How do Yellow Ribbons Help?
Lets tell the true story of a few owners and their dogs– Marley is a happy young dog. Boisterous and energetic, always up for a good time! Innocently, his owner Lisa thinks he should socialize with all dogs – he is super friendly, after all. Marley always loves everyone he meets and just wants to play, play, play! He walks his owner down the street and when he sees another dog, his whole body vibrates as he pulls and lunges to go for a visit.
Now here comes Fritz and Brian – Fritz is insecure. He approaches other dogs nervously: tail down, ears back, averting his gaze while trying to maintain a polite position at Brian’s side. Brian recognizes that Fritz doesn’t like to greet other dogs and does his best to keep them away, but he has found that all too often, people don’t acknowledge his requests for space. As they approach each other, Brian says, “please give us space, my dog is nervous.” Lisa, thinking that Marley is just a super-friendly guy, still allows him to pull into Fritz’s space. Fritz reacts poorly with a growl, followed by a snarl, lunge and snap.
Marley squeals, urinates and then cowers behind his clearly agitated owner. Lisa snaps at Brian, “he just wanted to say, ‘hi’. Your dog is aggressive and should be muzzled.”
What’s your take on this scenario? Who is responsible? Who should take the blame for the altercation? If you answered Fritz, you need to read and re-read until you realize you’re way off. Not all dogs are friendly – that’s just a fact of life. Just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate a stranger jumping into your lap at the park, not all dogs want to be greeted by other dogs or people. This is true for a lot of things people let their dogs do. Dog parks and other things are horrible for creating issues with dogs. Because people think like people and like to think their dogs do too! NEWSFLASH*** THEY DON’T- they are dogs and communicate like dogs!!! They are animals and have their own communication and thought process which usually is NOT what the people end are thinking!
Perhaps you have a reactive dog, or maybe your dog is frightened. What if you have a dog in training and don’t want visitors interrupting the process? Maybe you have a dog who’s been injured and can’t risk play. All very good reasons for you and your dog to be given space. Do you realize you can very much contribute to that dogs behavior if you dont? Do you like or want to engage with everyone you come across in a day?
Both Brian and Fritz gave very clear information. Brian verbally requested space, which Lisa ignored. Fritz requested space through body language, which Marley ignored. Marley has never learned to approach other dogs using good manners. A crucial lesson to be taught to all young dogs is to wait for permission to say hello and if you aren’t given permission, leave the other dog alone. Why its so important to understand dog body language and understand correct and incorrect play behavior. Just because they do doesn’t mean the do it right. It can and does contribute to other dogs having issues. Just the same as this Marley dog contributing to Fritz further issues.
Asking for space is often a hard message to convey. There has been a global movement in the dog training world. The Yellow Dog Project, it has been gaining momentum since 2012. It’s a simple, but powerful idea: if you see a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar or leash, don’t approach. That dog has requested space and we need to give it to them. Help spread the word and give those dogs space and their owner a smile. Its not easy working with a dog that has issues and harder still when people do not listen to the owner of that dog.