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What to Do If You Find a Lost Dog

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Have you ever lost your dog? If yes, then you know very well how relieving it is to get a call from a stranger who has dialed the phone number on your dog’s collar or to see your pooch happily run to you at the community shelter. Without a doubt, critical in most of these reunions is a good Samaritan who has found your missing pet and escorted him to a secure place.


What to do if you find a lost dog:

1. Stay calm. Bear in mind that once you set eyes on a stray dog, you have to first consider his safety, your safety and the safety of others. If you spot a dog in trouble, perhaps loose near traffic, it’s very easy to panic and cause an even more risky situation just because of a nervous reaction. That’s why, if you spot a stray dog while you are driving, try to respond as calmly as you can. Be careful not to startle or frighten stray dog who may run away or into the stream of traffic. Just try coming back around and pulling over, or contact animal control and provide them with as much information as possible about the lost dog and where you spotted it.

2. Be alert. Whether you are on foot or inside your car, remember that sometimes the danger is not in the situation, but in the condition of the dog himself. The dog you found may be injured, scared, or ill. Never approach the dog if he shows aggression toward you or other people. Whenever possible, try staying at the scene until help arrives.

3. Assume responsibility. Now, if the lost dog seems friendly and approachable, and you feel that you can safely take him with you, try enticing him to come to you with treats or welcoming body language and a happy voice. If you decide to take the pooch to your home, visit your local animal shelter or veterinarian first. If the stray dog has no collar or ID tag, they can scan him for an implanted microchip to retrieve the owner’s contact information. While you’re there, you can post “Found Dog” information or check to see if anyone has reported their pet missing.

4. Go the extra mile. If you keep the lost dog in your own care until his owner is found, immediately start posting flyers, or hitting the internet. Most cities or counties have “Lost & Found Pets” Pages on Facebook, use them. Do whatever you can to get the information out to the dog’s family that he is safe and sound with you- and all set to come home again.

Think of how you would feel if your own dog was lost, and what you would wish others would do for you.

Also, take steps to prevent your own pup from becoming lost! Check out this important article, 6 Ways to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Lost.

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  1. Avatar Of Nat Nat says:

    It is so sad to hear about poor lost dogs, but with all the people committed to dogs and rescue groups, I know that the dogs will soon be at their new or old home! 🙂

  2. Avatar Of Bj Yosh

    BJ Yosh


    Earlier this month, I was out walking our dog in the neighborhood. A car pulled up to the curb and the gentleman asked if I had seen a loose dog. At the time, I hadn’t seen any. I got the description of dog, the dog’s name and the owner’s phone number. A few minutes later, down a few blocks, his wife also pulled up and asked the same question and I gave her the same answer – no sightings of their dog. As I kept going on the walk, I heard the dogs in the neighborhood barking. Instead of continuing on our usual path, I changed directions and walked toward the barking. There she was, loose, in front of her own yard and waiting for her parents to come home. I called the number, but no answer. I called the dog’s name and kept her company for a few minutes. Luckily, the wife came home. I was so happy that the dog didn’t wander off any further and could have gotten hurt or picked up by a stranger. It felt good that I was able to help her get back home.

  3. Avatar Of Amy



    One trick I have found works when trying to get a reluctant dog to come to you: get down on all fours yourself (yes, you look silly, but we’re trying to save a dog here! 😉 and pretend to be fascinated by something on the ground. Paw at the grass, while calling to the dog and keeping your voice high and friendly. Dogs who are lost are scared and nervous, and for whatever reason this seems to calm them enough so they will come close enough that I can give them a treat, look at their collar, and slip a leash on them.

  4. Avatar Of Chris



    Always have a slip leash in your car or home. A slip leash just loops over the dogs head – it does not attach to the dogs collar. That way, if the dog is not wearing a collar you can manage him.

  5. Avatar Of Aila Sundelin

    aila sundelin


    the problem with bringing them to the pound or animal control, if no one shows up for them, they are killed within days

    • Avatar Of Susan



      That is a misconception that needs to be changed. It is not always the case. More and more shelters are becoming proactive in finding homes for the stray and abandoned animals that are in their care. The public can help support their local shelter by becoming volunteers and/or networking to provide information about the great animals available for adoption at the shelters.

      • Avatar Of Allison L Connor

        Allison L Connor


        Thank you, Susan. I agree 100% with your comment about changing this strong misconception regarding many municipal animal control facilities. The tides are turning in favor of the animals in many places. I have witnessed this myself in my own city. I work with our AC staff regularly as a rescue volunteer so I’ve seen the positive change myself. Are animals still euthanized? Some, yes. But in many of those cases you have to ask yourself, is the animal better off living on the street with no care at all or being humanely euthanized? The real culprit in this battle with animal overpopulation and what that means for the animals is us – society as a whole. Mandatory spay neuter laws will help. Forcing responsible behavior is the job of government when individual citizens refuse. If you or your friends and neighbors have pets that are not altered, you are the problem.

    • Avatar Of Linda



      There are many shelters that are no kill shelters. I am sure if you look around you can find one. There really is no need for the kill shelters. Personally I think kill shelters to be demolished.

    • Avatar Of Patti Hails Patti Hails says:

      This just happened to me. It’s a little female with rottweiler and maybe a little bull dog in her and she had no collar. I kept her for 2 days hoping someone would come by looking for her. She was with 2 grown dogs. One looked like her mom and looked like she might still be nursing. The other was a bull dog dragging a chain. I wanted to take her to PAWS but they said they didn’t have room. So I took her to Animal Control. They said if no one claimed her in 7 days, she would be put asleep. This is just eating away at me. I’ve called to check on her and no one has claimed her. I have a dog, a very possessive Jack Russel. Plus I can’t afford another.

  6. Avatar Of Rebec234



    mbers came to help search for him. I d

  7. Avatar Of Patricia



    If you post a picture, hold back some identifying information about the dog, like it’s gender, if it’s neutered or not (males, obviously), or some unusual marking or feature. That way you can weed out people who claim lost dogs for less-than-honorable purposes.

  8. Avatar Of Marjorie



    I found a stray dog wandering loose in the park, but could not catch him. I did manage to snap a photo to post on Facebook, and the rescue society for his breed spotted it and several members came to help search for him. I don’t know any more of his story, but I was very impressed by the dedication of the rescue group.

  9. Avatar Of Lolly



    Post on Facebook. There are many local groups that help lost animals.

  10. Avatar Of Linda Hanson

    Linda Hanson


    While driving my bus I would call the local animal control about a lost dogs. I can’t leave my position. Also while out walking or driving my car I have brought dogs home that were lost. Called the owners. If no number I wouldcall the local police department and leave info if anyone calls in about their pet. It has always workef out!

  11. Avatar Of Lois



    Good article. Under “Go the extra mile,” I also suggest giving out your name and phone number to people you talk to while you’re looking for the dog’s family. Recently we took in a stray dog in front of our house. I walked through our neighborhood with him and asked everyone I saw if they knew him. They didn’t, but the dog’s family was looking for the dog, and they talked to some of the same people (mostly kids playing outside) after I did. They found out that someone had taken in their dog, but they didn’t have my contact information. Fortunately, we met when we were out at the same time later in the day, and the dog got safely home.

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