‘Yellow dogs’ get much needed space through innovative project

By Cindy Bablitz

Tara Palardy is on a mission. She wants to make the yellow ribbon as iconic to the canine cause as the pink ribbon is to breast cancer.

About a year ago, Tara founded The Yellow Dog Project with a goal to making the yellow ribbon universally identifiable as a signal that “this dog needs space.”

“Yellow Dogs are not necessarily aggressive,” explains Tara, a positive reinforcement dog trainer in Red Deer, AB, who also manages a doggie day care, volunteers every Sunday with the Central Alberta Junior K9 Club and offers dog walking services in her area.

“Not all dogs in all moments are ready to have their personal space intruded. Not all dogs want to be petted all the time. Dogs and their human companions who I see most served by the Yellow Dog’s yellow ribbon initiative are dogs who have issues of fear, who have pain from recent surgery or other medical challenges, who may be rescue or shelter dogs who have not yet had sufficient socialization training or who have not yet mastered certain obedience behaviours, and dogs who are in training for work or service.

“I want The Yellow Dog Project to promote awareness about appropriate ways to approach unfamiliar dogs and to educate the public and dog owners how we can assist others to identify and understand the need to give dogs the right to personal space,” Tara says.

It was an idea that was inspired by similar intentions Tara saw on social media. The idea of a yellow ribbon wrapped around a leash or collar to identify a dog as one needing a bit of extra care upon approaching has actually already gained a certain amount of attention in some regional pockets internationally. But when Tara took the idea to her region, she was surprised when her local Facebook page started gaining fans by the thousands worldwide.

Originally intended as a way to support the yellow ribbon concept to her local clients in Red Deer, Tara’s Yellow Dog Project site jumped from a group of some 250 nearby canine enthusiasts to a growth of 100 times that size in just over six months. The Yellow Dog Project on Facebook now boasts over 27,000 “Likes.”

The Yellow Dog concept is simple: tie a yellow ribbon around your dog’s leash to identify her or him as a dog who, for any reason, shouldn’t be approached suddenly, without an extra caution and communication with both the dog and her or his handler. It’s the yellow that’s operative, more than the ribbon: some canine companions are taping yellow duct tape around their leash, or donning a yellow vest on their dog for the same intention.

“Yellow is harder to find as a product colour in dog products,” Tara explains.
“Black, green, red and blue are the standard colours in dog products, so the potential is definitely there for yellow to become the universally recognizable warning colour in alignment with the Yellow Dog’s initiative.”

Tara sees The Yellow Dog Project as one with collaborative potential. She approached Lilly Chin — the illustrator who created the training drawings in Grisha Stewart’s Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT) book as well as for the DINOS (Dogs In Need Of Space) project — and had her design artwork for The Yellow Dog Project.

“When I realized the movement was gaining massive attention, I saw a great opportunity to visually demonstrate our alignment with the BAT method of rehabilitation and obedience training,” Tara says.

From either the Facebook group or The Yellow Dog Project’s own website, you can find a host of yellow ribbon-esque gear to purchase, from ribbons, t-shirts and posters to iPhone cases, hoodies and hats. All feature Lilly’s sweet, informative illustrations and Tara’s canine compassionate ethos.

Social media viral growth aside, the gist of The Yellow Dog Project so far remains entirely a word of mouth movement. The organization is now a registered not-for-profit charity, with donated contributions assisting in mailing costs and the current push to have posters and brochures translated into other languages.

So far The Yellow Dog Project is recognized throughout Europe, in South Africa, Australia and of course in Canada and the United States. The movement is growing into China, India and other countries where English is not the first language and Tara would like to see all Yellow Dog literature available to any invested dog guardians, without language barriers.

Tara is careful to assert she doesn’t see the yellow ribbon idea taking the place of responsible training, rather, she sees the yellow ribbon as a tool in support of it.

You can find more information and resources about The Yellow Dog Project on Facebook, online at www.theyellowdogproject.com, on Twitter @yellowdogproj, on Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest. You can also e-mail Tara at info@theyellowdogproject.com or phone her at (403) 872-5686.