Yellow ribbon on a dog's collar

A yellow ribbon, bandana or strip on a dog’s collar or lead indicates to others that your dog needs a little space.

An illustration of a woman holding a brown dog with a yellow ribbon tied on its collar.

What a yellow ribbon means

A yellow ribbon on a dog’s collar or lead signals to others that they need a little extra space. Any yellow ribbon will do the trick.

It’s important to respect your dog's boundaries, and to communicate these boundaries to others.

A yellow-ribboned dog might be old, disabled, injured; they might be anxious around other dogs or people.

Decreased interactions with others during the COVID-19 lockdowns meant that dogs were separated from other dogs and people.

This reduced interaction, mixed with an inconsistent routine, has contributed to some dogs feeling anxious and fearful of others. Scared dogs, when cornered, may have the tendency to be aggressive.

Do you speak dog?

If your dog wears a yellow ribbon, don’t be afraid to advocate for them if they are receiving unwelcome attention in public.

Dogs communicate their feelings through their body language. While we all know a wagging tail equals a happy dog, they can communicate feelings of anxiety through a range of behaviours:

  • cowering in fear
  • brows furrowed with flat ears
  • licking lips (even when there is no food nearby)
  • refusing to eat
  • pacing and moving away
  • seeming hyperalert or restless
  • excessive barking.

If you are going to greet an unfamiliar dog, always check in with the owner first. Don't try to interact if the dog is not displaying playful or relaxed body language.

If the dog is enthusiastically engaging with you, ask the owner how they like to be pet and give them a gentle scratch.

Be a responsible dog owner

Being able to recognise when our dogs are anxious, gives us the ability to help them, and is an important aspect of being a responsible dog owner.

If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, seeking out training is a good method of reducing anxiety by helping them feel more secure in stressful situations. Getting your dog trained is another way to ensure that your dog behaves well around their doggy friends and their owners.

Responsible dog owners are encouraged and recognised by the Council and get a reduced fee when registering their dogs for the year. Find out about our responsible dog owner discount, or email dogs@wcc.govt.nz for more information.