’s comfort level at a distance lets you know to proceed with caution. Through communicating the need for space, the Yellow Dog Project helps prevent dogs being triggered by unpredictable encounters that cause panic or stress and can often undermine the careful training and rehabilitation strategies guardians have put in place.

The Yellow Dog Project is not regulated by animal management or animal care Acts or legislation. It does not replace appropriate training, and does not exempt guardians from taking responsibility for their dog’s behaviour. It is important guardians with dogs that need space choose exercise routines that reflect their dog’s ability to cope in public spaces; a yellow bandana won’t protect a dog if they’re being walked through a busy dog park or off lead space. It is simply an educational campaign that functions to help others understand whether a dog needs extra space from a distance and to encourage them to take reasonable steps to avoid approaching where possible.

How does it work?:

“Give me space!”

The Yellow Dog Project is a community awareness initiative that encourages dog guardians to use something yellow to inform others their dog needs extra space and to avoid approaching. If you see a dog wearing a yellow lead, collar, bandana or vest, they need extra space away from you or your dog. Even if you know a lot about dogs and dog behaviour, or dogs generally love you, it’s best to provide that dog the space they need so their guardian can ensure they complete their walk or training safely. Any interactions with that dog should be discussed with their guardian first.

*Photo on Right: Monty is an older man who dislikes being jumped on by overly enthusiastic puppies

and dogs (Image courtesy of Kate Denman).


Please note: the Yellow Dog Project does not replace appropriate and common sense management strategies for dogs that are highly reactive on or off lead. Dogs that pose a safety risk to other dogs or people in public should still be appropriately fitted with humane collars and harnesses to ensure they are safely contained on lead. The use of a muzzle (that has been introduced carefully and reinforced heavily) is also recommended for these dogs to ensure everyone is safe.


Why would a dog need space?

There are lots of reasons why dogs might need to wear yellow. They could be:

  • too young or too old to play
  • recovering from surgery or injury
  • blind or hearing impaired and easily startled
  • in pet dog manners or more serious assistance/therapy dog training
  • in heat or sick (but the guardian is still trying to ensure they get some mental enrichment on a quick short walk)
  • incredibly shy or nervous generally
  • recovering from a traumatic experience (e.g. dog attack) that has lead them to distrust others in public spaces
  • Under-socialised due to COVID, being relinquished or rescued young, or other experience beyond their (and their current guardian’s) control
  • They prefer to be left alone (not all dogs are social butterflies, and that’s okay)

The guardian might also prefer to not be approached by unfamiliar dogs or strangers in public settings too.


How did it start?

The idea originated internationally, under the guidance of world-renowned dog trainer Terry Ryan (Legacy Canine) who introduced yellow ribbons/ bandanas in her training classes as a clear signal for dogs that need space. Through the efforts of Australian dog trainer and behaviour enthusiast Pat Robards, the idea was borrowed with permission and introduced to Australian dog clubs in the early 2000s.

The project gained traction and Norway dog behaviourist, Mimmi Engh, borrowed it for their dog training classes for use with sensitive dogs. Eva Oliversson launched the first official program, International Gulahund™ Yellowdog, in Sweden in 2012 (http://gulahund.se/). 

Resources

YellowDog Australia (Archived website) 

Lili Chin has also designed this infographic which can be downloaded via this link



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