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MARQUETTE, MI – This is Zoey, she’s a three-year-old German Shepherd and she’s a yellow dog.
“It’s something that we like to use because it’s an awareness thing,” said Kim Benson-Custard, Certified Professional Dog Trainer,  and Co-owner of Tacomo Training. “Some dogs just need space and the people who have yellow dogs are actively working with those dogs.”
The Yellow Dog Project is an initiative that aims to provide space for dogs that need it. Dogs wear indicating patches, leashes and ribbons, signifying this is a dog that needs space. This is the experience Zoey’s owner Kim Randolph had when she first adopted her.
“So we kind of got started recognizing that’s she’s a little bit nervous around new people . . . especially new dogs,” said Randolph. “She’s just an anxious girl so she needs a little extra space.”
And yellow dogs aren’t bad dogs. It’s a matter of social skills.
“Many dogs that are approached by unfamiliar dogs don’t have the social skills to manage themselves appropriately, so they tend to overreact,” said Susan Kapla, PhD, C.A.A.B, Applied Animal Behaviorist, and owner of Canine Consultants. she continued, “Or they’ve had a poor experience, so they overreact.”
Reactivity is the most common reason for a dog to become a yellow dog, but it’s far from the only reason.
“There’s also dogs who might be in other forms of training that should not be interrupted,” said Benson-Custard. “There might be dogs who are sick or injured and therefore shouldn’t be approached for that reason.”
The program improves interactions between dogs and interactions between owners.
“People actually stop and think for a second, ‘Oh, is she okay with people? Does she need space from dogs?’ And that’s really positive for me to see that people are stating to engage in those conversations,” said Randolph.
But at the end of the day – in order for the Yellow Dog Project to be impactful – communities need to be educated on it.
“I think it’s something that’s happening all of the time and we really need to be able to have a way to educate the community about some of these dogs that need space,” said Kapla.
“If the community can learn what it is and understand it, it will encourage other people to work with their dogs who otherwise they may have just locked up in a backyard or never brought out to socialize,” said Benson-Custard.
So if you see a yellow dog out on a walk – give it some space. And if your dog might need some space from other dogs – make it a yellow dog and keep dog-to-dog interactions as positive as possible.