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What to do if you find a lost dog

Stray dogs are a common sight, but most people don’t pay much attention to the animals.

Did you know that these might be lost dogs who have been separated from their owners?

Wouldn’t you want someone to help your pet find their way home if they were lost?

Some dogs might have no owners at all, but they deserve one.

The truth is that helping a stray dog can be a fulfilling experience, but not knowing how to handle an animal can endanger both you and the dog.

Here’s what to do when you find a lost dog roaming around your neighborhood.

What to Do When you Find a Lost Dog

1. Try to capture the dog safely

The best option when you found a lost dog is to try and contain it. You won’t know what other dangers the stray dog might encounter on the way. The more it wanders, the farther off it will drift from its owners.

Always be cautious of stray animals, though.

Protect yourself if possible, but don’t appear scared or too careful, as dogs can easily sense that hesitation. Never chase a dog, as it can lash back at you in fear. Read up on the proper techniques to approach a dog in a way that keeps you and the animal safe and calm.

If you have a treat or food on hand, you can use it to encourage the dog to come to you. You can also ask the animal to hop into a car if you happen to be driving. It’s like inviting the dog on a car ride, which is sometimes quite enticing for dogs.

If the stray dog doesn’t want to cooperate or becomes aggressive, don’t force it. Call your local animal control services immediately, as the dog might endanger other people.

2. Check the dog's status

Once you have calmed the dog down, check on its condition. If the dog has any visible injuries, take them to the veterinarian or animal clinic immediately. Take note of infectious illnesses or fleas, too.

Never mingle a stray dog with your other dogs, either. If you have other pets, wait until you've checked and cleared the stray dog's condition with a veterinarian.

3. Look for any sign of identification

Once the stray animal is in your custody, your priority is to find their original owners and keep the dog safe.

The obvious place you should look is on or on the inside of the dog’s collar. Look for a contact number in the ID tag or written under the collar. Once you find a contact number, call it immediately—they might be worried sick about their pet.

If the dog doesn’t have an ID tag, they may have a microchip. The small piece of hardware stores the dog owner’s information electronically. You can have them scanned at your local police department, animal control, or animal shelter. 

4. Contain the dog humanely

Once you have the stray dog in your custody, treat it with as much care as you would your own pet. Securing the stray dog with a leash is the easiest and safest way, but not everyone may have access to one.

In a pinch, you can keep the dog in a spare room or a fenced-in area of your backyard. If you have no other choice but to keep the animal in your car, make sure it is well-ventilated. Give the animal water and try to park in a shaded area to keep the temperature inside the vehicle low.

5. Take the stray dog to an animal shelter.

If you’re unable to keep the dog for long periods, the best choice is to drop them off at the nearest animal shelter. Most owners missing a dog would visit one, anyway.

It will also be a smart move if the stray dog has no form of identification. An animal shelter would know the best way to take care of these strays and find them new homes.

It might be the case that the stray dog has no identification but does have a worried owner looking for them. These people have a higher chance of finding their lost dog from an animal shelter than if it is kept elsewhere.

6. Spread the word

Increase the chances of alerting the owner of the stray dog by spreading the word. You can do this via flyers in your neighborhood or on social media for your community groups. Some local newspapers also allow you to place a ‘found’ ad for free.

It’s also an excellent idea to utilize the power of the Internet. Post a report on the “Pets” section of the popular website, Craigslist, or on your own social media pages. You’d be surprised how fast news travels on the web.