The Yellow Ribbon – Good Idea or Not?!

The Yellow Ribbon (used to indicate a dog needing space) - Good Idea or Not?!

The Yellow Dog Project is a movement created for dogs that need space. By tying a yellow ribbon or something similar to the dog's leash you are indicating that this dog needs space, for whatever reason (or perhaps the human walking the dog... either way).

However, there has been much debate with this whole 'yellow ribbon please ignore us' movement. What do you think? Can you see the downsides? Are people taking it too far? Are we assuming the worst if a dog is wearing this ribbon on their leash?

Shortly after I became aware of the Yellow Dog Project, I read many blog posts and articles touching base on the potential downsides to this movement. After swaying back and forth and weighing in the good and possible negative sides to the yellow ribbon, I have formed my opinion.

The movement was intended to create awareness and provide a clear indicator that your dog needs a little more space. I think this is a great idea and positive way to make this statement. I've seen alternatives to the yellow ribbon, such as harnesses and leashes that have text printed on them saying things such as, "do not pet". I think the yellow ribbon leaves it wide open to the reason the dog may need space. My only hope would be that people would not jump to conclusions assuming that the dog wearing the ribbon must be aggressive.

While we as dog owners do control the situation that we expose our dogs to, I do believe that there are many unknowns in any given scenario. And ultimately you should be the one looking out for a dog you are handling that needs a little extra space, but if others are aware as well it will work much better. Just imagine walking in a neighborhood and rather than having to "shoo" off an approaching stranger that clearly wants to see the dog, they see the ribbon and understand. Now, for creating a wide awareness...

Articles have also stated that juries could be urged to treat the yellow ribbon as they have in the past with “Beware of Dog” signs - as an admission that the dog owner knows they have a dangerous dog. Luckily I have never heard of or been in a situation involving a case like this but I would not doubt it. But as the owner, I think you have to be the judge of the situation and your dog. Let's also remember that the ribbon is intended to represent dogs that are scared or skittish, may be in heat, recovering from an injury, etc.

There is also the argument, 'if your dog needs space, why should they be around others?’ I believe this is a very naïve statement and one cannot be certain that you will not run into another human or dog unless you live in the middle of nowhereville. We all need to take our dog for a walk and have to assume the chance of running into another dog, person, or child. Now bringing a dog that 'needs space' to a pet expo or dog park is another story.

After attending a public event with one of our dogs recently, it was brought to my attention that while some adults and children are very aware of proper ways to approach a dog, many are not. Luckily Rio who was with me at the time, is very good with people and wants to be 'ooed and awed' over just as badly as many of the people wanted to reach their hands in his face. It was a bit of an awakening but it proved to me that it is not always common sense to keep your own dogs (and hands) out of another's face. So I don’t think it’s safe to assume that the public will automatically respect your space; and while it shouldn’t have to take a ribbon to communicate this, it could help in the most-needed cases.

So while I do agree that there may be certain situations that pose unintended consequences, as sad as it is, I think with responsibility and researching the setting that you will be using the yellow ribbon in, could be a great benefit and help educate others. And keeping with the original intended use, this is a positive way to communicate that a dog needs space.

What do you think? Can you see the downsides? Are people taking it too far? Are we assuming the worst if a dog is wearing this ribbon on their leash?

I love this poster below:


You can print posters here & here and visit my blog at

-Sarah Lukemire

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Positively Expert: Sarah Lukemire

Sarah Lukemire is a pet blogger at, where she is raising positive awareness and fighting the negative stereotypes associated with pit bull type dogs, networking bully breed dogs in need of adoption rescue, as well as sharing recipes and tips for dog owners. Her mission is to change the perception of bully breeds.


16 thoughts on “The Yellow Ribbon – Good Idea or Not?!

  1. Henry

    Whenever I mention this scheme to dog owners in the UK, the reaction is positive, but swiftly followed by the caveat of "I've not heard of it, so why would other people understand?", which is something of a catch 22. Ideally the scheme would be adopted by a number of the larger dog charities here, or at least education supplied when taking on dogs.

  2. Kerrie

    I think it's a great idea. My dog doesn't play well with other dogs so I walk him later at night and will always avoid other dogs, but if someone is walking their dog off lead, it lets them know that I don't want their dog coming up to mine and they have time to put them on lead.

  3. Bowick

    Yeah, it's a fine idea, but IMO the chosen symbol it needs to be more obvious to all the people in the world who have Not and will never read one of these articles. To most people a yellow ribbon on a dog just looks adorable, and may make them even MORE likely to approach the dog, since it stands out. Something less cute than a little bow would be better, and red or orange would be more obvious as a cautionary symbol.

  4. JH

    Hello, this is my third attempt writing a reply. The others were just too long.

    I like this idea with the yellow ribbon, but first might want to look at a different color as yellow and pink are both taken for highly visible circumstances. Purple is for lupus and a few other awareness programs. It just makes sense to use a different color or color combinations (how about yellow and orange?)

    However, in this case the ribbon isn't for's for action or inaction. The awareness portion it's the marketing and press involved to get people to recognize why they are seeing the ribbon on a dog or leash and do in an instant they can make the right decisions to give room to the dog and handler.

    I know that people can say they understand something but when they see the device, they are suddenly in the group of I never heard of that before you just told me or I ignored it on purpose. I am disabled and have a service dog. Each time we are in public, people try to gain her attention, pet her, etc way before they ask me if ok...or even say hi to me. Mine it's a 130 pound Black Russian Terrier. Awesome dog and very smart. She has a fall of hair over her eyes like a sheepdog and similarly she does see through it. In doctor's office, we were in the waiting room, I sitting, she lying down on my feet as I like her to do. The man comes out and walks to the door to leave. He stood and starts moving his body in different directions and then waves his arms. I looked at him and he then said, you need to cut her bangs because she can't see. I said yes she does see, but she knows her job and she's working. He then asks to pet her. I said no she's working. He then gets mad at me. At a later appointment we see each other again where he apologized and said he knows about service dogs and he's sorry for trying to distract her. He didn't realize what he had done until he got in his car and went home. Same day an hour later,I was in a different waiting room that was empty. An older lady is walking out the door. Stops. And comes back in to sit beside me and starts to pet my dog. I asked if she was in the habit of petting oxygen machines. She: what?. Me. You are petting my service dog and as she it's legally medical equipment, it's like you are putting an oxygen machine.She quickly removed her hand. Avoiding the entire time. Suddenly another last enters and says something like Mom, you know better than to mess with a service dog. Turned out the older one has inadvertently started petting my dog again.

    My point is that even if an appropriate color and ribbon is created and used by the owners of such dogs, it's still up to the owner to try to stop a situation from occurring. If the dog cannot handle being around other dogs, then don't go to the annual "Bark in the Park" that your city has each spring. Don't assume that the ribbon by itself will keep people away and make their dogs stay away. Always be observant. And remember, if even having a 130 pound Black dog with a very large dog vest with patches all around it and on the leash saying stay away and such doesn't keep people away asks doesn't keep them from petting her, then a single ribbon won't do the job either. Even the nicest people have off days, same as dogs. Turned out neither of those two people expected to see a dog at a doctor office, so they didn't behave as even they thought they would have until later.

    If the yellow ribbon our whatever color makes it, which I hope it does...Then we all so need to be responsible. Short aside...the house community uses ribbons to show a quick visuals things like horse bites our if you are too close to the rear horse kicks. So ribbons can help. But we are asking for all walks of people to recognize it not just those at a dog show. I wish those involved good luck...and Ms. Victoria...I absolutely love your show. Thanks for showing people that there are humane ways to train dogs and reasons behind dog behaviors.


  5. Valentina Montoya

    I agree, specially with children who are the 1st to rush to touch an unknown dog, and if the parent is not there to tell their kid not to approach the dog (ribbon or no ribbon) why would it even cross their minds that a yellow ribbon is a warning indicator? The leads and collars with writing saying "I NEED SPACE" "IM NERVOUS" etc i think are more obvious, but still, they attract the attention of people (which means the people stare and give eye contact to your dog) and draw them towards your dog...not away from your dog. Best thing to do if your dog is nervous/fearful is to avoid putting them in those situations and trying to gradually work on improving their confidence bellow threshold. that way you avoid these situations. Teaching kids and adults about how to approach dogs should be a start too. I have a dog who is skittish, and ive avoided situations that make her uncomfortable while also working on improving her focus on me in day to day life, so that i can then apply it to more difficult situations. Having a nervous/ fearful dog is hard work, but the best way to go about it in my opinion is to speak to people directly and educate them at the same time.

  6. LadyAtheist

    People who don't know how to treat a strange animal won't know what the yellow ribbon means, so I think just managing your pet and training are the better bets. My former dog was very skittish and would hide behind me - very appropriate behavior in my opinion - and yet people would reach around me to pet her head even if I reinforced her message by saying "My dog is shy please don't touch her". She had no choice but to snap (didn't bite, fortunately).

  7. LadyAtheist

    I think a skull and crossbones would be great! My shy dog was the cutest little thing but really really did not want to be touched by strangers.

  8. Jrferg

    I think it's a great idea. As an owner of a very fearful dog I think if we can help get the word out about this we should. People need to understand that there is a difference between an agessive dog and a reactive dog but either way I think this might help.

  9. Erin

    My dog is partially blind from unknown abuse he experienced before he came to me. He's a sweet loving guy but comes across like a vicious maniac because he's afraid. I don't take him for walks because I have a fenced in yard and he doesn't need to go out very often. Luckily, when I take him to the vet, I've developed a plan. I go in first to make sure the coast is clear then I get him from the car. Saves my sanity on more than one occasion. He's also ridiculously prey driven and wants to eat cats and small dogs. He's squirrel crazy as well. I don't care about the squirrels but I would be heartbroken if he hurt a cat or a small dog. I may one day use a yellow ribbon but I think the caution leads would work better.

  10. Gia Mejia

    the only problem I can see with these are for people that get easily offended about everything. Don't worry why the dogs needs space, he doesn't want you in his face.

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