Presented for your consideration: Donna & Skippy – Skippy is a happy young dog. Boisterous and energetic, always up for a good time! Innocently, Donna thinks he should socialize with all dogs – he is super friendly, after all. Skippy always loves everyone he meets and just wants to play, play, play!
He walks his owner down the street and when he sees another dog, his whole body vibrates as he pulls and lunges to go for a visit. Now enter Devon and Spike – Spike is insecure. He approaches other dogs nervously: tail down, ears back, averting his gaze while trying to maintain a polite position at Devon’s side. Devon recognizes that Spike doesn’t like to greet other dogs and does her best to keep them away, but she has found that all too often, people don’t acknowledge her requests for space. As they approach each other, Devon says, “please give us space, my dog is nervous.” Donna, thinking that Skippy is just a super-friendly guy, still allows him to pull into Spike’s space. Spike reacts poorly with a growl, followed by a snarl, lunge and snap. Skippy squeals, urinates and then cowers behind his clearly agitated owner. Donna snaps at Devon, “he just wanted to say, ‘hi’. Your dog is aggressive and should be muzzled.”
What’s your take on this scenario? Who is responsible? Who should take the blame for the altercation? If you answered Spike, you need to read and re-read until you realize you’re way off. Not all dogs are friendly – that’s just a fact of life. Just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate a stranger jumping into your lap at the park, not all dogs want to be greeted by other dogs or people. Perhaps you have a reactive dog, or maybe your dog is frightened. What if you have a dog in training and don’t want visitors interrupting the process? Maybe you have a dog who’s been injured and can’t risk play. All very good reasons for you and your dog to be given space. Both Devon and Spike gave very clear information. Devon verbally requested space, which Donna ignored. Spike requested space through body language, which Skippy ignored. Skippy has never learned to approach other dogs using good manners. A crucial lesson to be taught to all young dogs is to wait for permission to say hello and if you aren’t given permission, leave the other dog alone.
Poor Spike! Asking for space is often a hard message to convey, but it’s getting easier! There has been a global movement in the dog training world. Perhaps you’ve heard about it? The Yellow Dog Project (TYDP), born in Red Deer, AB has been gaining momentum since 2012. It’s a simple, but powerful idea: if you see a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar or leash, don’t approach. That dog has requested space and we need to give it to them.
What a great way to quickly request that other dogs/people be kept away from your dog! As a bright colour, it’s clear and easy to see. Please help us spread the word with TYDP. If you have a dog who needs space, use a yellow ribbon. Talk about the project to other dog owners and ask them to spread the word. Follow TYDP on Facebook for up-to-date events and posters that you can print and use in your community. Most importantly, if you see a yellow ribbon, give that dog their space and give their owner a smile to thank them for their efforts in helping their dog be happy and safe!
As always, Happy Training!