One of the questions that we are asked, when talking to people about dressing their dogs in yellow, is whether it is, in some way, admitting liability for being out and about with a reactive dog.
The answer is, quite simply, No!
The majority of dog owners are responsible people, who clear up after their dogs, make sure they are well fed, receive veterinary attention when needed, and are trained to behave like good canine citizens.
No matter how hard we try, some dogs are anxious by nature, and are unhappy with unwanted attention from strangers. Whether that's because they have had bad experiences in the past, or they are just nervous by nature, the result is the same – a dog who is fearful is a dog who may react if it's boundaries are breached. No-one should be embarrassed to admit that their dog needs a bit more space and time than a less anxious dog – in fact, they should be proud that they are taking responsibility for their dogs behaviour, and ensuring the safety of all around them (including the dog)
An owner who dresses their dog in yellow is not telling the world that the dog is dangerous. They are telling the world that the dog needs space and time to get to know new people. Yellow leads and harnesses are a great way to stop people in their tracks before they get too close, allowing the dog the time it needs to gain confidence whilst out and about. It is the responsible, safe way to encourage people not to crowd the dog and risk somebody getting hurt.
We can't avoid the possibility that an anxious dog may react to unwanted attention with a nip, so anyone who owns a fearful animal should make sure they are adequately covered for third party public liability, just in case the worst should happen. It can be difficult to find cover that doesn't exclude dogs with known behavioural problems, but we recommend joining the Dogs Trust, who offer third party public liability cover as part of the package. More info here www.dogstrust.org.uk/get-involved/membership/
Should the worst happen, you may need to seek legal advice – preferably from a legal practice which specialises in dog law. Visit www.doglaw.co.uk to find out more about the law, and how it applies to your dog. They also offer a service called Dog Law SOS www.doglawsos.co.uk which, for a small annual fee, gives you access to expert legal and behavioural advice.