Yellow ribbon tied around dog leash
Some dogs are fine when people and other dogs walk, or run, up to them. Some dogs are fine ... as long as they’re left alone. The "Yellow Dog Project" is an effort to help those dogs.
There are many reasons why a dog might react badly to being greeted by a person or another dog. She might be recovering from illness or surgery. She might just be shy. Perhaps most important, she might be in training to feel more comfortable with people, dogs, or both. She might have taken weeks to progress to a point where she’s calm when a stranger is 20 feet away.
If you or your dog walk up to her, even though you only want to say hello, she (and the person she’s with) might have to do all that work over again.
If you’ve had a dog like this, you know reactivity can be heartbreaking and even dangerous. A dog who is reactive to people or dogs on-leash puts others and herself in danger – but is often a true best friend, loving and calm, at home.
A protocol like Behavior Adjustment Training, or similar approaches to building confidence, can make a huge difference for dogs like this, but they take time, and space. This training works by finding the dog’s "threshold" – the distance you need from the scary thing so your dog can pay attention to you without freaking out – and working from that point, gradually building the dog’s confidence so the distance gets smaller.
Your success depends on controlling how far away the scary things are. So when you hear "Don’t worry, he’s friendly, " or "Don’t worry, dogs love me, " your blood runs cold. When people and dogs run up to your dog, the distance is suddenly zero. At best, you lose ground, and at worst, someone is hurt. If someone is hurt, a dog could be punished. Or killed.