Have you ever seen a dog walk with a yellow ribbon around his leash, or perhaps a yellow bandana around his neck? This is an international symbol, but unfortunately many don’t know what it means.



Last weekend I was at the Vegan A’fairs fair in Bruges with our cookbooks. I went to take a look at another exhibitor. They had 2 banners with dogs and I was curious what they promote as I have a dog myself.

Monsieur Gustave wants the shelters empty

The organization that was there is called Monsieur Gustave (from Belgium). Their intention is to get the shelters empty. Not by placing them with new families, but by trying to prevent the dogs from ending up there.

Yellow ribbons for dogs

One of their projects is called FluOH, with which they want to make the international symbol of the yellow ribbon better known. If a dog has a yellow ribbon around its leash, or wears a yellow bandana, it means that this dog needs distance. Do not walk towards the dog, do not just pet him, do not let your dog sniff at the dog with the ribbon.

Why do some dogs need space?

That a dog barks violently at other dogs is not always (usually not actually) because the dog is aggressive / dominant. Often it is precisely because they are scared and try to keep the other dog (or human) at a distance. If the other person with dog comes to the frightened dog, he has a lot of stress. If a certain signal is not listened to, the dog will sometimes give clearer signals (growling, falling out, biting). And that because his limits are not respected, not because the dog is “bad”.

But distance is not only important for frightened dogs, these dogs can all use some distance:

  • Afraid, insecure dogs
  • Sick dogs that need rest
  • Training, learning and not wanting a distraction
  • Dog is in heat
  • Quick scare: eg old, deaf, blind

yellow ribbon on dog leash for dogs who need space

Snoopy’s story

The fact that I’m now writing a blog about this is that I can also contribute to make the ribbon better known. I have a dog that needs space. I received a ribbon from them and wrapped it around Snoopy’s leash.

Snoopy is almost 12, I adopted him from the shelter when he was just turning 5. Honestly, my first idea was, picking him up, hug, pet. But not all dogs like that. He showed that very clearly after a while. We let come a dog behavior therapist and learned how to deal with him better. Now I enjoy other things from him, see how he sleeps, when he is lying against my feet, … And if I want to pet, there is always the cat of the neighbors who comes by once for a nice pet and enjoy it immensely.

Because Snoopy is deaf, he is more wary anyway and less relaxed. All kinds of stimulus are often too much for him. He prefers a quiet day that is quite identical to the previous day. Every day we take a walk together, sometimes a short, sometimes a long one. For both it is best that we don’t encounter too many people and certainly other dogs.

I think it is fantastic that there are dog walking meadows were dogs can run around by themselves. But stray dogs in areas where it is mandatory to wear a leash, that makes me very nervous. Several times a dog suddenly appeared next to us. How many times I have heard “he won’t do anything to you”. When I say “but he does”, they usually look in disbelief, because Snoopy is a Maltese.

Whether they want to have their dog sniff around, that’s what dogs like, getting to know each other. Some maybe, but not all. I have now put the ribbon around Snoopy’s leash and hope that more and more people will get to know this signal and they will take into account the needs of a dog that does not want extra stimulus.

A book that has helped me a lot is “Calming Signals”.

More about dogs (and Snoopy)

Did you already know the symbol of the yellow ribbon for dogs? Do you have a dog that wears a ribbon or could use it? Let me know your story in a comment at the bottom of this page.

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