How to Handle a Found Dog

Provide the found dog with a bed.
Collie Dog on Dog Bed image by Janet Wall from

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.


  • Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog when you first find him, as dogs can perceive this as a challenge.

  • Do not put lean over the dog or extend your hand while trying to get the dog to come to you. Dogs often see this as a sign of aggression, not affection.


  • Ask anyone who responds to your advertisements to describe the dog before he or she sees the animal to ensure you are dealing with the true owner.

  • If you've notified all the proper authorities and no one has come forward to claim the dog after three weeks or a month, you can opt to keep the dog as a pet or find a home for him.

  • If you have any bits of dog-safe food -- no onions, chocolate or grapes -- use it to reassure and lure a stray dog who is not aggressive, but shies away from your touch because he's nervous.

  • Call Animal Control immediately if you can't safely restrain the dog by yourself.

Items You Will Need

  • Leash
  • Carrier
  • Cloth
  • Rope
  • Shelter number
  • Dog food
  • Water dish
  • Dog bedding
  • Dog treats
  • Paper
  • Camera
  • Markers
  • Tape/staple gun



About the Author

Kent Page McGroarty has worked as a writer since 2006, contributing numerous articles to various websites. She is a frequent contributor to the health and fitness sections of the online magazine EDGE Publications and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Saint Joseph's University.

Photo Credits

  • Collie Dog on Dog Bed image by Janet Wall from