The Problems with Yellow…

I read a blog post last week that was a rather scathing attack on the both the YellowDog and SpaceDogs campaigns (they’re kind of the same thing, but with different names & sponsors etc). I didn’t read the full post – I couldn’t take too many glib comments from someone I believe should know better and could have been less subjective, so that’s what today’s post is for. As much as I think the concept is fantastic, it does have it’s downfalls, and I’m going to objectively discuss some of them.

Yellow ribbon

The two most obvious issues are: many people who should use the scheme won’t; and many people will misunderstand the idea behind the scheme. On top of that, people may use the scheme as an “excuse”, to take their fearful/reactive/badly or under-socialised dog out and about and think the yellow item will provide some sort of protective bubble to keep people away from their dog, and that they will never have to train or help their dog in any way.

So, who should use the “yellow schemes”? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these schemes were set up primarily for people who have dogs who are: unwell but still able to leave their home without putting others in jeopardy; recovering from illness or surgery; deaf, blind, or both; dogs who are undergoing training for a lack of appropriate and/or plentiful early socialisation; and dogs who have become reactive (i.e. fearful) after an unpleasant encounter, most often with another dog.

Yellow users

Sadly, many people with dogs who come under one or more of these categories don’t want to admit their dog has a “problem”, and with the medical causes (notwithstanding deafness, and treatable blindness), what starts out as a behaviour because the dog is unwell, can end up becoming a learned behaviour that is rather rewarding for the dog to perform.

Besides people who should be using these schemes often not knowing a single thing about them; the next biggest block to them is some of the people who do use the schemes.

There will – sadly – be people who misuse the scheme. They’ll slap a yellow ribbon on their dog’s lead and take him to a busy pet superstore on a Saturday afternoon, potentially blaming other people and/or their dogs for “making” their dog react, when in reality their dog should be left at home, or should be closely supervised at all times – not to mention undergoing training. Some of these dogs and their families may just need a little help from a qualified behaviourist, and some may be happiest with a quiet life of interactive toys and naps at home while their family has outings.

Don’t get me wrong – I have yellow ribbons, and I do use them for Starr and Inka, but not all the time. If I know that we’re going somewhere and they’re unlikely to be of use, the ribbons stay home; and regardless of whether they have the ribbons on or not, they always have the lion’s share of my attention.


In other news, yesterday was Inka’s “official” birthday, he turned three, and we marked two full years of him being part of our family.

In further “other” news, I’ve decided to take a blogging break for the summer. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of things to blog about, but this summer is shaping up to be a good one weather-wise, plus I have my Susan Garrett exercises to work on, as well as Denise Fenzi’s heeling courses; not to mention I need to get organised to take Starr to the vets to see about having her put on medication. If there is anything that needs shared I will – of course – share it, but otherwise enjoy your summer folks and I’ll see you in September!

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7 thoughts on “The Problems with Yellow…

  1. I like the idea of the yellow ribbon on a leash. Nelly is leash-reactive with other dogs and needs her space from them, and while I want to fix the problem, right now I simply do not have the time. While I know that most people aren’t going to understand what the yellow ribbon is, if she always has one on her leash it’ll be a good way to spread the word about it!
    It sounds a lot like the concept of a horse with a ribbon on it’s tail – a red one, I think? It means “stay back, I may kick”

    Of course, the ribbon would not even be necessary if people were to simply ASK before petting or letting their dog approach other dogs. I don’t know why people see a dog and always assume it’s going to be friendly with all people and dogs!

    • Yes, I think the idea did come from the “horse world”, but I don’t know enough to have that as my own fact – if you see what I mean?

      When you find that wonderful place where everyone asks before petting a dog (*and* listens to the response!), can you please tell me?

      • Sure, but don’t hold your breath!
        My current foster dog has extreme fear issues and I told someone no, they couldn’t see him or pet him, and she said “oh no its okay, all dogs love me!”
        Having an attitude like that is just begging to get bit by a fearful dog.

  2. Thanks for the post. For some reason I haven’t heard about it before, but I think the idea is brilliant. I hope it will spread – it could be very useful for some of my clients.

  3. I think I have to agree with you there. From working in Dog Law I’ve had many people coming up to me asking about this ribbon scheme, and whether they should be legally responsible for it if a dog or person decides to go up when they’ve been warned with a ribbon. Sadly it means absolutely nothing from a legal perspective.

    It’s the same thing as putting ‘Dangerous Dogs’ or ‘Dogs running free’ signs on doors. Okay, I can see why they do it and fair enough. But in any case the OWNER is responsible for the dog, completely. You cannot put all responsibility on a sign outside and hope for the best, it’s the same thing with this ribbon.

    I don’t disagree with the ribbon, if it helps then that’s great. But such a system cannot be regulated, properly used and supervised. If the dog has problems, the owner has to address those problems, whether that means training or exercising in secluded areas at quiet times of the day. It just makes me feel slightly uneasy that an irresponsible owner can just stick a yellow ribbon and leave all responsibility on other people.

    Great blog post!

    • Yes, uneasy is a good word to sum up the problems with this, or similar systems. I’ve seen many people brush off what could turn into serious behaviour issues, so giving them an “excuse” to keep doing it would be really bad.

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