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Wag It Forward: The Yellow Dog Project

Wag It Forward: The Yellow Dog Project

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Here at Casa de Kolchak, we lead a charmed life. We are extremely lucky that we are happy, healthy and that we get to come here and do what we love. I’m embracing a bit of a Gratitude Adjustment and as a part of being so very grateful for all the wonderful things in my life, I think it’s time to Wag It Forward a bit. This year, I’ll be sharing small ways that you can make a big impact for the animals in your community. Some will be low cost, some no cost and they’ll all be something every single one of us can do. Will you join me?

Suggest a Wag It Forward cause by emailing me at kolchakpuggle (at) gmail (dot) com

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Having a reactive dog is the pits.

Don’t get me wrong, Felix is 110% the BEST thing that happened to me. He changed my life, he brought me Koly, and he inspired this blog. There are a lot of reasons to adore him, but it’s not all puppies and sunshine. Felix is a rescue dog that came from a less than ideal situation. He wasn’t properly socialized, he had no manners and I had no dog skillz. Not used to leash walks, sweet, fluffy Felix had a tendency to go all Kujo on any dogs we met out on the road.

Sure, he looks all sweet, but you've never met him on a leash.

Sure, he looks all sweet, but you’ve never met him on a leash.

Holy woof, it was the MOST embarrassing.

There I would be trying to dodge an oncoming dog as it’s owner shouted (my pet peeve) “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly”. Reactive dog owners, can I get a holla if this is the MOST obnoxious thing you’ve ever heard? Oh, you’re dog is friendly? That’s great. Rub it in. My 17 lb. fluff ball thinks he’s a werewolf. 

The thing is that leash reactivity is actually super common and it doesn’t mean you have bad dog or a mean dog or an unfriendly dog. It just means your dog needs more space. Felix is actually the most darling little guy, but he feels really insecure and scared on his leash. After 6 years of work, it’s a million times better, but when he’s tired or stressed or when he was hurt, that reactivity comes back in an instant. Forcing a reactive dog to do on leash greetings can actually make the problem worse, so many owners of reactive pups become dog walking ninjas. I’ve mastered the fine art of darting around corners, dashing across streets and the ever popular 180 degree turn and run in the other direction. There’s got to be a better way.

I L.O.V.E. the Yellow Dog Project.


Have you heard of it?

It’s awesome. The whole idea is that anyone who has a dog that needs a bit more space can tie a yellow ribbon to their leash providing a clue to other dogs owners and people on the street to please keep their distance. It’s genius. It’s not only good for reactive dogs, it could be great for dogs who are recovering from an injury, dogs with a sensory disability and for dogs in training.

The plan has one flaw though: In order for it to work, the word has got to get out there.

As a part of our Wag It Forward project, we want to help bring the Yellow Dog Message to our community. I was talking about the idea with some friends and there were a few who weren’t convinced this could work in their neighbourhood. No one had heard of the project, there were too many people, the city was too big. No one person is going to convert a whole city, but imagine if every dog owner or even only every reactive dog owner tackled JUST their neighbourhood?

It could change everything for you and your dog.


Here’s the plan:

  • Share! Share! Share! You can find the Yellow Dog Project on Facebook. We recommend sharing this post of the Yellow Dog Poster with your Facebook friends. Many neighbourhoods also have a community group or page, so make sure you share it there as well. Not every one is addicted to the Facebook like I am (seriously, I have a problem.)  You can share this poster via Twitter, Email or even Pin It to Pinterest. (Posters are also available in a ton of different languages. Find ’em here.)
  • Post it. That poster we linked to above? It was drawn by the awesome Lili Chin and you are absolutely allowed to have copies printed. How cool is that? For less than $20, I was able to hit up my local copy centre and have a bunch of ’em made. Take them to the vets in your neighbourhood, pet stores, dog parks etc. I definitely recommend hitting up a few “high traffic” areas like the local gas stations and grocery stores. After all, we want EVERY ONE to hear about the Yellow Dog Project, not just dog savvy people. You can even post them on telephone poles along your walk route. If you live in an apartment or townhouse complex, post one on the shared message boards.
  • Ribbons and Bows. I pretty much haunt the craft store anyways, but for once, I had a good cause in mind. I used a 40% off coupon to buy a few spools of wide yellow ribbon. I cut it into 6″ lengths and left it with the posters at the vets, pet stores & dog parks – just in case anyone needed them.
  • Talk about it. If you have tiny humans, make sure they know what a yellow ribbon means. Ask their teacher if you can share the yellow ribbon story with their class (see volunteer opportunities for more info.)
  • Volunteer. The Yellow Dog Project is always looking for volunteer and they have all sorts of opportunities from speaking gigs to admin work. Find out more here.
  • Respect the space. If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon – keep your distance. If you happen to be caught in a space where a dog with a yellow ribbon is and the owner can’t do anything to prevent your paths crossing, the best thing you can do is just go past. You can’t help but come into the dog’s space, but you can minimize the amount of time you’re there. Make sure you don’t stop to chat or apologize. The owner will appreciate your briskness more than you know.

How could you help spread the Yellow Dog message?

Do you have a dog that needs more space? Are you as grateful for this movement as I am?



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Monday 6th of January 2014

This is a fantastic post, Jodi, thank you! As the owner of a manically yellow dog, I cannot thank people with normal, or in the case of Felix, semi-normal, dogs enough for taking up this call.

It will be a difficult battle and nothing that involves human choices will ever be 100% but if we can get to maybe 10 or 20% of people with dogs recognizing the flag, that alone would make Bella's life so much easier. Thanks for trying.


Monday 6th of January 2014

I love the yellow ribbon movement and hope it catches on! My Norwegian Elkhound was leash-reactive to dogs and my new dog Ruby is reactive to...pretty much everything...I write a lot about the process and know it will mean a lifetime of management/training, but I just adore her so much that I hate reducing her to just a reactive dog when when she has so many wonderful qualities. It *is* a challenge and can be embarrassing, for sure, and I hope this campaign helps to get the word out that some dogs need space!

Dory and the Mama

Saturday 4th of January 2014

We just LOVE the Yellow Dog Project...we have a 7 pound dog Lhasa that thinks he is a 120 lb. dog with a bad attitude, and I don't take him out of the house without a yellow Austin, everyone pretty much knows what this means...her in Northern California...not so much. We'll do our best to let our new small town dog community know what a yellow bow on our leash means!


Saturday 4th of January 2014

I think we also need to breed the moron gene out of dog owners! I can't tell you how often mom has three dogs on leashes in one hand, is scooping poop with the other, and some idiot she didn't see coming because she is focused on us dogs and the poop sneaks up on us and says "oh my dog just wanted to meet your dogs". Mom ends up practically flat on her butt, sometimes poop goes flying and the three leashes look like a bowl of spaghetti. We usually love socializing but geez, what are people thinking! I think Mom needs to carry a flag that says please leave us alone or something! Most of the time we are okay with other dogs but you just never know and it is not easy to hold back 150lbs of dogs in one hand (now with a winter glove) going in three directions because they are excited, scared, or trying to kill.

Pamela | Something Wagging

Saturday 4th of January 2014

I bet starting a "yellow dog" meet up in your town would be a great way to spread the word. Obviously, people who have reactive dogs can't chat and commiserate with each other when they meet up on the street. Maybe if you set up an event at for reactive dog owners, you could spread the word and make new friends.

I like the idea behind the yellow ribbon. But I think publicizing it is an uphill battle (sorry to be a downer but my job exists in convincing people to do what's in their best interest to do and I know how rarely it happens). Instead of yellow ribbons, I'd like to see dogs wearing bright yellow vests with big black letters saying, "Please stay back. I'm scared."


Saturday 4th of January 2014

You're not a downer, it's DEFINITELY an uphill battle. A huge, ridiculous uphill battle, but one that can be done I think. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but if those of us that have dogs who need space keep talking about it, I like to think we'll get to the top of this one.

And I LOVE the idea of a dog-free meet up. Sometimes just knowing you're not alone and sharing training ideas can make such a huge difference in your outlook.

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