Excerpts from an interview with "Dogs Life" magazine
How did you hear about The Yellow Dog Project?
I was in the United States in 1999 staying with Terry Ryan while attending one of her Legacy Dog Training Camps. At her camps Terry used a yellow bandanna on the dogs collar to indicate shy dogs so that the other trainers at the camp could give these dogs a little extra space.
How and why was it brought to Australia?
At the time I was staying with Terry I happened to have a shy dog so decided to bring the idea back to Australia. However apart from several dog clubs and a few people who had experienced the problem the idea wasn't widely accepted at that time.
Over subsequent years in Australia the bandanna changed to a yellow ribbon as this was cheaper and easier for people to source and the ribbon could be used either on the collar or tied to the lead to be more obvious.
In 2012 a group in Sweden heard about the yellow ribbon and its significance of being used for the management of sensitive dogs in Australia so wrote to a Dog Training Club in Tamworth who were using 'give me space' yellow ribbons. The Swedish group adopted the idea then started a worldwide campaign to promote that a yellow ribbon indicated a dog who needed 'More Space Please'.
What types of dogs need to wear a yellow ribbon/leash/collar?
The Yellowdog Australia Project suggests a wide range of reasons behind why a dog might need to wear a yellow ribbon, leash, vest, bandanna or any yellow item attached to a leash, collar or harness. It is to communicate that this dog needs some space and please do not approach this dog with your dog. Also it signals to maintain a distance or allow time for this dog with his/her person to move out of the way.
Wearing the yellow indicator does not mean these dogs are “bad”, rather that they do better with space for a whole variety of reasons that may not be related to their temperament or approachability in itself. Here are some of the reasons behind why a dog might be participating in the Yellow Ribbon project.
• Illness or recovering from surgery
• Deaf or Blind
• Newly adopted
• Leash reactivity
• Injuries or painful physical conditions like arthritis
• Intolerance of other animals
• Fearful of unfamiliar people
• Fearful of unfamiliar or rowdy dogs
• Aging and elderly
• Learning self control around other dogs
• Shyness of people
Whatever the reason, it is always good to give an oncoming dog and their family space but please note: The Australian Project is NOT suitable for dogs with a bite history.
If your dog has behavioural or aggression problems it is recommended that you should contact a qualified ethical force free Dog Trainer or your Veterinarian for assessment and referral to a Veterinary Behaviourist if appropriate.
Is there anything else owners can do for these dogs to make them feel safe and not fearful? There are many dogs that have been so traumatized that they will never be 100% after what has happened to them and may need a “back off” sign. They should still be allowed to go on walks but perhaps not so much in a public setting because I think the real issue here is the fact that too many people have no idea what it means to be polite or kind, not to mention to know how to approach a dog in a way that is proper providing a good opportunity for a positive social interaction in the first place.
Do you believe The Yellow Dog Project has so far been successful? If so, how?
Yellowdog Australia is not a commercial enterprise and is run entirely voluntarily. We do not seek financial support or sponsorship, only help and support. We currently have some 24 volunteer Reps scattered around Australia and are always looking for more. These Reps help publicise the Project by communicating with Veterinarians, dog clubs, papers, Councils, TV and radio stations, in their local area and distribute Yellowdog informational posters.
The Project has the support of Australian Veterinary Behaviourists and an increasing number of Veterinarians who are listed on the Australian Yellowdog website. Most recently the Project has been adopted by Greencross Vets, the largest veterinary group in Australia with 92 clinics throughout Queensland, NSW and Victoria, with Yellowdog posters being displayed in their surgeries.
Another exciting piece of news is Beau Pets are manufacturing a yellow lead and collar with Give Me Space embroidered onto them.
The number of dog training clubs who are using the yellow ribbon is also steadily increasing and are being listed on the Yellowdog website to help those who may need assistance with their dog
What are you planning on doing in the near future with this project?
We need to educate dog owners and the general public about the use of the yellow ribbon because many people are still unaware of its significance. It means owners of dogs who use a yellow lead or ribbon have a responsibility to speak up for their charges and not to expect others to know what it means. It will most likely take some time to catch on but with Yellow ribbon dog owners speaking up, hopefully in the future the sight of yellow on a dog may motivate others to ask questions and it will become more widely recognised!
Pat Robards and Steph McColl