If You See a Dog with a Red Collar, This Is What It Means

What does it mean when dogs wear a red collar or bandana?

Red is the universal sign for “stop.” We see it on stop signs and stoplights around the world. It’s a prominent color for police sirens and fire trucks, and we even use the color when talking about “red flags.” Red gives us reason to pause and be cautious, and it’s why some pups wear red dog collars or bandanas or use red leashes.

What to do if you see a red dog collar, bandana, or leash

While not every potentially dangerous dog will have a red accessory—and not every red accessory worn necessarily means danger—always practice caution if you see a dog wearing this hue.

Though color-coded leashes aren’t mainstream in the United States at this time, some dog owners do use the system. Color-coded accessories are also more popular abroad, so it’s good to be aware of them if you’re traveling.

More colors to know

Yellow is typically reserved for pets that are nervous and may be unpredictable. While it’s not a full-blown “stop,” it’s definitely a “slow down,” just like with a yellow traffic light! Dr. Evans says, “These pets may have underlying fears or anxieties that have not been completely addressed and are not comfortable in certain scenarios.”


Green leashes signal that a pet is approachable for both people and other dogs. “However, you should never approach, pet, speak to, or interact with a strange dog before getting permission from the owner,” says Shojai. “That, I believe, remains the safest and most practical way to keep people—and the dogs we love—protected.”


Shojai says orange typically means that the dog doesn’t interact well with other dogs. Curb your own pup, cross the street, or pause to let the other dog pass calmly.


Blue vests, bandanas, and leashes are commonly used by service dogs, working dogs, or dogs in training. Many times, these accessories will even say “Do not pet.” As cute as the dogs are, you should avoid interactions and let the pup stick to their business. Nobody likes to be bothered when they’re hard at work!