Dog owners might have seen or read articles about a yellow ribbon or a bandana tied to dogs’ collars. It often happens in dog forums and groups that owners ask the meaning of such “orange ribbon”, although it is actually a yellow ribbon.

A few years ago, the Yellow Dog Project was born in the UK. The goal of this project is to indicate dogs that need space in a way that is clear and visible from a distance. Today, the yellow ribbon method is used by many dog owners.

Sensible dog with yellow ribbon

The actual meaning of such yellow ribbon might vary from case to case. It can sign a dog that is shy and does not like to be approached by other dogs. Or it might indicate a bitch on season, that the owner does not want to interact with males in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies, or that might be on the wrong phase of the cycle and might therefore refuse aggressively the attentions of other dogs or, again, that the owners of male dogs should be aware of, in order to avoid fights. Dog owners might want to use the yellow ribbon when their dog is injured or is recovering from surgery and needs not to jump or run or simply is in pain. In all circumstances, however, the ribbon signals to other owners that they should keep their dog at a distance.

This is an extremely useful initiative. However, some have wondered whether the presence of the yellow ribbon might be seen as a confirmation of pre-existing condition by insurance companies. So, it is always important to be careful and don’t forget the behavioural management of behaviour problems.

Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria