Black dog sitting in forest

Dogs in Yellow Day: some dogs need space 

Have you been out for a walk and passed by a dog wearing a yellow ribbon on its collar or lead and wondered what it means? Well, it is for a much more important reason than simply looking super stylish!  

March 20th is a super important day for bringing attention to dogs who need space while out and about on walks, Dogs in Yellow day! This is an international campaign that hopes to create more awareness around the world about dogs that, for a whole host of reasons, need to be given space while in public areas.  

Wearing a yellow ribbon, bandana, vest, or similar wearable item is a very visual way of showing that they need space and that you shouldn’t approach the dog or the owner. Only the dog and their people know how close is too close, so make sure you give them a wide birth and time to situate their dog in yellow as needed. If you have your dog with you, make sure you recall them too, and walk with them close to you and away from a nervous dog.  

It might also be beneficial for the nervous pup if you can avoid them entirely if there’s a chance your dog might bark, even if it’s meant as a friendly greeting since this might frighten a nervous dog.  

There are many reasons why a dog might be wearing yellow. They might:  

  • Have health issues, such as a recent surgery sore spot  
  • Be a rescue dog in rehabilitation  
  • Have a bad experience with other dogs, or just not like saying hello to overly friendly pups  
  • Be a female in heat  
  • Be in training  
  • Be very old and arthritic, unappreciative of being bounced on by puppies  
  • Be nervous or shy  

Many rescues are nervous and might be wearing the yellow ribbon or bandana. If they’re newly rescued, the owner themselves might not know how their animal will respond in certain situations, especially if they were living rough or were abused in previous households. The dog might have certain responses to seemingly strange and specific situations; some dogs can be nervous of particular genders, types of clothing, a specific breed, helmets and hats. A dog might respond to anxiety by showing aggression. Since you can never be sure of how they might react, it’s best to accommodate a dog in yellow by responding early.  

The yellow ribbon can be used for shorter or longer periods, depending on the reason and the individual pet. It might be shorter if the dog is simply in heat or while being trained and longer if the dog is just elderly or simply just anxious around other dogs. However, if you regularly see a dog wearing yellow while out and about, and they stop wearing it, make sure to still keep a little bit of a distance just in case.  

While we know it is super important for dogs to be socialised for their wellbeing and development, it is also crucial that we recognise the emotions an animal is going through while outside and when they might need more space. The Yellow Dog project hopes to encourage respectful dog ownership and teach owners to recall their dogs when they see a dog wearing yellow, well in advance to allow adjustment of position and preparation for coming close. It can help the socialisation of nervous dogs, even more, to be given space since they can grow used to being around other animals and people without experiencing adverse outcomes.  

It can be a massive setback for a reactive or nervous dog’s growth and training if they are approached, whether by a human or by an animal. Even a well-intentioned sniff from a friendly dog or a stroke in passing can be alarming and cause stress in animals that can even cause physical health problems if prolonged. Should a reactive dog come into contact with an unexpectedly aggressive one, it might become a trauma that gives them another struggle in life.  

People often assume that it will be acceptable to approach dogs and their owners with good intentions and positive interaction. However, children AND adults must always ask permission before touching any dog that they do not know. An already anxious dog can seriously become frightened by new and unexpected interactions. A dog in training might become distracted and disturbed by new meetings and miss out on a skill as a result.  

In short, it’s important to be aware of what yellow means on a dog and how you should respond if you see a dog wearing the colour. You never want to be why a dog becomes more anxious in public or has a negative response to being outside. If you feel your own dog might benefit from being allowed extra space from others while out on a walk, you can find them online for free from the Dogs in Yellow UK charity. Other yellow accessories, and even some toys that can help calm your dog, can be found online too.