Dogs’ yellow ribbon sends strong warning signal

A yellow ribbon tied onto a dog’s lead means ‘stay away’.

A bright yellow ribbon tied onto a dog’s leash speaks volumes, telling everyone that this dog needs space.

Although it is new to NZ, once this symbol becomes recognised and widely used here it will be a very useful tool for dog owners and the public.

The yellow ribbon was introduced by The Yellow Dog Project in 2012 in Canada. As well as identifying dogs in need of space, it seeks to educate the public about appropriate ways to approach a dog – with permission of the owner only, whether or not a dog has a yellow ribbon. The symbol has grown to become internationally recognised and was introduced to NZ for the first time last month by Sandy Urwin of Animal Natural Health in Orewa.

Sandy says it is similar to the way a red ribbon on a horse’s tail indicates that the horse may kick.
She says the yellow ribbon is not only for aggressive dogs. “More often, there are dogs who are fearful of strangers, sick or elderly, in pain from surgery or maybe haven’t had sufficient training,” Sandy says. “I once had a rottweiler that had a hind leg amputated from cancer and in those first months of recovery, she was anxious about other dogs knocking into her. Something like this would have been fabulous to have.”

Dogs with the ribbon on their leash should not be approached without the owner’s permission – even for a friendly pat on the head.

By deterring strangers from approaching these dogs, the ribbons can potentially reduce dog bite incidents or situations where people are scared by the reaction of dogs that do not welcome attention, however well meant.

However, the Yellow Dog Project ribbons are not a replacement for proper training of dogs, or a waiver of the owner’s responsibilities.

“The project encourages all forms of positive training and rehabilitation to help ‘yellow dogs’,” Sandy says.

The bright yellow ribbons are available from Animal Natural Health for a gold coin donation, which will be used to purchase more Yellow Dog Project ribbons.

Alternatively, dog owners could attach any yellow ribbon, as long as it’s bright enough to be seen from a distance but Sandy says the Yellow Dog Project ribbons send an unmistakable message.

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