Ask First, Pet Second: The Yellow Dog Project


Not all dogs are bouncing, bundles of joy, exploding with excitement to meet a stranger on the street, kids, or another dog. Some dogs, much like some people, are more solitary, don’t make friends quickly, or just need some space. Unfortunately, our culture as a whole sees a dog on a walk as free game to interact with. Many don’t understand the appropriate protocol to ask first, pet second.

Thus, the Yellow Dog Project was born. Its founder, Canadian dog trainer, Tara Palardy, started the movement after finding inspiration from a similar project in Sweden. Currently, the Yellow Dog Project has spread to forty-five countries.

The general idea is that if you have a dog that needs extra space, whatever the reason, you place a yellow ribbon (or various piece of flare) on her leash or collar. This alerts others around you to not approach your dog and to allow her some space.

Though most are thrilled with the idea, there are those who warn against participating. The general argument has two points. The first is that if your dog is unable to be in social situations, then they are too dangerous to have out. My initial response is any responsible dog owner needs to walk their dog, regardless of the dog’s issues. It isn’t humane to lock a dog in a house and never take her for exercise. Additionally, many dogs are in the process of rehabilitation and need the chance to be in social situations (handled responsibly) like walking in public to rehab successfully.

The second concern of naysayers refers to the legal understanding that an officer can shoot any dog on sight if they need to enter a property for an emergency when there is a “BEWARE OF DOG” sign posted, as it is an admission by the owner that the dog is aggressive. People worry that if they label their dog as a Yellow Dog, the public will view their animal as a potential threat, thus endangering her.

Luckily, the Yellow Dog Project has made it very clear on their site what the Yellow Dog Project is not. “TYDP is NOT an excuse to avoid proper training. TYDP is NOT an admittance of guilt or a confession. TYDP is NOT a waiver of responsibility.” Having this verbiage on their site dispels many of the voiced concerns.

Since TYDP is completely volunteer, it takes a motivated advocate to spread the word. Locally, Amy Francis has taken up the cause and started to publicize the movement in Heber, Utah. She has gotten local animal control on board and has been passing out free bandanas at various events and farmer’s markets. The cause is dear to her heart as Amy owns a Yellow Dog that becomes anxious and reactive when approached by other canines. Amy says, “TYDP is designed to assist a community in providing its residents and visitors with an even safer and more enjoyable recreational experience with their dogs.”

What could be bad about that? There is finally a chance to shake off the stigma of having a dog with some space needs (whether it be because they’ve just had surgery, were abused, or a bit shy), but for that to happen, TYDP needs to succeed. Spread the word and volunteer today to make a positive impact. The Yellow Dogs will thank you.

By Sarah Tyler