Yellow, But Not Mellow
Author’s Note: I am not responsible for the Yellow Ribbon campaign and it’s not officially associated with DINOS™ or Notes From a Dog Walker. If you’d like to learn more, here’s the source of the project and the newer Yellow Dog project. Those hard-working folks deserve all the credit – not moi!
While I was away on vacation the other week, I got about ten thousand (give or take a few) emails and Facebook posts about this image:
To say that folks are excited about the color coded system is an understatment – social media is bubbling over with dog owners who have raided craft stores for yards of yellow ribbon. I’m expecting to start seeing dogs wrapped completely in yellow, waddling down the street like little sunshine colored mummies!
For those of you who missed it, I weighed in on this topic the other month when I wrote about color systems in Color Me DINOS and here’s the short version of what I said:
I think color coded systems are a MUST HAVE for any closed group: dog walking clubs, sporting events, camps, etc. Any place where everyone is on the same page and fully understands what the colors signify. Many groups, like Chicago SocialBulls use a fun combo of bandanas and various flair, to help dog walkers communicate with each other. It’s very effective in a closed group. I totally recommend it.
When it comes to using the color system in public, I say go for it, but with some concerns (see below).
I have no doubt it will help some people communicate with some strangers while they’re walking down the street. I’m thinking in particular of dogs with medical conditions, like my pal Taz who has epilepsy and needs space from other dogs to avoid having cluster seizures. A color system that can help Taz get the space he needs? Super awesome.
I’d really love to see this work, so I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I do have a few concerns about the color system. Humor me:
1. This won’t do much, if anything, to help us communicate with dog owners that just don’t care. That includes people who ignore leash laws or let their dogs wander loose, people who let their dogs charge into our yards, people who think that our dogs will learn to like other dogs if they just meet their friendly dogs, people who ignore the “Do Not Pet” patches on Service Dog vests, the people who don’t listen to us say “No” now..and others. That’s a pretty big group.
2. This only works if people can see the yellow flag (and know what it means). So if they’re walking up from behind and can’t see the leash, it’s not going to help. Oh and some folks just won’t get it. My friend, who does not have a DINOS, saw this poster and commented that it looks like a poop bag is tied to the leash.
3. So, that means that the color system should be viewed as just one tool in a larger toolbox. If you’ve got a yellow tie on your dog’s leash, don’t assume the people around you can see it, know what it means, and/or care. So we still need to be proactive and on our toes. We can’t rely on a yellow flag to do the work for us. It might work sometimes, it might not. Ultimately, we are responsible for our dogs.
4. Which brings me to liability issues. I’m not sure if it’s the pit bull owner in me – the one that is extremely wary of publicly declaring my dog might be “dangerous” in some way – but the language in these Yellow Dog posters worries me. If I were behind the Yellow Dog campaigns (some people think it is me, but I can’t take any credit – this isn’t officially associated with DINOS in any way), I’d run my language and messaging by a lawyer. Before I put a yellow ribbon on my dog, I’d want to be 100% sure I’m not making myself liable or seen as negligent if my dog gets into an altercation. (side note: can we please take the pit bull off of this poster? They have a hard enough time as it is. They don’t need to be the face of this campaign).
5. Finally, just because a dog doesn’t have a yellow ribbon on, doesn’t mean he deserves to have strange dogs up in his grill. Which means all of us still have to be polite, respectful, and responsible. Focus on the people. They’re the problem, not the dogs. People need to be responsible for their dogs. People need to learn that they should always ASK before they approach or allow their dogs to approach another dog. The only way to really ensure that everyone gets to safely enjoy public spaces is for people to take responsibility for our dogs and ourselves. You know the drill:
- Control your dogs, on leash and off leash, at all times.
- Always ask permission before you or your dogs approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Wait for an answer.
- If the answer is no, allow others the space to pass.
No matter what’s hanging off a dog’s leash, if we all controlled our dogs and took a second to politely ask if we can approach, rather than assuming it’s ok, we’d all be doing each other a world of good.
I hope the yellow ribbon campaign is a big help to those of you that decide to try it out. Please let me know what your experiences are, if you do, ok?
In the meantime, I’m going to keep working with my friends at Design Lab (the folks who brought you the DINOS logo) on a complimentary project: we’re creating a poster that reminds people to always ASK, before approaching an unfamiliar dog. Hopefully, between the color coding and a campaign that encourages responsibility and respect for others, all of us with DINOS will get a little relief!
For more info on the yellow dog campaign, see the original source here!