Monday, August 6, 2012

SociaBulls: On Color Coded Bandanas

While a lot of us wear bandanas and flair to make our pooches more approachable, we've also been using colored bandanas in our SociaBulls group as a means of communication. With 20-ish dogs, and walking in loud, urban areas, the bandanas give us an extra edge to keep constant communication.

Why Every Member Wears a Bandana
 We have started wearing bandanas so we can identify who is in the group. We've had a couple of instances where curious people 'joined' our group either in the beginning or mid-walk, but since we are such a big group it can be hard to identify who isn't a member. Since we put so much trust into everyone following the rules and giving space, it's important for us to recognize our members and be able to explain our group and structure to any curious onlookers.

Showing if Dogs Need Extra Space
 While it's important to do introductions before the walk, sometimes people are distracted by their own dogs or can't identify the dogs mid-walk who for many reasons might need extra space. While we initially didn't want to single anyone out or make them feel like they're wearing a 'scarlet letter', many of the dogs who needed space agreed it would be good to have a visual reminder with a specific colored bandana.

Indicating a Buddy
 Since our dogs do go to the bathroom and fall out of order, the dogs who need more space wanted to be sure when they rejoin the group they can walk next to a dog who won't react back if they react. We use another colored bandana to for our unflappable dogs who can act as buddies.

Buying Bandanas
Looking at our photos, you can see these aren't official bandanas. To eliminate expense and money-handling complications, one of our board members had the genius idea to just buy fabric to cut into strips, which each pooch has been personalizing as a jaunty bow or bowtie.
DINOs, the dogs in need of space blog, also wrote this interesting post about using color-coding to indicate the need for more space.
Does anyone else use a similar type of color-coding system?

Join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.  
Please Note: As demand for membership has grown, and we currently have an active waiting list, we will be putting a hold on new members at this time..


Twin Cities Pack Walk said...

Love the fabric idea! We use large clip on flowers for our dogs (or people :) who need some extra space. Just like dressing up your pups in fun outfits to make them more approachable, a dog wearing a brightly colored flower ends up making people smile and positively reinforces the space message with the pack members. ~ Marie, TCPW

Anonymous said...

We have toyed with using bandanas to indicate what issues each dog is dealing with. So far our group is small enough that it really hasn't been an issue, but I like how you guys are doing it.

Unknown said...

I gotta start a walking club in Cape Girardeau, MO; I need it, other dogs need it and it looks like a blast as well as such safe socialization!

AJ said...

We have been using bandanas within the HikeABull structure for quite a while now. It has been very helpful as visual reminders for our members. And with our recent team up with a local Humane Society where we have combined a smaller HikeABull group with a group of SPCA Volunteers with shelter dogs for hikes, it absolutely helps send the messages needed for the shelter dogs that may need space or have issues they are working on in particular.

As long as the members within the group "respect the color code" there have been few, if any, issues on our hikes, for example a DINO getting space squeezed.

HikeABull Bandana code:
Blue = a dog who needs some space, who can be reactive, or overexcitable.
Red = dog who is/may be fearful or needs even extra space, avoidance of eye contact or very reactive.

At first we didn't want to single anyone out within the group but we also wanted everyone to have a safe and positive experience. And much of the choice to use a bandana is left up to the owner but use of one can be gently encouraged by the HikeABull hike leader based on info revealed at the pre-hike introductions. And most of our members are happy to oblige.

Unknown said...

I love the bandanas. I also think that having a leash that clearly reads "no dogs" or "nervous" is great for anyone who needs to communicate that on a regular walk, apart from the group walks.

Unknown said...

Bonus: a water soaked bandana is great for cooling off dogs on these hot summer days.

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