Most dogs want nothing more than to make new friends—and for the majority of these four-legged pals, having someone approach them for a quick pat on the head and a scratch behind the ears is nothing but fun.
Some dogs aren’t quite as affable as others, though. Some are recovering from surgery, skittish around humans, or still being trained to overcome traumatic situations.
Despite the fact that it seems like common sense to ask an owner’s permission before approaching their dogs, not everyone is quite so cautious—which is why an Alberta-based dog trainer came up with a genius way for pet owners to let others know when an open approach isn’t quite welcomed.
Laura Palardy started the “Yellow Dog Project” as a way to signal to the world when a dog might need a bit more space. The project encourages owners of these dogs to tie a yellow ribbon around their leashes, giving off the signal that the dog may need a little more distance than others.
Palardy calls these dogs “DINOS,” or “Dogs In Need Of Space.” The project has taken off as owners of these pups have embraced the practice, spreading awareness of the symbolism behind the yellow leash to 45 different countries and translating it into 12 different languages. From Canada to Australia, Russia to Brazil, these dog owners have continued to pass on the word in an effort to make life a little bit easier for these pups.
The idea works similarly to a red ribbon for horses. In the equestrian community, owners who know that their horse is a kicker tie a red ribbon into or onto the tail, signifying to others so they know to stand clear of the legs. There are various other ribbon colors used too, which can help signify everything from a young horse for sale to an easily spooked mare.
Not everyone has gotten on board quite so quickly. In a blog post written by dog owner Deb McAlister in 2014, she warned owners that it could become easy for those already nervous around dogs to take it as a warning sign of aggression. With states like Texas actually boasting laws enabling you to shoot a dog if you feel “reasonably afraid” that it’s going to attack, she wrote, the yellow leash could become a target without the owners even realizing it.
Still, the project continues to gather steam, especially as they work in tandem with groups that properly educate dog owners on how to spot fear and aggression in their pets.
The dog owners who have been able to use it think it’s a brilliant idea. It would seem that many social media users agree:
“This is a fantastic idea! I know a lot of people who have been out with their dogs & many kids and adults would run to the dog to kindly love on them & the owner would have to ask them not to!” one user wrote on Facebook, cheering on the concept.
“Now this just needs to get out to everyone so when they see the yellow ribbon they know right away & can send the pup their love from afar!!”