How to Handle a Found Dog

By Kent Page McGroarty


Finding an unleashed dog can be a frightening experience for you and the pooch. If the dog is lost, he's probably scared and more likely to act aggressively, though if he is someone's pet, you may be able to talk him into coming to you. When dealing with a found dog, know how to best handle the animal to contain him and keep him as calm as possible before making the necessary calls.

Step 1

Speak to the dog in soothing tones to get a feel for his temperament. Dogs that are severely frightened, injured or sick can behave aggressively as a defense. If the dog growls, has hair on his back standing straight up, or is otherwise acting aggressively, don't try to touch or pick him up. Instead, call the nearest animal control center or shelter to report the dog's location. If the dog is friendly and comes up to you for a sniff, continue to speak in soothing tones and pet the dog if he seems receptive to your touch.

Step 2

Check for dog tags. Most dog tags either feature the dog's name and owner's number or the name of the shelter or animal hospital where it received care. Also check for a rabies tag or microchip, as these items will also help get the dog back to his owner.

Step 3

Restrain the dog if possible after you've established a friendly rapport through petting and . Use a carrier or collar and leash if you have them at hand, or fashion a collar and leash out of cloth or rope if you have access to these materials. Continue to speak to the dog in soothing tones as you secure him and bring him into your car or nearest safe destination.

Step 4

Transport the dog to a safe location. If he has dog tags with an owner name and phone number or address, you can place a phone call or take the animal home directly; however, don't leave him there unaccompanied because it might not be a current tag; even if it is, he could escape again. You can take the dog to the local animal shelter. Alternately, contact an independent rescue group in your area if you are concerned about his chances of being adopted at the shelter; many breed-specific rescue groups are active throughout the country. If you decide to take the dog to your home, call your local shelter or animal control center as soon as possible to report your find.

Step 5

Make the dog as comfortable as possible if you took him home for foster care until he is picked up by his owner. Keep him separate from children and other pets, and provide food, water and comfortable bedding. Walk and play with the dog so he gets the proper exercise and doesn't become bored or lonely. If you can, purchase dog chews and toys to further entertain your house guest.

Step 6

Take pictures of the dog and make "Found Dog" signs to post throughout the area where you encountered the dog. You can also place found dog ads in your local newspaper, hang signs in your local shelters, animal control office and veterinary offices. Post notices on websites such as Petfinder and Craigslist as well.
Comments (3)
Dec 26, 2012 suzzanne
Actually, I disagree about posting pictures. There are people who could claim the dog as theirs and use them for bait dogs or worse, Class B Animal Dealers. If you don't know what a Class B dealer is - look it up if you have the stomach for it - it's not pretty. If a person lost their dog they know what it looks like and should be able to describe it to the person that found it. The sign should only be a general description - large dog found in XYZ area. The hopeful owner should have pictures and vet records to back up their ownership. I've returned many dogs back to their owners. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing their face. I pray I'm never on the other side of this scenario.
Dec 27, 2012 brainofkjf
I agree with Suzzanne. For some reason strays gravitate to my house. We keep kennel leads in the front hall and car for just such occasions. When we post the "Found Dog" notices we put a basic description, (ex: for a recent pit bull visitor we put "young brown dog with white spots") & we expect the owner to provide the details. That deters the evil doers.
Jan 6, 2013 dianeweissert
Having done search/rescue/reuniting of lost and found pets for many years as well as during disasters, not posting a photo can really make it more difficult. Please include a photo but without the collar if the dog is wearing one when found and ask for a description of it. If no collar then take the photo at an angle so that any distinct markings are not showing and ask for a description of that. Have anyone claiming to be the owner provide proof of ownership (i.e. photos of their pet, vet records, etc.)... the rightful owner will have no problem providing proof!
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