Letters to the Editor

Yellow Ribbon Project helps dogs with issues

There is a simple notion sweeping the globe to aid owners of dogs in training, infirm dogs, fearful dogs, reactive dogs or any other issue a dog may have that will cause it to need space.

It has been dubbed the Yellow Ribbon Project and is just that.  A piece of yellow ribbon tied to a dog's leash indicates that the dog needs to be given space.  It does not mean that the dog is aggressive in the true sense of the word, but a fearful or reactive dog will put on a show of aggression in an attempt to scare off something that frightens it, which can include people and, most especially, children.

For some strange reason, when people see a dog out walking on leash in public with its owner, they feel they have the right to rush over to pet it without asking permission.  Even more disturbing are those that allow their children to rush over to pet a strange dog without permission of the owner.  Even other dog owners will allow their dog to come over, often on a flexi-leash, an incredibly stupid and unsafe invention if there ever was one, in an attempt to socialize, again without asking permission.

All of these actions on the part of uneducated people can lead to a bite, even from a normally non-aggressive dog if it is startled.

I own a reactive dog. Reactive dogs are those dogs you see lunging at the ends of their leashes, growling and snarling at people walking, jogging or riding bikes past them, or at other dogs.  Dogs can become reactive for a myriad of reasons but it is not because they are abused. A truly abused dog will shut down, showing little or no reaction except a tail tucked under its belly and shaking hind legs. A reactive dog is afraid of whatever it is lunging at and is attempting to scare it away since the leash prevents it from running away from the scary thing.

I used to walk my dog with a backpack so I could add some weight in an attempt to wear off his excess energy. The backpack has a handle on the top of it, which I used to lift my dog into the car when he was a puppy. Except I found that people who stopped me to ask about the handle would suddenly reach out and lift up my dog upon learning that yes, I did use it to lift my dog into the car.

Can you imagine the impact this would have on an already reactive dog'  If you can't, try to imagine how your young child would react if a stranger suddenly swooped in and lifted them up.

Knowledge of the Yellow Ribbon Project does not seem to be prevalent in the Okanagan. And those who have heard of it do not truly understand its meaning.

I hope that this letter will educate those people who are misinformed or uninformed. That people upon seeing that yellow ribbon on my dog's leash will understand his issues and give us the space we need.

Or if they are willing to participate in his training, ask permission and we can work on his anxiety around people in the proper fashion.

I also hope that other people with dogs needing that extra space who were unfamiliar with this simple tool will start using it. People do not understand what issues your dog may have. It is up to you to let them know.  And I can't think of a less expensive way than a bit of yellow ribbon.

Karen Brandt


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