NEGAUNEE, Mich. —Lady is a beautiful, sweet 2-year-old black Labrador retriever who anxiously awaited a forever family to adopt her from the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter in Negaunee Township. That adoption happened Wednesday.


During her time at the shelter, when she was out for a walk, Lady might have worn a yellow ribbon on her collar, just like millions of other dogs around the globe now do.


“The purpose of the yellow ribbon on a dog's collar or leash is to bring awareness that this dog needs more space,” Melanie Bell, UPAWS community outreach coordinator, told the Mining Journal of Marquette. “It could be for many different reasons. The dog might be fearful of new people. It might not yet be trained to not jump on someone. Maybe the dog has an injury and is recovering from that and even a soft touch would hurt the dog.


“The yellow ribbon is being used to communicate that.”


The use of these ribbons – which has caught on globally – was started by Tara Palardy, a dog trainer in Red Deer, Alberta, who is founder of The Yellow Dog Project.


“I am a positive reinforcement trainer and ran into a number of clients who complained about people approaching their dogs, kids getting too close to their nervous dog or even puppies who jump all over people,” Palardy said in a news release. “These people needed something to help identify their dogs as not being approachable or needing a moment of training before being approached.”


Palardy launched a Facebook page for 250 of her friends and clients in September 2012 and as of last week has more than 83,000 followers around the world. The Yellow Dog Project is a not-for-profit organization that now has its own website, theyellowdogproject.com.


“There are really a lot of uses for the yellow ribbon,” Bell said. “It could be the dog is fearful of other dogs. It could be the dog is a service dog in training. Some people are using a yellow ribbon in addition to the vest service dogs in training wear.


“What the yellow ribbon says is that the dog needs more space than other dogs,” Bell said. “Really, though, you should always ask permission before you touch someone else's dog.”


When a dog is new to an owner, the yellow ribbon might be a great “getting to know you” tool.


“It's appropriate any time anyone adopts a dog because you're learning about that dog yourself,” Bell said. “The yellow ribbon will facilitate any interaction with others.”


Ribbons can be ordered through The Yellow Dog Project website, but people can make their own ribbon as well, Bell said.


“You could use a bandana, a cloth or a ribbon, really anything yellow,” she said.


Bell advised, however, that the yellow ribbon is not an escape clause for owner responsibility.


“It is not an excuse to not train a dog,” Bell said. “It does not release you from liability if something happens with your dog.”


For owners who want to work on their dog's training, classes are available locally.


“For a new dog owner, classes are a good place to start,” Bell said. “They are a way to start bonding with your dog and to get to know your dog. And they can be great for socialization, to get your dog used to being around other dogs.”