Be Careful If You See A Dog With A Red Collar

By Dave Basner

April 21, 2023

Photo: Getty Images

When most people see an adorable dog, it can be hard for them to resist approaching it and giving it a pet. It is pretty clearly not okay to do if the pup is wearing a vest that says "service dog - do not pet," but if you don't see that, you might think there is no problem. However, it turns out that some pet owners use another, more subtle kind of warning to anyone who might want to pet their pooch - they place a red collar around the dog's neck.

As a warning to those around them, dog owners use a red collar, a red banana or sometimes even a red leash. The hope is that people associate the color red with what it means on a sign or a traffic light - stop. Veterinarian Dr. Brian Evans explained it more to Reader's Digest, "Red is the signal that this pet is aggressive and needs space from both people and other animals. These are pets that have been known to snap or bite at passersby, attack other dogs, or lunge at people. These pets may be perfectly fine at home with their owner but become overly protective of them when they are out."

Though their intent is good, most people aren't aware of the significance of the collar's color - even other dog owners. However that's not the case in professional settings where dogs are the focus, where they've been using colors like this for a long time. The National Association of Canine Scent Work is a large proponent of it, with one animal behavior consultant stating, "The red bandana simply warns others to give the dog distance, yet allows the person and dog to participate in relative safety."

As for what to do if you see a dog in red? Of course it doesn't always mean to stay away, but regardless of what color a pooch has on, you should always ask it's owner for permission to pet.

Meanwhile, red isn't the only color that has meaning. Yellow signifies that the animal can be nervous and, because of that, unpredictable. Again, much like a traffic light, it means that you should slow down and be cautious around the pooch, but there is no need to outright stop. Once more, like a traffic light, green means that the dog is approachable, but you should still ask for permission from their owner. As for orange, that signifies that a dog doesn't interact well with other animals, while blue typically means that the pup is a working dog, service animal or in training and shouldn't be touched for those reasons.

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