First things first – apologies for the pun, but when I made the joke (paraphrasing the Tony Orlando & Dawn song circa 1973) to the nurse at our Vets she thought it was rather good. In fact we discussed how our lovely black lab/collie cross Barnaby (AKA Barney, AKA Mr B) could be a promotional tool for the Yellow Dog UK scheme.
Yellow Dog UK is part of an international scheme to ensure that the public become aware that ‘some dogs need space’. How many times do we hear that someone has been injured by a dog that is ‘usually very friendly’, ‘a poppet at home’ or who has ‘never bitten anyone before’? I think we forget that dogs are pack animals, with some instincts that are still wild and who can, if circumstances allow, cause serious injury to others. We may love them, but not everyone does. Some dogs have been rescued, with backgrounds unknown. Others have had a lifetime of abuse until someone intervened to give them a better life. Some are still in training, or in season (it isn’t only humans who have hormones) which can affect their behaviour or make it unpredictable. Some are old and arthritic and have become the proverbial ‘grumpy old’ dog.
Barnaby was diagnosed with arthritis and a bad back at the age of just three. He is a wonderful dog and great company for me as someone who works from home. He is gentle and loving, if a teeny bit chaotic – but as I have been told many a time, the same can be said of the home he lives in. On his home patch he is wonderful. Once you have been welcomed into Chez Grogan you will be overcome with love, licks and numerous toys and chewy things. However, the pain he has suffered with his back and the arthritis kept at bay with supplements has resulted in a suspicion of strangers – human and canine – that sometimes (and it is seemingly random) results in a display of aggression quite unlike his ‘real’ self. He barks and bares his teeth, his hackles rise and as a large black dog, looks like the Hound of the Baskervilles. Scary, but there is something in him that wants to protect himself, and us as his family (or pack).
Some might say such a dog should be put down. But that isn’t necessary if the owner of such a dog is responsible and takes proper precautions. If Barnaby hurt a child I would never forgive myself and he would have to be put down. Everyone loses. But if I ensure he is walked where it is safe and other walkers, dog owners and the public know that he ‘needs his space’ all is well. That is where the Yellow Dog Project comes in. Their website explains that the project means that:
when you see a dog with a YELLOW ribbon, bandanna or similar on the leash or on the dog, this is a dog which needs some space. Please, do not approach this dog or its people with your dog. They are indicating that their dog cannot be close to other dogs. How close is too close? Only the dog or his people know, so maintain distance and give them time to move out of your way.
Barnaby will be wearing his bandanna with pride. He is a good dog who is trained, performs lovely tricks and looks after the Grogan clan to the best of his ability. Life has given him a bit of a battle to fight – he is young to have such pain and it isn’t fair. With caution, and the help of schemes such as the Yellow Ribbon, we can make sure he has a happy life without intimidating other dogs, or their human companions, needlessly.
Take a look at the website for the Yellow Ribbon. It is a great scheme and more people need to know about it to make sure everyone recognises that a dog in yellow is a dog who wants to be left alone. Remember – it is not often the dog’s fault. We have a responsibility too.