01/07/2014 11:57 am ET Updated Mar 09, 2014

The Dog With the Yellow Ribbon

"I can't let you get close to me, I'll end up hurting you."

"It's not you, it's me. I just need my space."

If you see a dog wearing a yellow ribbon, this is what it might say. But instead of a cheesy break-up line, the dog's ribbon would serve as a warning of potential danger.

The Yellow Dog Program uses yellow ribbons to warn the public that it's wearer needs space and should be treated with caution. As designated by the ribbon, "Dogs in need of space" -- or DINOS -- are not necessarily aggressive dogs, but more often are dogs who have fear, age or pain issues; are in training or are service or working animals .

Rather than an excuse for a lack of training or aggressive behavior though, the program's goal is to educate the public and dog owners to identify dogs needing space and promote appropriate contact of dogs.

And, with the growing trend towards dog-friendly everything, it's an education that the public -- and parents -- could really use.

According to the American Humane Society, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. And children are considerably more vulnerable than adults. In fact, nearly half of all dog bite victims involve children and 70% of dog bite fatalities are children under 10 years old.

The Humane Society has the following recommendation for parents: "If you want to meet a dog, first ask the owner for permission. If the owner says it's OK, hold out your hand in a fist for the dog to sniff. If he's interested, you can give him a little scratch under the chin (not over the head) and say hello."

The problem is that many dog owners don't realize that they should not let a stranger near their dog, especially when it's a child. Most recently, a 3-year-old boy was attacked by an Akita in a California Lowe's home improvement store after the dog's owner gave the boy permission to pet him.

This is exactly the type of incident that the Yellow Dog Program could be instrumental in preventing. Had the dog involved been wearing a yellow ribbon, it's owner been aware of what it was capable of or the child's parent mindful that maybe letting a 3-year-old child pet a strange dog is a bad idea, then perhaps this incident -- and many similar incidents -- could have been avoided.

So, if you see a dog wearing a yellow ribbon, remember, maybe it just needs it's space.