Live in the U.S.? DON’T Tie a Yellow Ribbon on Your Dog’s Leash

yellow ribbon on dog leash
Sounds like a good idea — but it isn’t. It’s being used by lawsuit-happy attorneys as an admission that the owner knows they have a dangerous dog.

One of the memes making the rounds on Facebook urges dog owners of shy or skittish dogs to tie a yellow ribbon onto the dog’s leash. The idea is to alert other people that the dog is afraid, so they will give it space. But that isn’t the effect it’s having in many parts of the U.S.

American juries (urged on by plaintiff’s attorneys) are using the yellow ribbon the same way they’ve been using the “Beware of Dog” signs for years: as an admission that the dog owner knows he has a dangerous dog. And your dog could pay with its life if it’s labelled as a “known dangerous dog”. The dog doesn’t even have to bite anyone. In Texas and a number of other states, it’s legal to shoot a dog if someone is “reasonably” afraid of it.

People already use laws like that as an excuse to shoot some breeds on sight — but a police officer in one Texas town shot a Lhasa Apso when serving a warrant for unpaid traffic tickets at a house that had a “Beware of dog” sign on the fence. He heard a dog barking, and simply shot towards the sound of the bark since the owner had labelled their own dog as dangerous by posting the “Beware of dog” sign.

The DogKnobit blog recently carried a post on this subject that perfectly sums up my thoughts. “On one hand, I think we presume too much ‘dog savviness’ on the part of the public. I’ve been a dog fancier for thirty years, but if I’d never seen this poster on Facebook, I wouldn’t have known the significance of a yellow ribbon on a dog leash. Because I am a dog fancier, however, I also know there are better ways to deal with the situations listed on this poster than using a ribbon to ask for ‘space.’

“Responsible dog owners have control over the environment  to which their dogs are exposed, as well as the degree of ‘saturation’ in that setting. If a dog has health issues that require minimal contact with other dogs,  should the dog even be in such an environment?  And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting? And finally, isn’t it just plain common sense and courtesy to keep one’s dog from getting in another dog’s face?”

I love my dogs, and I love taking them places. Three of my four dogs are friendly, get along well with other dogs, and adore children. The one that doesn’t is the smallest and cutest of the bunch. No one seeing her would assume she could bite. She’s so adorable that children (and adults) feel the need to rush towards her to “cuddle”. A stranger rushing toward her scares her, and she instantly stiffens and begins to growl low in her throat, but that doesn’t deter some of the would-be cuddlers. (Idiots. If a dog growls, back off, no matter how little and cute the dog is.) So, while I adore Suchi, she doesn’t accompany us to public events.

Which dog will bite?

My largest dog — Jack — is the friendliest. Three of my four dogs have earned “Canine Good Citizenship” awards for being well-behaved around people, in crowds, and small children: Jack, Jasmine, and Raglan. The fourth, Suchi, is a little fluff-ball that everybody wants to cuddle. However, Suchi (a black and white powder-puff who barely weighs 18 pounds) is an alpha female who doesn’t like strangers, and is very protective of her territory. So we don’t take Suchi out in public much. Our last alpha female — Dallas — was a mixed breed Tibetan Terrier/Lhasa Apso who was great until the pain from cancer made her grumpy. It’s my job as a responsible dog owner not to put my dogs in a place where they feel threatened.

Correction to Yellow Ribbon Meme from Down Under

It seems that the Yellow Ribbon meme being shared on Facebook has lost something in translation as it made its way from Australia (where it originated) to the States.  This correction arrived as a comment to my blog post from Pat Robards, of the K9 Events group in Australia, where the yellow ribbon idea originated. It’s too important to leave in the “comments” section, so I have added it (exactly as Pat sent it) to the blog post:

“I don’t think you guys are quite correct about the real facts of the yellow ribbon, it was never meant for the public originally  although  used by veterinary  behaviourists and certain veterinary clinics if the dog has a broken leg ‘please don’t let your dog run up to it and play’.

“The idea was brought back to Australia from the USA originally for our dog  for our dog clubs in the year 2000, 14 years ago now. You can read our ABOUT section here

“This  idea was ‘borrowed’ by Sweden then they founded Gulahund June 27th 2012 r e-packaging it for  pet dogs . Folk it seems overseas are muzzling dogs putting a yellow ribbon on them and it is such a shame  to see something that did no harm I helping dogs cope be given a bad name either by the reporting or those who use it :-(

“We are responsible dog owners like yourself, the yellow ribbon has  nothing to do with shelving responsibility, it is asking the idiots out there to control their animals so they cannot get into our dogs face or space. The same goes for people who think it their right to pat any dog  they see, why it started in the first place for my shy dog!

“Why did you use this old poster which features a  pit-bull,  hoping it wasn’t to give your story more reality, if so it  lacking empathy towards this breed  so I’m not impressed with your article that is not factual. 😦

Cheers Pat Robards Australia

I’m sorry I misunderstood what I saw on Facebook — but I fear others did, too. I’m very glad my new Australian friend took time to set me straight, and allowed me to reproduce his comment on my blog.

As for pit bulls, my favorite “grand-dog” is a red-nose named Tinkerbell, who lives up to her name. She’s the sweetest, friendliest, most lovable dog ever, because she’s been well-treated and well-trained all her life. The dogs who make headlines belong to bad owners, in my experience, while the great dogs like my friend Melissa’s Tex, or my son’s “Tink”, don’t make the news. I reproduced the Internet meme that was shared on my timeline by several friends without even noticing that the photo was of a pit bull, and meant no disrespect to the breed or responsible pit bull owners.

Be Wary of “Beware of Dog” Signs?

Like the yellow ribbon question, the use of “Beware of Dog” signs can have unintended consequences.  Juries have said that they awarded higher damages in cases where owners had “beware of dog signs” — and courts have ruled that the signs aren’t enough to establish that a dog is dangerous. But posting such a sign is more than enough to give a service person, meter reader, or delivery driver the right to refuse to come onto your property.

It’s also enough to give first responders the right to shoot your dog before they enter your property in an emergency. And if your dog does bite someone — including the annoying neighborhood kid who throws things over the fence or pokes his hand through the fence — it could give the kid’s parents more than enough ammunition to have the dog put down even if the dog doesn’t break the skin. (A bruise or red mark may be more than enough.)

There’s a kid in our neighborhood like that. It was enough to get me to replace the 4′ chain-link fence that had been around my back yard since 1959 with an 8′ solid wood privacy fence that encloses three sides of my 3/4 acre lot. (His parents have already sued two people for injuries to their precious little snowflake — an obnoxious kid who knows that mommy and daddy will believe whatever fairytale he spins for them instead of listening to the litany of complaints about his bad behavior. I don’t intend to be their third victim.)

The fact is that laws about dogs vary from city to city and state to state. In most places, just posting a “Beware of Dog” sign or putting a yellow ribbon on a dog’s leash isn’t enough by itself to establish that the owner knew a dog was dangerous. On the other hand, both have been used to justify draconian actions taken against the dog and the dog owner — so why take a chance?

Me, I’m going to keep doing what I think is best as a responsible dog owner. For me that means:

  1. Taking my dogs to obedience school and constantly reinforcing good canine behavior. This means not allowing the dogs to jump on people (even in play), and practicing commands regularly.
  2. Not putting my dogs in situations where they will be uncomfortable. I do take some of my dogs for car rides, and to dog-friendly events. But I don’t take all of  my dogs — only those who have consistently demonstrated that they are safe around unpredictable humans and noises.
  3. Keeping my dogs on a leash except in very controlled circumstances. Only one of my dogs (Jasmine) is allowed off-leash outside our back yard. And she’s allowed off-leash only in our front yard, retrieving balls or playing with an adult. She adores our 12-year-old (he is “her” person), but it isn’t fair to him or to her to make him responsible for her behavior. So if she’s out front with him, so is an adult she knows and trusts (my adult son, adult granddaughter, me, or my husband).
  4. Making sure that my dogs always have up-to-date tags, microchips, and current name tags with the correct phone number for me and my vet.
  5. Keeping my homeowners insurance current, and complying with all of the laws relating to dog ownership (current vaccinations, leashes the right length, picking up after them when we’re on walks, etc.).  The goal is to make sure no one has a reason to question my dog’s identity, or the fact that they are “safe” to be around.

It will never make sense to me that I live in a state where gun ownership is unrestricted, but dog ownership is heavily regulated, or that insurance companies don’t charge a premium to homeowners who have assault weapons — they can’t even ask about guns — but do charge premiums to homeowners with dogs.  But the law is the law, even if it is an ass (as Charles Dickens’s character Mr. Bumble said so eloquently).  So I comply with it — and vote for those who oppose breed-specific legislation and further erosion of my dog’s right to be safe on my property.

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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81 Responses to Live in the U.S.? DON’T Tie a Yellow Ribbon on Your Dog’s Leash

  1. Melinda S Harp says:

    Excuse me but I know a responsible dog owner that owns a reactive dog and therefore is extremely careful about when and where she exercises him. She is EXTREMELY responsible. Yet a man just chased her down the street with his dog even though she called to him please don’t, my dog is in training, hes 4eactove, go away, and she physically ran away from him. He CHASED her. She hid in an alley. He followed her. She had to death grip her dog, who walks with a muzzle, and scream for help, before the guy and his dog would leave. But please, tell me again how “responsible” dog owners are always in control.

    • Pam says:

      Um Melinda S Harp
      Excuse me but it sounds like your friend was in control of her dog. It was the other person who wasn’t. The author of this article isn’t talking about individuals such as your friend but was taking of people like the man. When the author is talking about being in control, they weren’t talking about being in control of the world but of an individual’s own behavior, that of their own dogs behavior and responding appropriately to a situation.

  2. Pingback: Dear Person Whose Dog « Just Wants to Say Hi » | Buzz Dogs's

  3. Cari's World: Through the Looking Glass - Life, Experience, and a Camera says:

    Hi there. I realize your post may be old but as I was sharing information with a friend I ran across it and wanted to say that although the poster with the Pit Bull was misleading I think that the post in general is a problem even though you’ve taken steps to accept correction.

    Three years ago my do lost his sight. Regardless of his blind dog leash people will still not be able to see it says blind dog until it can often be too late. As you may imagine he gets easily spooked by strange but well meaning dogs and humans if approached improperly. But this doesn’t mean my dog doesn’t deserve walks in the park or on the beach (on his leash). IF everyone who took their dog out publicly knew about something like yellow dog, just saying, then they would spot the yellow from a fair and safe distance and save certain dogs a lot of stress. And to say further, I walk my dog in less populated parks (dog speaking) and beaches and keep him from situations that might not be in his best interest. But, he’s a happy dog and as long as he’s able and willing I will walk him in public. I’m just sorry to see that yellow dog as translated in some areas became about dangerous dogs and not about compassion for animals who just need to be left alone or approached differently. I know if I see a dog muzzled there must be a reason and I respect it regardless.

    Again, I know this post wasn’t written recently but I felt as a blind dog owner I had to say anything that could help my dog and has be misunderstood gets my attention and I am pleased to see you took on board the corrections another reader gave you about what the intent of yellow dog was and what it has been adapted to for larger dog owning public means to people like me. Even if it’s not greatly used in public.

    • debmcalister says:

      Thank you for adding to my understanding of how the yellow ribbon might be used with a dog with a disability such as blindness. That is not a use I had considered before.

      As I have said, my problem is how unscrupulous people are using the yellow ribbon as an excuse to label a dog as dangerous– not the desire of loving, conscientious people like you to protect their dogs.

      Thanks for taking time to comment on this old post, and best wishes for many safe adventures with your dog!

      Regards, Deb

    • ev says:

      Boy do I understand what you are saying, my little dog was blind, I made a soft vest for her and put the words I am Blind in large letters on the back of the vest. People still tried to just touch her and some would ask what did the sign mean. I wanted to scream, people just read….

      • debmcalister says:

        I know — it’s so frustrating when people don’t even attempt to control their dogs or kids. I have a 10-year-old Gordon Setter/Irish Setter mix named Jack, who has the congenital form of epilepsy common to Irish Setters. Because of the relatively high-doses of phenobarbitol he takes to control siezures, we call him our “stoner dog”. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more laid back, easy-going dog. However, as he has gotten older, his joints have begun to hurt, and he doesn’t like being pushed or shoved, and will growl softly when someone touches a sensitive spot.

        We tried putting a vest on him that said “Do not approach — elderly dog with sore joints” and people ran up to “hug” him crooning, “Poor boy”. We simply don’t take him into crowded areas now. Luckily we have private property large enough for him to get enough exercise, but I miss being able to take him to art shows and other outdoor events.

        My friend is the sheriff in my county, and she had a blind dog (named Lucky — and he certainly was, as he was pampered and loved every day of his life). Lucky would snap at people who suddenly touched him, and the only thing that stopped them was when she made him a t-shirt that said, “Don’t touch me — my owner is an armed police officer.”

        Best of luck with your dog!

        Regards, Deb

  4. Tali says:

    Seems easy to me. A woman and her dog were going to greet my dog on my front lawn, her dog dragging her. I said, “please keep your dog away from my dog. ” she turned and left my property. Just control the situation and you’ll be fine, no ribbon needed. FYI, I was worried her dog might hurt mine, not the other way around.

  5. Jenn says:

    “And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting?”

    [being a responsible dog owner is]”Not putting my dogs in situations where they will be uncomfortable.”

    If this is the case, how do you expect the dog to ever work through the issues? I have a dog that is very nervous and people in my neighborhood are flat out irresponsible. I have full control of my dog at all times, they DO NOT. Thereby putting MY dog at risk. Do not allow your ankle biter on his retractable leash to charge at my 105 pound dobie shepherd and then get upset with me when my dog snarls at yours. Respect OUR space. If you want to say hello, ask first. Do not just charge at us. For this reason we use a yellow ribbon. My dog is not vicious and wouldn’t hurt a fly, unless the fly is hurting ME. He will protect me to his death.

    Years ago we didn’t need signs and special leashes because people exercised common sense and had respect. Now, because of irresponsible people, we have to have warning labels.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Jenn — Your dog is lucky to have such a caring,careful owner. I’m with you on the lack of common sense some people show about their dogs and their kids. I wish you the greatest success in helping your dog overcome her shyness. Regards, Deb

  6. Me says:

    I’ve read about this issue before (ie. yellow ribbon / ‘nervous dog’ sleeves mean the owner is admitting to owning an aggressive dog) and find it interesting, but I’m commenting because I really don’t agree with these quotes:

    “And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting?”

    [being a responsible dog owner is]”Not putting my dogs in situations where they will be uncomfortable.”

    We currently have a foster puppy that’s had a terrible life and is very scared of strangers, be it people or unknown dogs. How am I supposed to avoid putting her in situations that make her uncomfortable when from any corner an off lead dog or child can run at us, or some adult might cross the road just to stroke and talk about her?!

    I do my best to keep people and dogs away from her and keep her under threshold, but off lead dogs are everywhere in our village and children and adults alike constantly approach us.

    To begin with she had a lead with the word ‘NERVOUS’ on it, all down the length. Then we got a sleeve that said ‘Keep your distance’ and now we’re getting a nervous harness too. I am SO SICK of people approaching my dog and ignoring me when I ask them to leave us alone as she’s scared – it is not the handlers’ fault if people ignore what you’re telling them and approach your dog, and it’s not fair that our training gets pushed back every time!

    We have noticed the lead makes some people think better of approaching, but some idiots ignore everything we do and say…it doesn’t feel very fair to blame the owners for ‘putting the dogs in situations’ where they feel uncomfortable when there’s no way to avoid it :/

    • debmcalister says:

      What a lucky Foster pup you have, to have found a family who will work with her the way you are! I did not intend to come across as blaming the owners in a situation like yours, where you are working to train and socialize a dog. But you and I both realize there are people out there who simply don’t think try to keep their dogs safe, or train them properly.

      I love your idea of adding the sleeve that says “Keep Your Distance”! I personally think that’s much clearer than the yellow ribbon. My problem with the ribbon is that I don’t think most people know what it means, and it has been used against dogs and their owners.

      I wonder if a sleeve that says, “IN TRAINING — DO NOT APPROACH — NERVOUS DOG” running the length of the lead might be clearer? And I wonder if that, too, could be used against an owner?

      It’s very sad that responsible dog owners like you who go the extra mile to help socialize and train an abused pup have to worry about this kind of stuff, too.

      Best of luck with your girl — I hope the idiots stay clear of her as she learns to trust and accept new situations!

      Regards, Deb

      • Me says:

        Thank you. We’ve literally tried all sorts to get people to understand Pixie is nervous – she has a ‘NERVOUS’ lead, a ‘keep your distance’ lead sleeve, an ‘IN TRAINING’ lead sleeve and a NERVOUS harness too haha!

        The harness is new so if anybody tries to approach her with all that gear on I think I’ll just explode angrily at them 🙂

    • ev says:

      I’m just jumping in because I had the sweetest dog, a Carin, but her sister passed on to the Rainbow bridge, now my Cairn won’t let any dog come near her. We have been walking her (on a leash) at the park trying to get her over this but she still tries to go after dogs that the owners let the leashes out so the dog comes close. I have to hold my hand up and tell them to not let their dog run over. and I get ,why not she is so little and cute and my dog won’t bite. This is why I have been checking on the yellow ribbon, now people are saying this is wrong ? We are headed to the beach in hopes this will help her as she loves the ocean. Now sure what to do now.

      • debmcalister says:

        So sorry for your loss. The problem I’ve seen with the yellow ribbon is that so few people understand what it means that it’s fairly useless in alerting people to keep their dogs (and kids) away from a nervous dog. But if the unthinkable happens — as it did in my house recently when my 10-year-old canine good citizen Jack managed to bite one of the grandkids, resulting in a quarantine order from Animal Services — a yellow ribbon can be used to label the dog as a “known threat”. I wish I knew the answer for someone like you, but I don’t.

        Regards, Deb

  7. My issue with this is saying that you have control over the environment you take your dog into. . . not always possible. A dog that is leash reactive will only ever learn not to be my practicing being around other dogs. A dog that lives in an apartment complex does not have a backyard to exercise in, most of the time. Or what about people who simply don’t have a yard? Or one big enough? Or who want to give their dogs mental stimulation? No one should ever approach a strange dog being walked, regardless how friendly your dog is, you should be responsible enough to realize that not every dog is comfortable around other dogs, and even if they are, many people are training their dogs during walks, and we can only do that if we remain “the boss” and control all situations. We don’t need strangers approaching because their dog wants to say hi, we’re teaching our dogs that we will keep them safe by preventing such encounters. If you really want your dog to say hi, ask. From a distance. “He’s friendly, can they say hi?” and if the person does not respond (they may have earbuds in) or says “No” do NOT be angry or hurt by it, shrug it off. It doesn’t mean they have a bad dog, it could mean they are in a hurry, or they themselves aren’t fans of social encounters. I let someone who had the friendliest dog, but the owner was afraid of other dogs because of an attack as a child. . . you don’t know everyone elses’ life. Want your super friendly dog to get to say hi? Take them to a dog park, or a socialization class, or daycare. Make friends with other dog owners in your area, set up play dates, but do not approach strange dogs, and do NOT condemn owners who have leash reactive dogs for walking them. My dog, Lakoda, goes to the dog park, and daycare, and does absolutely beautifully. I am constantly being told how they can put him with any other dog and he does fine. But on a leash? He snarls and growls. . . now, once he actually gets up to the dog he does absolutely nothing, or tries to play, but the growling is scary enough I understand other owners fear. He is in training to work on it, and the trainer has repeated many times that the only way I’ll get him over it is to teach him other dogs mean treats/food from me! It’s a GOOD thing! I HAVE to expose him to other dogs in a safe, controlled setting. He is never off leash on walks, and I try to keep his attention on me when another dog is in sight. If he gets anxious/excited and I cannot get his focus, I turn around and move away and give the other dog some space before trying again. It may seem like I am not in control, but I am trying to get him to learn, and I promise our dog is safe or I’d have a muzzle on him. It may seem like I should just leave, but the trainer says not to, I need to keep giving him chances and seeing if we can have your dog pass by, with his attention on me. Do not blame those with reactive dogs, most of us are saving their lives. I got Lakoda, my reactive dog, when he was already a year old and already reactive. He was kept in a small kennel with a bunch of other dogs and was attacked. He was walking once and was attacked. Strange dogs are scary to him! I rescued him and am working with him so he can have a good life, and I shouldn’t be made to feel bad because he’s not perfect, no one is perfect, and we’re both trying to make it safe again. So, great article, BUT I cannot disagree more with the idea that shy/reactive dogs being forced to stay locked up. They should always be On Leash, but to say you cannot walk them is cruel. Have an aggressive dog? Muzzle it, but walk it! You don’t solve a problem by ignoring it! Work with a trainer, take their advice, do your part to make the encounters safe, but walk your dog, even if you need to use a cage muzzle (so they can still pant) to do so, the dog’s life still greatly benefits from the walk, and they learn they’re safe. If they’re just aggressive, find a trainer who is practiced and dedicated to aggressive dogs, follow their advice, use a muzzle, everyone needs to do their part to keep their dog safe, that’s the end of it. I have a leash for him that says I NEED SPACE, that I made. It has stopped people from calling him from ACROSS THE STREET, and in pet stores when I am trying to pay, and solved a vast number of issues. But it clearly says that he needs space, not that he is dangerous. A yellow ribbon wouldn’t tell me anything, perhaps they are supporting childhood cancer awareness, etc. . .

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Ravyn — Thanks for the excellent comment! I certainly never want to say that a shy or overly reactive dog shouldn’t have exercise. Since I’ve never lived in an apartment, I hadn’t actually thought what it would be like for an apartment dweller with a much-loved but not well socialized dog.

      Working with a trainer, and taking the time to help your dog learn that he is safe is definitely the right, loving thing to do. Thanks for the comment, and for being such a good friend to your canine companion!

      Regards, Deb

  8. playbows says:

    I’m coming to this about a year late, did a Google search of warning vests for reactive dogs and found this. Good to know about the yellow ribbon issue…I use a leash that is bright orange and says NO DOGS, and I’m sure the same attempt to use it against me and my dog could be made by particularly litigious people.
    I have to get a word or two in about the reactions to this Scott character’s comment. I was enraged by it, as I always am by ridiculously ignorant, myopic dog owners, but I was delighted to see that so many sensible people weighed in (and, not coincidentally, blew him out of the water with cohesive arguments and intelligent writing…he sounds like a Brit, didn’t his people originate this language?). How desperate, to write PLEASE READ twice, like a small child yelling “LOOK AT ME!”
    Everyone else was fairly polite, but I won’t be. Maybe it’s my 20 years as a New Yorker, or maybe my 8 years as a dog trainer, or maybe my 6 years of ownership of a fear-aggressive dog. I think this commenter should be put down. His kind…the kind that breaks the law by unleashing his dog and then suggests that law-abiding but “imperfect” dogs be muzzled or killed…is the kind that has made my life a living hell. I’m tired of sugar-coating for sociopathically selfish and stupid people.
    My dogs and I were attacked by an aggressive dog that had escaped from his collar last year, and my hand was mauled when I pulled the dog off of my male. He was already sensitive about being approached by uncontrolled dogs, and the attack cemented permanent trauma. I say permanent because while I work constantly to reinforce a positive reaction to controlled dogs, off-leash dogs are everywhere in our neighborhood (which is crazy to me since it’s a huge, unsafe city), and as one of the sane commenters pointed out, it is impossible to train a dog to be calm when he is leashed and vulnerable and faced with a completely free and spastic dog. Positive reinforcement/desensitization training requires that the human be in control so that the dog does not feel he needs to handle approaching dogs. I have to have time to see the approaching dog myself and give my dog a treat BEFORE he notices the dog and has time to become fearful. Of course I do my part and am constantly alert. But when off-leash dogs approach us, the control is taken out of my hands and placed into my dog’s jaws.
    NO, these dogs should not be forced to wear a muzzle at all times. I carry one attached to his leash, for instances when it can help and is safe, but because I have seen large dogs off-leash as well as small, I will not strap shut his only means of defending himself in case the owners of those large dogs turn out to be as stupid as they look and don’t actually have control (it is unfortunately true that people who put the happiness of their dog ahead of the welfare of their community are often delusionally narcissistic). He was, after all, made this way by an attack. A muzzle would torture him.
    NO, these dogs should not be put down. How hypocritical that we adore the unconditional love we receive from our dogs and yet expect perfection of them? They are animals. We can train them, but they are not robots. And I SINCERELY doubt that Scott’s uncle’s dog is perfect. He ran up to the lady’s dog “as dogs do?” Dogs DO usually understand physical cues that say “I’m not friendly, I will #&@% you up,” so I guess his dog is so inbred and far-removed from his wolf ancestors that Darwin would say there’s no room for him in a healthy world. If he’s looking for a truly natural environment for his dog, he has to accept survival of the fittest.
    All that is required of people like Scott is attachment of a leash. That’s it. Poor, poor downtrodden baby. Grow up and sprout a brain.

  9. scott says:

    I was walking my uncle’s dog today up the park, i let him off the lead to let him have a nice run around, when he raced to the top where a lady and her dog where walking, as dogs do he went to see the dog and the lady said “my dog will hav him!” and i said “well your dog doesn’t have a muzzle” she said well ” can’t you see the yeloow ribbon” it was impossible to see a “TINY SPECK OF YELLOW” , when i was at the bottom and she the top I took my dog away from this lady and her dog and check my dog for bite marks.
    personally in my opinion and being in dangerous distance of this yellow collared dog i think that these dogs should by law all have muzzles on always on leads or be put down beause i think a tiny yellow ribbon i going to do anything it’s a stupid idea as u cannot see it unless your 3 metres away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • debmcalister says:

      Even if you had seen the yellow ribbon, would you have known what it meant? Also, your story points out a key point: dogs don’t know what a yellow ribbon means.

      That said, putting a dog down for wanting to protect himself seems a bit extreme. I am glad neither you nor your uncle’s dog was hurt, and the incident didn’t cause any lasting damage to you or the other person and their dog. I never allow my dogs off their leash or leads in a public park, and your story is a good example of one of the primary reasons why.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment! Regards, Deb

    • Joe says:

      Seems to me it’s you who might want to rethink your ideas about letting your dog off leash. Most cities have leash laws and dogs are only allowed off leash in designated areas. You not having control of your dog is the issue, not the lady and her dog. Whether she had a yellow ribbon or not, not all dogs are comfortable with other dogs coming up to them. Both you and her should have the dogs under control when greeting. And your ideas about putting those dogs down because they are not friendly seems a little extreme.

    • Yikes. Putting the dogs down? I think the expectations we humans have for all dogs is unrealistic. Why should a dog automatically be OK with every human and dog that ever crosses it path? Oh right because TV and cartoons showed us it should be that way so it should. Dogs feel threatened, get scared, get excited, and can overreact just like us… and again just like us those emotions that trigger fight or flight responses lead to different actions in different dogs. Dog parks are scary places for a lot of dogs. I refuse to take my basset hound to them at all anymore because they made him way too anxious and it was impossible for me to prevent other dogs and people from wanting to approach him. I started positive reinforcement ONLY for my dogs two years ago and I saw the light! Dogs do give warning signs that they may bite long before a bite happens. They pant, they put their ears down, they look at the ground, they stiffen up and freeze…. yet to a person who doesn’t understand dog language or just doesn’t understand THAT dog’s language they may totally miss a dog’s stress signals all together.

      Dogs need their owners to be their assertive voice. To take the time to consider and understand their needs and put them before their own human desires of having a cool dog that everyone loves. It’s a lot of work! I was lucky with many of my childhood dogs but then ended up with a neurotic basset hound that has taught be so much about “dog psychology”.

    • Amber says:

      It is YOUR responsibility to keep YOUR dog under control. Running up to another dog without knowledge of whether that dog is okay with others is not OK. Dogs are allowed to be outside the property as long as they have a leash on them. I completely agree with Josh. Most cities (and states) require your dog to be on a leash unless in a place where it is understood that all dogs are allowed off leash, such as a dog park or dog beach. It is well known that many dogs have leash aggression when another dog comes up to them unexpectedly. How would YOU feel if another person you had never met came up to you while you were trapped in a corner? It’s the fight or flight response: if you are unable to run away, you try to defend yourself.

      I had a great Dane not long ago who developed leash aggression BECAUSE so many small dogs had tried to attack her while she was on leash and they were not. Our year in an apartment complex completely ruined her. When she did go after another dog she did not break the skin and let go when she realized it was not a threat. Yet when someone who had a leash IN HIS HAND and allowed his dog to come running up to her, they tried to blame me for their dog getting bruised. She didn’t even have any broken skin, and it was HER OWNER’S FAULT. Five other people witnessed the event and agreed with me that the other owner had no right to try and charge me for it. Sadly it was her last opportunity to be in the park, which she had always loved because she loved people, both children and adults.

      • debmcalister says:

        I am so sorry that happened to your Dane! They are generally such loving dogs. And, you are right that it is my responsibility to keep my dogs (and my children) under my control so that they don’t precipitate an incident with someone else’s dog.

        This was brought home to me recently when we took two of our four dogs (one large, one small) to an art festival in a part near our house. Typically, we take two on Saturday, and the other two on Sunday. Not this year. On Saturday, we were confronted with no fewer than three barking, aggressive small dogs who were off leash while their owners laughed as they ran at other dogs and at people. Then, we were confronted by six different children who ran up to grab at our dogs without asking permission.

        We went home early, and did not go back the next day. I was appalled. I’m quite sure that if one of my dogs had even snarled at any of the kids we’d have been confronted with demands to have them put down, and probably a lawsuit as well. Yet these parents thought nothing of allowing their children to approach strangers and their dogs.

        You’re absolutely correctin your comment — thanks for sharing it!

        Regards, Deb

    • kerriJ says:

      Why were you letting your dog run up to unknown people and dogs in the first place? Her dog was with her and didn’t run off. It was your responsibility to keep your dog under control and with you.

  10. Shoshana says:

    I was just researching yellow leashes and came across your blog. I was thinking about getting one for my pup for us to use while she is healing from being bitten by a neighbor’s two off leash dogs. She is now well enough to go for short walks.

    After reading your blog, I have reconsidered getting the yellow leash. Because she resembles a pit bull, if someone was to misconstrue the purpose of the yellow leash and think she was dangerous that could get bad. We’re in Texas. She is not dangerous, she’s healing. She didn’t even try to bite the dogs that attacked her!

    We currently aren’t taking her to general dog events or pet stores, just for neighborhood walks. And our neighbors who walk their dogs on leash are all very good at avoiding other owners walking dogs on leash. So I realized that really, the dogs we have to worry about are the off-leash dogs and they don’t know about yellow ribbons or leashes! For the most part all the loose dogs are escapees from back yards and front doors, not people walking their dog off leash.

    As far as “Beware of Dog” signs, most of my neighbors with dogs have them on their fences. We don’t because she’s never out there alone. All the meters are outside the fence so there is no reason to be back there without permission. I have considered a “Dog on Premises” sign or one of those signs for emergency responders though for the front door.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi Shoshona,

      Yes, you’re right that many of the “off leash” dogs I encounter are escapees (or strays) — or worse, abandoned pets whose city-dwelling owners “set them free” in the country. I have a small (18-pound) Tibetan Terrier named Suchi who is quite the escape artist — it cost us quite a bit to reinforce the fence around our back yard to keep her from digging out. I met more of my neighbors the first year we had Suchi than in the 20 years we lived in the neighborhood before as we chased her down, or they brought her home following the directions on her tags.

      And, of course, dogs don’t recognize a yellow ribbon. I have an ongoing discussion with a family member who has a very friendly, now elderly St. Bernard who wouldn’t hurt a fly — but has a “Beware of Dog” sign on the back yard and front window in the mistaken belief that it will keep them from being sued if a neighborhood child is injured by the dog. (The only way the dog would injure a child is if they fell off while trying to ride her — she is a sweetie!)

      I have one of those “Please save my dogs” stickers on my front door as well as my garage door and the fence, telling first responders how many dogs I have. But we also have a dog door, and the dogs are trained to go outside if the smoke detector goes off and to stay there until they are called back in. (Of course, in a real fire or carbon monoxide leak, I’d worry that the dogs and the humman resident wouldn’t make it out before being overcome by the fumes, but that’s just my personal nightmare talking, I think.)

      As I have said several time, I love the idea of the yellow ribbon as agentle warning to dog lovers to give a dog some space, but I worry that unscrupulous people are abusing it and treating it as a “label” that can cost a dog its life.

      Thanks for your insights and thoughtful comments! Regards, Deb

    • Amber says:

      After reading this, I suspect I would rather use a “Do not trespass” sign rather than a “Beware of dog” sign. It suits the purpose, but does not let anyone know it is due to a dog

  11. Terri G says:

    I’m just looking for some input. I was actually considering the whole yellow ribbon thing because I have a dog who doesn’t like other dogs outside of her own family; we also have 2 others. Anyway, my husband and I were out walking our 3 dogs today (all on a leash), in our gated neighborhood, which usually has no dogs anywhere in sight because there are still very few houses. But, today we rounded the corner and here is a person walking her dogs, both OFF leash, and of course, she picked one up, and the other one quickly ran toward our dogs. I quickly scooped up my tiny one, my husband had the one who doesn’t like other dogs, and of course, as luck would have it, her dog immediately ran up to our persnickety dog and put his nose right up to hers, and she immediately snapped at her dog. My husband quickly picked her up too. It all happened so fast we hardly had time to think, but who is at fault in this situation?

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Teri —

      I am not a lawyer, so anything I say is just one person’s opinion. But this is a good example of a place where the yellow ribbon would be little help, and could cause problems. First, it sounds as if your husband’s quick thinking kept either dog from being injured — and since your dogs were on leash, and hers were off leash (which I presume is illegal in your town, as it is in most cities), common sense would lay the blame squarely on her irresponsible behavior for causing the situation.

      That said, think about what might have happened if you had a yellow ribbon on your dog’s leash. It wouldn’t have kept the unleashed dog from running up. (Dogs don’t know what a yellow ribbon means, even if their owners do — and I remain unconvinced that very many owners do know what it means.) But it might have labelled your dog as a “problem” animal. That could have been enough for a homeowner’s association board or a lawyer to lay the blame on your dog, which strikes me as unfair.

      I am glad things didn’t escalate, and that you and your husband, as well as all of the dogs involved, were uninjured. Best wishes, Deb

  12. Kate says:

    Isn’t it nice where you have a back yard where you can isolate your skittish dog! Not everyone does. And those who are apartment dwellers do have to walk their dogs occasionally, and that puts the dogs in danger of encountering people and other dogs. While I agree that most individuals don’t understand the yellow ribbon, perhaps it would be good to educate them, in the same way many individuals need to be educated about not approaching service animals.

    You mention the importance of training, and I agree. The skittish dog must be trained. I even understand muzzle training, because I also feel strongly that it’s the dog owner’s responsibility to keep the public safe from their canine companion. But there will come a point where the training includes interactions, and why not take every possible precaution to control those interactions?

    Sadly, there are large numbers of frightened, mistreated dogs (and not just pit bulls, but dogs off all breeds and sizes) in shelters looking for homes, and some of these dogs may not react well to the confusion of a new home and exposure to many strangers. It’s the owners responsibility to protect that dog from excessive unwanted attention as well as protecting the public from a dog whose behavior might be unpredictable, and one way to do that is with the yellow ribbon… something that trainers also advise.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Kate —

      I am in favor of taking precautions to control the interactions that dogs have during training (and after adoption, surgery or at other times when they need some extra space). My point here is that most people don’t know what the yellow ribbon means, so it won’t affect their behavior. Worse, some people have used the yellow ribbons to have dogs put down, making the claim that the owner “knew or should have known” their dog was dangerous.

      I don’t think the blame belongs on a dog who reacts to some of the ridiculous stunts humans pull — rushing up to a strange dog, or allowing their children to poke at a dog, for example. But, unfortunately, many of us live in places where the laws do not favor animals, so it’s up to us as owners not to create a situation that can be used against our dogs.

      Thanks for taking time to comment — and for caring about animals.

      Regards, Deb

  13. Sharon Maddox says:

    I have a pit bull, a corgi, and a chihuahua out of those three only one is vicious. That would be the chihuahua. I also put signs that say ” Never mind the dog beware of owner” If I don’t know you and you come through my front door you’re likely room get shot.

    • debmcalister says:

      I am 61 years old, and only one dog has ever terrified me: a 4-pound chihuahua that belonged to a great aunt. As they say, it isn’t the size of the dog in a fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog! Aunt Virgie’s dog (Max) was a fierce protector and guardian.

      Regards, Deb

  14. probards says:

    Hi there Deb, folk still thinking it comes under the one umbrella don’t they.

    There are four organisations.
    1.Gulahund se. Gulahund in 47 countries state in part ” This program is NOT about or for aggressive dogs. Dogs that bite must wear a muzzle. You CANNOT!! REPLACE A MUZZLE FOR A YELLOW SIGN ON A DOG THAT BITES, whether you want to use the yellow signs, or not!”

    2. Space Dogs UK ‘ this program is not suitable for a dog with a bite history’.
    3. Yellowdog project (USA, Canada) I don’t know where they stand.
    4.Australia As per Gulahund

    Hopefully the turmoil the States doesn’t generalise to the rest of the world because elsewhere there is so much more going for it. Gulahund says “It can’t be misunderstood in those countries that are using yellow vests on working dogs, for example assistance dogs etc” so they are against vests for this very reason. IOW not one cap fits all!

    Oh it may be of interest Deb that Dog Scouts Of America Bandana has an Alert System for their troops using three colours of bandannas. They accept all dogs, even dogs with problems, this sounds very familiar yes 🙂 so was borrowed then borrowed again but always always under controlled situations.

    The original idea came from Terry Ryan USA – who borrowed it from DSA USA, then came to Australia in 1999 – 2000. Notice it originally came from organisations where everyone was familiar, knew about it, knew what it meant! The complaints we are hear now “why isn’t it more publicised”. “People don’t know what it means”. “People can’t see it”.

    The complaints are genuine! I’d not use it walking in unfamiliar places with my dog, at the vets I do because its known there.

    Cheers Deb!

    ~Pat Robards Australia

  15. Carole Davis says:

    My small dog and I were attacked by two Rottweilers. One bit through my thumb, puncturing an artery and a bone, while trying to rip my dog out of my arms. And they nearly killed her before they were pulled off by the owners. What happened to the dogs? A local Animal Control officer offered me the opportunity to file “dangerous dog” complaint, which meant a small fine for each dog. And they were quarantined at home for 10 days. Your stories seem like grand fabrications to me.

    • debmcalister says:

      Hi, Carole —

      That sounds like an awful experience. I am so sorry that happened to you. Where do you live? How long ago did this happen?

      I promise that I didn’t fabricate anything in this post. I either repeated information about specific legal cases from news stories or legal databases, or things I know personally from people I know personally (in “real life”, not just online).

      If it were me, I would consult an attorney about suing the dog’s owners. Depending on the circumstances, you should be entitled to at least the personal liability limits of the dog owner’s homeowner’s policy — typically about $50K in the U.S. If they don’t own a home, and are not insured, it may be harder to collect.

      I hope you and your pup recover well, with no long-term injuries!

      Regards, Deb

  16. The movement is not intended to warn people way from dogs that may be dangerous, but the ribbon is intended to represent dogs that are scared or skittish, maybe in heat, post-surgery, learning leash manners, deaf, or recovering from an injury. I use this for my blind dog, so I’m angry if people are co-opting it for dangerous dogs or pit bulls!

    • W says:

      Why do you automatically put “dangerous dogs and pit bulls” in the same category??

      • debmcalister says:

        W —

        I did not — in fact, I mention our family’s red-nosed pit, Tinkerbell, and the fact that she lives up to her name, spreading “fairy dust” and love with every wag of her tail.

        I said that some aggressive laywers and uninformed juries are using the yellow ribbon campaign as an excuse, and that it hurts families and their companions. I do not support breed-specific legislation, nor do I believe that a dog who is in training or recovery should be penalized because he or she needs some space.

        The purpose of this blog post was simple: to let people know that there are unscrupulous types out there who are misusing the tool, so that they can take steps to protect their dogs. That’s my goal — protecting animals.

        Regards, Deb

  17. Just another reason I will never live in Texas

  18. Shana says:

    Stupid one sided people! Wow!!!! Some dogs, even more so with humans, need a slow introduction back to society after experiencing something tramatic. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. When the *&#@ is EQUALITY going to be what this country really stands for.

  19. Jasper Jesperson says:

    When I first learned of the Yellow Ribbon Project I loved the idea. I own an, um, quirky dog who dislikes all dogs indiscriminately. Unfortunately I’ve learned that many people have an almost obsessive need to encourage their dogs to greet mine, despite my protestations. Saying “my dog isn’t friendly” can carry the same risk of admitting “guilt” even before anything has happened. Thus I thought “hmm, a yellow ribbon. Yes!”. Then I realized that if 2 out of 5 dog owners don’t respect my leash, which is obvious, visible and universally understood (or so I thought until I knew better) then they sure won’t respect or understand a bit of ribbon. I think they have their time and place at dog events (like the use of a red bandanna at breed gatherings to signify the dog needs space) and the posters have been good at spreading awareness. You’ve got me thinking about the new “traffic light” system of leashes, collars and harnesses. I imagine they could have the same litigious implications?

    I live in Canada where we don’t have quite the same level of lawsuits and shootings. I’ve got a Beware of Dog sign on a side window of my house and am seriously rethinking it. It’s not meant to warn people of danger but to make folks aware that there will be barking!

    • debmcalister says:

      There will be barking at my house, too — at least until someone gets inside the front door. And then there will be licking and cuddling unless the person uses the dreaded “D” word (down), or worse, the “O” word (out).

      I agree that some people are silly when it comes to encouraging their dogs to “make friends” with mine, regardless of my wishes. And, then, there are those who drag their children up to my dogs or don’t attempt to stop their children from rushing a strange dog. It boggles the mind!

      Thanks for your comments, and best of luck with your quirky dog — you sound like an amazing pet owner!

      Regards, Deb

  20. It shouldn’t take a special ribbon to tell people to have some respect for a dog’s personal space. You don’t know the dog, it’s not your dog, leave him alone. Common sense and common courtesy.

    • debmcalister says:

      You’re right, Cynthia — it shouldn’t take a special ribbon to tell people to show respect for our dogs (and for us). Sadly, common sense and common courtesy aren’t always commonplace.

      Regards, Deb

  21. J Dougan says:

    I’m glad I don’t live in USA anymore, what a load of nonsense that comes from that country. A simple yellow ribbon and education will help bring awareness to the general public, the dog needs space, for whatever reasons. It could be, recovering from an opt, old and sore, blind, deaf, afraid of other dogs/people due to bad experiences or a rescue dog who is receiving training. Considering our scientific studies and training methods are proving to be more and more successful only to to read,… should the dog even be allowed to walk in the environment or be around people, is why many dogs never have the opportunity to be rehabilitated. And it is this ignorance who help stoke up fears in people. As for beware of the dog….blame the manufacturers not the dog owners who are trying to be responsible by telling visitors they have a dog or two how many signs, where can you buy a sign that just says….. I own dog(s)???? Sue sue sue, what can I get out of it is all you ever say, never any common sense!

    • debmcalister says:

      I have a sticker on my door that tells first responders how many dogs I have. Not that anyone approaching my home would ever be in doubt that I have a “pack” considering the amount of noise they make when someone steps onto the front porch or sidewalk.

      But you’re right that it is very sad that such a simple thing as a yellow ribbon would wind up being the basis for a lawsuit — and that’s the point of this blog post. Thanks for your comment!

      Regards, Deb

      • J Dougan says:

        PACK……so far behind the times! When is USA going to catch up? There is no such thing as a pack of dogs and this is where your education fails the public. The laws should be changed and I wish you would look at Scotand Out of Control Dog Act, where the owner is responsible and not the dog as it should be.
        I would never advertise how many dogs I have, why would I make it easier for anyone who wants to break into my home? If I advertise how many dogs I have they will bring enough meat laced with poision to kill them all. Our dogs are allowed to protect us and if you are not invitied into our property then the dog is in the right!

  22. The problem is that the yellow ribbon idea is proposed as if it were “just fine to do” on virtually every Facebook group that deals with reactive dogs (with the exception of Reactive Dogs, where we actively prohibit references or links to it). Therefore, what might be a good idea in one country is offered as a solution in jurisdictions where it might be very harmful, as suggested in the article. The better solution is actually to stop being so nice, grab a canister of Spray Shield and use it if some ignorant person cannot control their off leash dog and it accosts your legally leashed dog! You have a right to protect your dog and yourself against any dog that is loose and threatening you. I think that’s probably true in any jurisdiction.

    • debmcalister says:

      Thanks for your comment, pawsforpraise — you’re right that the problem I initially wanted to talk about wasn’t the yellow ribbon campaign itself, it was the specific meme being circulated on Facebook. I think the meme I saw, and copied in this blog post, presents the idea poorly and does not give people the information they need as to whether or not a yellow ribbon is right for them. Add in the fact that — as so many comments have pointed out — some people are just clueless about dogs and will approach any dog, no matter what, and I still find that the idea isn’t right for any shy or uncertain dog given the legal climate here in the U.S.

      Regards, Deb

  23. Jo says:

    Can’t believe some people in here,think it is up to the owner only. If it’s not your dog then stay away! In fact don’t even go up and ask if you can pat it, leave it well alone. My dog will look very friendly but he is very very wary of strangers bending over him so I always tell people to not pat him and leave him alone. Still there are some who persist ‘ oh it’s ok I’m a dog person’ well he’s not a people dog! You wouldn’t go and ‘pat’ a complete stranger’s child why their dog?

  24. anna says:

    I am currently considering a yellow ribbon on my dog’s leash. But if the dog inside a grocery store (restaurant, dr’s office, etc) or wearing a harness or vest or obviously working can’t be ignored and left to his job, I doubt a yellow ribbon will increase awareness.

    Last month a supposed “service dog” got away from it’s owner and attacked my dog. Two minor but frustrating wounds and I now have a dog that is considering responding to ill behavior by “service dogs” in stores. If his understandable reaction to dogs barking at him cannot be turned around he will have to take early retirement from his job as my Service Dog.

    Unfortunately the type of person that takes their untrained and ill-mannered dog into a store, that lies about if their dog is or isn’t a Service Dog, will not understand or care about a yellow ribbon. Too bad the yellow ribbon doesn’t include a barrier to halt incoming dogs. Right now I’d be fine with an electronic shock for the offenders (dog and owner) but give it some time and I’ll calm down.

    There are other reasons to consider a yellow ribbon. I just want my dog left alone and not forced to interact with dogs or people while he’s working.

    • That should never have happened to you. I’m so sorry that someone’s selfish desire to have their dog with them all the time impacted you and your SD in this way.

      The separate issue of fake service dogs is an important one. People, if you have a dog that is not benign around other dogs, it is by definition NOT a service dog, and would have failed in any legitimate program. If you fake a service dog, you are not only breaking the law, you are creating difficulty for those individuals with disabilities who can train their own dogs, because some people want to limit the freedom to do that, which is currently allowed under the law. You are also a jerk.

      • stacia says:

        Please define emotional support dogs as taken on airliners and true service dogs. I wouldn’t want to be seated by such a selfish owner if any chance the dog wasn’t benign. I feel the dog would pick up on my anxiety about being so close to a strange dog and being a first time airliner flyer so why are these dogs allowed to stay on the owner’s lap regardless of their size and temperment. When I read this I am glad I don’t travel, yet.

      • debmcalister says:

        Hi, Stacia —

        I don’t understand. I’ve never been on an airplane where dogs are allowed to stay on an owner’s lap “regardless of size and temperment”. The only dogs I have seen on airplanes that weren’t in carry-cages under the seat were seeing eye dogs and those who are very well trained service dogs. And they are generally on the floor. Those dogs are very docile and very gentle, and very unlikely to be aggressive in any way.

        I hope that you are eventually able to overcome your anxiety about flying, and come to enjoy travel as much as I do. Thanks for your comment — and best of luck with exploring this lovely planet of ours!

        Regards, Deb

  25. Heather says:

    I have to take issue with your idea that a dog with issues should never be able to go out with its owner. I have a dog with issues–he is extremely fearful of some (not all) people, and will growl and go into a defensive crouch if approached. He has never bitten a person, but for some reason even a growling dog does not deter everyone from approaching and trying to “make friends”. Does that mean he shouldn’t get his twice daily walks? I try very hard to avoid encountering people on our walks (crossing to the other side of the street or just plain turning around and going in the other direction) but sometimes it is unavoidable. I also see no good way of working on my or any dog’s issues without some exposure to the feared stimulus. There is no way to simulate “stranger” at home for training purposes, and in any event dogs don’t tend to generalize. You can work on something at home or in class ad nauseum, and the dog won’t transfer its increased comfort level to walks around town.

    So, is the yellow ribbon perfect? No, it’s not, and I don’t use one. But I do think people should be able to walk their dogs without the fear that random people will just approach and try to pet the dog. Personally, when I jog or walk without my dog and I see someone walking a dog, I do everything I can to avoid passing the dog too closely because I don’t know that dog and I don’t know how it will react. Not sure why other people think it’s appropriate to walk right up to a strange dog and try to interact with it.

    • debmcalister says:

      I never said that a dog shouldn’t be allowed out or that people have no right to take their dogs out. I said only that some lawyers here in the U.S., and some people have used yellow ribbons and “Beware of Dog” signs as an excuse to sue dog owners or even shoot dogs. I suggested that the meme on Facebook was somewhat misleading, and did not express the original intent of the yellow ribbon campaign. Last, but not least, I said it is up to us as dog owners to protect our dogs, and do our best to keep them in situations where their fears and behaviors are easy to manage so that they don’t wind up getting hurt.

      Thanks for your comments — I do not think we disagree on this subject. Regards, Deb

      • Cindy says:

        Well, you kind of did say that “And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting?”. As someone who adopted an unsocialized dog with trust and fear issues, it is important to expose to her to people and other dogs and different situations to help her overcome those issues. How else do they become trustworthy?
        I agree with the fact that people are using the ribbons against owners in lawsuits and that has made me hesitant to use one myself. However, when I tell strangers to not approach my dog as she has issues with strangers and they continue to try anyway, I’m still going to get sued if she bites them.
        I have to say, I am completely flabbergasted at people who argue with me as to whether or not they can approach my dog.

  26. Petra S. says:

    With regards to the “Beware of Dog” signs. These signs are generic & can be bought at Staples & Home Depot. My understanding of them was always that their purpose was to let others know that a dog was present on the property & that anyone entering should be careful to close the gate, etc “Beware” means nothing more than “Be alert to”. It’s the sign manufacturers that started putting vicious dog pictures on the sign.

    I’d add that with regards to lawsuits…. you can have the same aw suit issue if you muzzle your dog. If you muzzle your dog in public, you are announcing that the dog is dangerous. In some areas this opens that dog up to being confiscated as a dangerous dog, even if it is always muzzled & never does anything.

    I’ve actually had people try to force my dog to bite them…. & not just my pit bull. Many years ago I had an English Springer Spaniel who was extremely protective of me. At one encounter, when I told someone not to approach the dog, the reply was, “Oh, good. It can bite me & I’ll sue you.” That person then proceeded to advance. At that point, I told him, “If you come any closer, I’ll scream rape & say the dog was protecting me from sexual assault.”

    • debmcalister says:

      Good point about the muzzle, Petra, and also about how awful some people can be.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Regards, Deb

      • Actually, you are not doing that with a muzzle, since muzzles are also used to manage dogs that have pica. My preference leans toward muzzles, for that reason, and more importantly because they prevent biting, which is the reason lawyers get involved in the first place. “Needs space” or “nervous” or other such labels are more problematic, as is the yellow ribbon, because if the dog wearing the ribbon bites, the question of whether the owner knowingly perpetrated an aggressive dog on the public is likely to come up.

  27. J says:

    There will always be exceptions, but as a rule, I feel that the yellow ribbon will do more good than harm.

    Our dog is sweet and loving and wonderful, but he has issues we need to work on. My dog isn’t vicious, BUT he is a rescue dog that we’ve had for a short time, and he doesn’t like it when strangers reach towards him, either to pet him or with the intention of letting him sniff their hand, and he nipped a man’s hand last weekend. We apologized for our dogs reaction, the man apologized, acknowledging that he shouldn’t have reached down there like that. Our dog was barking at him, and the man just wanted to let him know it was ok, and let him sniff his hand. Didn’t break the skin, no big deal was made out of it, but we are concerned. Our dog will be wearing a yellow ribbon while we work on this issue, as much as a notice to others as a reminder to us to let people know that he doesn’t like being reach towards. The yellow ribbon doesn’t mean you don’t have to try to “fix” your dogs problems, and it could save you from bigger problems. Yes, I suppose someone could use it as leverage in a case against you, if your dog bit someone, but it may help prevent a bite from happening. If a yellow ribbon will help us get to where we need to be, without anybody being bitten, I’m all for it!

    Not all the US is like Texas. I live in AZ and I’ve not heard of anything like what you mentioned happening here. And if there is an emergency in my home and first responders feel threatened by my dogs, then they need to do what they need to do. The first responders that I know, don’t just go around shooting dogs because there is a sign or a ribbon.

    • Tanya says:

      You may want to do research about the laws where you live. I did not know about or hear about anything like that in Texas. I lived in Texas most of my life. It wasn’t until the neighbor let his dog out and the dog went to attack my daughter in our driveway. Luckily she had our dog with her and our dog defended her. Our dog had some wounds from the attack. The sheriff informed us when he got there that there was nothing he could do since he didn’t actually see the attack. He also at that point informed us that we had a right to shoot the dog if it was loose and we felt threatened by the dog. I really did not know about that. I feel that many law enforcement officers use this as a loophole myself. I think it is something that needs to be adjusted. It is also a law that people with certain breeds of dog have to put a beware of dog sign on their property. This is not necessarily an owner admitting their dog is dangerous but an owner following the laws put in place because of bad raps on certain breeds.

      • debmcalister says:

        Hi, Tanya — I had the initial article reviewed by not one, but two attorneys, one of them a sitting district judge. I am not a lawyer, but I do live in Texas, and there is no law here that anyone needs to put a “beware of dog” sign up. If you know of a specific place in the U.S. where that is the law, I would appreciate the specifics, as a search of Lexis/Nexis (the legal database) did not reveal any such laws I could find except where the dog is a trained attack dog intended to protect property. (Not a family pet, in a residential setting.)

        Thanks for your comments!

        Regards, Deb

  28. Jo says:

    I was hoping the yellow lead/collar would take off in the UK to the extent people would understand to stay clear. My dog is a super cute and fluffy white 2yr old collie cross and people are attracted to him because of his looks and his wagging tail. But, and it’s a big but, he is a cruelty case and was ill treated for the first year of his life. With people he knows and loves he is fine and has learnt how to be much more confident and happy, however he is very wary of strangers and hates it when people bend over him to pat him. I have on numerous occasions asked people to leave him alone because he gets anxious (and he will snap) but usually the answer I get is ‘oh I’m a dog person it’s ok’ and then immediately bend down to him. My retort is that he isn’t a people person!
    I cannot avoid people when walking down the street and while I don’t take him into stressful situations where there are loads of people I don’t expect to have to explain myself and his behaviour to strangers. I was hoping the yellow collar and lead might do the trick for me.
    I’m so tired of people thinking they can walk up to any dog and put their hand out – it’s my dog (and myself) who will suffer the consequences of their actions if he does bite . Why can’t these people use the one brain cell they have?!

    (rant over 🙂 )

    • debmcalister says:

      I hope that your wonderful example of how to use the yellow ribbon correctly works for you and your canine companion.

      And you’re right. Why CAN’T people use their brains and keep their hands to themselves or teach their children not to run up to every “cute” dog they see?

  29. Juliette Harcourt says:

    Now you have started to concede that you misunderstood the YellowDog some dogs need space scheme, do you not think that it would be appropriate to change the name of this article and rewrite the incorrect portions. This isn’t simply a meme it is an established scheme in multiple countries.

    • debmcalister says:

      I understand the point, Juliette, but the way the meme is presented here in the U.S. IS misleading, and COULD lead to litigation problems for dog owners. Unfortunately, dog owners in the U.S. have a very real financial risk to deal with if they implement the program the way it is implemented in Europe and the Pacific Rim. I wish it weren’t so, but we have to live with the laws of our own country.

      For instance, here in Texas (where I live), it’s legal for anyone to shoot a dog (even one on a leash, or in my own fenced backyard) if “a reasonable person” might have felt threatened by the dog’s behavior. I don’t like that law, and regularly lobby to have it changed — but putting a yellow ribbon on my dog’s leash, or posting a “Beware of Dog” sign, or even a breed-specific sign like, “I love my (breed of dog normally considered dangerous)” could wind up giving someone the “right” to shoot him.

      That’s why I didn’t remove the post, and why I don’t think I am wrong in telling U.S. dog owners to be very wary of anything that might cause them litigation problems.

      Regards, Deb

      • probards says:

        Hi Deb,
        Could you correct your intro please as it is misleading. As Juliette points out the meme is in other countries quite separate from the USA, their laws may be quite different to your state laws in Texas. In Australia our laws are certainly different to yours.

        There are also different groups involved in the use of the yellow ribbon. My understanding is that the UK yellowdog is a branch of the Swedish “International Yellowdog Gulahund Program” who’s website is .

        The Canadian group “The Yellow Dog Project” is not related to the Swedish group. Their website is
        They learnt of the idea from Sweden and decided to go it alone.

        This is the story of how they began.

        Pat Robards

      • debmcalister says:

        Hi, Pat —

        I thought about your comments and Juliette’s, and changed the headline and first paragraph slightly to indicate that the legal and safety issues are specific to the U.S.

        I continue to see the “yellow ribbon” meme on Facebook posts from Americans, and our news continues to be filled with stories of dogs who have been shot and skilled by police officers, postmen, and “concerned parents”. It’s sad when even something as simple as walking a dog can create danger for both human and canines, but the yellow ribbon campaign simply doesn’t work for the average person walking a down down the street. It might work on the show circuit, or among knowledgeable dog owners participating in a situation where everyone understands the ribbon’s meaning. But it can endanger dogs (and owners) when used in everyday situations.

        So, sadly, I don’t think removing the post or changing the underlying advice to dog owners in the U.S. (especially here in Texas) is appropriate. Tying a yellow ribbon to your dog’s leash to indicate that he needs “extra space” can be hazardous to your dog’s life, because it can be used against you and your dog.

        Regards, Deb

  30. Pat Robards says:

    Gosh Deb, You are such a wonderful person! So great to see the real meaning behind the yellow ribbon, I can’t thank you enough! It was something I did for my dear dog Bo who was very very shy.

    I don’t want to be known as the originator as it is different now in many countries. I wanted it to be known as it was originally intended to be, for dogs unable to cope…. Thank you so much! ❤
    I hope you don't think I was rude, I wrote in the passion of the events and thought well… you wouldn't publish my reply – but you did! ❤

    Best regards!
    ~Pat xx

    • debmcalister says:

      Oh, dear! Pat, of COURSE I published your comment. I don’t want to stop people from doing something to protect dogs, especially not rescued dogs. I just don’t want people to misunderstand.

      I live in Texas, where it is legal to shoot any dog (on a leash, behind a fence, in its own yard, on farm property) if someone “reasonably” believes that the dog “might” attack.

      So a barking dog, behind a fence, who looks as if it might jump the fence, can be shot. First responders often shoot animals when serving warrants, or even responding to a 911 call for medical help. It’s scary.

      People think they’re protecting their dogs by posting “Beware of dog” signs, but they’re just giving people more reason to shoot — and I was afraid the yellow ribbons would be used the same way.

      A lot of the Facebook posts I saw that accompanied the illustration didn’t give the real purpose of the ribbon, and I misunderstood. I think others did too, so I really appreciated you taking the time to set the record straight.

      All the best, Deb

      • awesomedogs says:

        I live in Canada. My discussions with legal council indicate that a yellow ribbon is a bad idea here as well. While we are not as free with guns as the USA (I used to live there – it’s just different), legally it’s the same as the beware of dog sign.
        Many owners tie their dog’s poop bags to the leash. So I think that’s what most people assume they are seeing.
        I have yet to figure out how to teach an off leash dog to look for and respect a yellow ribbon on a leash.
        If your dog happens to get loose, and you’ve spent time walking the neighbourhood with a ribbon, and your dog does harm, a good lawyer may use that against you as an indication that you had prior knowledge of the danger the dog presents.
        There is also some concern being raised that various vests that are designed to do similar things are visually too similar to service dog jackets and working dogs. They draw people closer to ask, “Why does your dog wear that?”

  31. Mike says:

    I could not agree with this article more! Marking your dog with a yellow ribbon is putting the responsibility on “someone else” to figure out if your dog is a problem! It is the responsibilty of the pet owner only!

    • Pat Robards says:

      I don’t think you guys are quite correct about the real facts of the yellow ribbon, it was
      never meant for the public originally although used by veterinary behaviourists and certain veterinary clinics if the dog has a broken leg “please don’t let your dog run up to it and play”

      The idea was brought back to Australia from the USA originally for our dog for our dog clubs in the year 2000, 14 years ago now. You can read our “ABOUT here

      This idea was ‘borrowed’ by Sweden then they founded Gulahund June 27th 2012
      r e-packaging it for pet dogs . Folk it seems overseas are muzzling dogs putting a yellow ribbon on them and it is such a shame to see something that did no harm I helping dogs cope be given a bad name either by the reporting or those who use it 😦

      We are responsible dog owners like yourself, the yellow ribbon has nothing to do with shelving responsibility, it is asking the idiots out there to control their animals so they cannot get into our dogs face or space. The same goes for people who think it their right to pat any dog they see, why it started in the first place for my shy dog!

      Why did you use this old poster which features a pit-bull, hoping it wasn’t to give your story more reality, if so it lacking empathy towards this breed so I’m not impressed with your article that is not factual.:-(

      Pat Robards

      • debmcalister says:

        Hi Pat —

        Thanks for the clarification. Your explanation, and the history you provided, puts the yellow ribbon in a competely different context than what I’ve been seeing on my Facebook news feed in recent weeks. Something was definitely lost in the translation across the Tasman and Pacific!

        I used the illustration that’s making the rounds on U.S. Facebook pages — it was posted on over 20 separate pages I see in my Facebook newsfeed over the holidays. I certainly don’t lack empathy for pit bulls — my son’s dog Tinkerbell (a gorgeous, sweet-tempered red nose) completely lives up to her name and is my favorite “grand dog”. “Tink” is always up for a cuddle with anyone who approaches, and is a delightful canine companion. I used the poster because it is the only one I have seen on this subject.

        I really appreciate the clarification, and I am going to post your comment in the body of my blog post as well as in the comments section so that people understand how the yellow ribbon was intended to be used.

        Thanks for finding the post and correcting my error!

        Best regards, Deb

    • Heather says:

      All dogs that are unfamiliar to you should be avoided unless and until you politely ask the owner if it is okay to approach. Why do you think that you have the right to walk up to an unfamiliar dog and try to touch it? Not all dogs that have “issues” requiring space are vicious. Some (like mine) are extremely fearful of strangers or get overly excited and forget their manners.

      • debmcalister says:

        I agree — I have never walked up to a strange dog who was with people, and only rarele approach strays or “loose” dogs, and then very carefully. Unfortunately, not every parent teaches their child this lesson — and not every adult has learned it, either!

        Thanks for your comment — Deb

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