If You See A Dog With A Yellow Ribbon On Its Collar, Do Not Approach It

By Dave Basner

June 23, 2023

Photo: Getty Images

When you see most dogs out for a walk, they just have a collar and a leash, but some have sweaters to stay warm or boots to protect their feet or maybe even a tutu to look fancy, but there is one accessory that anyone around a dog should pay very close attention to - a yellow bow on their collar or leash. It might just look like a fun adornment, but it has very important significance.

While there are many reasons a dog owner might put the yellow bow on their pup, the reason behind it is the same, to warn those around not to approach the dog. According to Reader's Digest, dogs with the yellow ribbon might be deaf, blind or with another compromised sense, or they could be a traumatized rescue adjusting to a new environment, older and more fearful due to dulled senses, suffering from PTSD after a previous attack by another dog, dealing with health issues that cause it pain when touched, they could be skittish or nervous, or a service dog in training.

Photo: Getty Images

Dogs with the yellow ribbon usually aren't aggressive, however the fear or anxiety they feel when someone approaches might cause them to growl, bark or try to run off. They also might feel so trapped that they do become aggressive and bite.

The hope with the yellow ribbon is to avoid all of that. So what do you do if you see a dog with one? PetSmart training expert Jodie Havens recommends, "Respect the space they need. Go about your business, but avoid eye contact with the dog, slightly turn your body away from the dog and avoid speaking to the handler. These small changes can make a big difference." As for what to do if you pass one while walking your dog, "Do not move closer to the dog, stare at them or try to interact or pet the dog. Also, do not let your dog approach them, and don’t try to start a conversation with the handler, as this could be triggering."

And should a dog with a yellow ribbon approach you, Havens suggests staying calm, adding, "Slowly turn sideways and move away. If you have your dog with you, slowly make a U-turn and calmly move away. Try to prevent your dog from staring by luring him or using cues like a hand target to redirect eye contact."

Keep in mind, not all dog owners try to communicate with yellow ribbon - some do it using the color of the dog's collar, so be sure to look at that as well.

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