What To Do When You Find A Stray Dog
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Dog lovers tend to be the most likely to notice and care when they see
a stray dog wandering about. So, what do you do if you run across a
First and foremost, if you are out with your dog or your children, make
sure they are safe inside or in your car before you get anywhere near
the strange dog. He might behave aggressively, or he might not be
properly vaccinated. Consider the safety of your family, your dog, and
Do not attempt to approach the dog until you have ascertained whether
or not he is likely to behave aggressively. If he displays behavior
such as growling, curling his lips, wagging his tail slowly, or if the
hair on his back stands up, leave the dog alone and call Animal Control.
If the dog is not displaying aggressive behavior, try to call the dog
to you. Use a calm, soothing voice. You can also try to coax him with
some strong smelling food.
Do not try to pet him on the head. Dogs have trouble seeing directly
above them and they will back away and might be frightened. Once you
have given him a moment to be comfortable being near you, reach out
slowly, without making eye contact, and pet his shoulder. If he lets
you pet his shoulder, then pet his neck and gently grasp his collar, if
he has one.
Get the dog into a secure, fenced in area or extra room so he does not wander off and fall victim to a not-so-good samaritan.
Provide the dog water, as he may have been lost and without fresh water
for quite some time. Avoid the urge to give the dog a big meal. If he
hasn’t eaten in a few days, he will eat too much, too fast and it can
make him very sick. If you have dog food, you can offer him a little
bit to make him comfortable, but no more than a handful or so for a
large dog, or less for a toy-size dog.
Obviously, if the dog has tags, call the contact number on the tags and
make the owner aware that his or her dog is safe. Arrange to meet in a
public place, rather than inviting the owner to your home. This person,
though a dog owner, is still a stranger and could be dangerous.
If the dog does not have tags, call local rescues and vets to inquire
if anyone has reported a dog missing who matches the description of the
dog you have found.
If none of the local rescues or vets has had a report of the missing
dog, take the dog to a local rescue with a microchip scanner to have
the dog scanned. If he has a microchip, you’ll easily be able to locate
If the dog does not have a microchip, you have two choices. You can
turn the dog over to the shelter, and hope for the best, or you can
offer to foster the dog and continue to look for the owner. If you do
not want to foster the dog, do not feel bad. You have already done a
great deed by bringing the dog someplace safe.
If you do choose to bring the dog home, your next step is to make “dog
found” fliers. Include your phone number, a brief description of the
dog, and a picture if you have the capability. Do not include a
thorough description of the dog. Leave out specific markings so that
you can have any callers describe the dog to you. This is how you will
know it is the rightful owner. Also, do not include your full name or
address lest you fall victim to less-than honest characters looking to
take advantage of you.
Hang these fliers sporadically in a 2 mile radius around where you
first saw the dog. Most dogs are found within a mile or two of their
Check Craigslist and the local newspaper for lost dog ads.
When you do think you have found the owner, meet in a public place and
bring another adult with you. Again, just because this person is the
owner of the dog, does not make them safe, or trustworthy. Do not let
yourself become a victim over a strange dog. Ask the alleged owner to
provide proof of ownership, like a picture of the dog.
The best way to make sure your dog will make it home safe if he ever
runs away is to have him microchipped, make sure he ALWAYS has a collar
with ID tags, and to never allow your dog to roam unsupervised.
Check back tomorrow for tips on protecting your dog from dangerous chemicals.