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What to Do if you Find a Stray Dog

Author: Lindsay Rapp | Date: November 2, 2012

There’s nothing worse than the sight of a stray or lost dog on the side of the road. If you are like me, you want to stop and help every single one of them. But do you know how to approach the situation to stay safe?

Here are some steps you should follow if you attempt to pick up a lost dog.

First, you must consider your safety and the dog’s safety. An injured, scared or sick dog may not have the same temperament of a pet dog. When approaching the dog be careful that the dog does not get spooked and run into traffic, or get scared and bite you. A dog bite from any size dog can be dangerous. Also, with stray dogs, you won’t know if they are up to date on vaccinations. PLEASE BE SAFE!

If the dog seems approachable, try to coax it to come to you with treats or food. Make sure the dog can see you at all times and you can see them.  Speak in a calm voice. Try not to run around and chase the dog.

Once you are able to secure the dog on a leash, the goal should be to help find its owner.

  1. By law you are supposed to take a found dog to a shelter/pound or vet. I know it might be hard to do so, but if a family loses a dog that is the fist place they are going to look. Some shelters let you in-home foster the dog. If you do that, make “Dog Found” signs and hang them up in the area you found the dog as well as local shelters and vet clinics.
  2. Check to see if the dog has any tags.
  3. A vet clinic or shelter will have a scanner to see if the dog has a microchip.
  4. Be prepared. If you pick up lost dogs often, having a kit in your car is a good idea. You should have the following on hand:
  • Phone numbers and addresses of local shelters and emergency vet clinics
  • Carrier or laundry bag to contain the dog
  • Blankets (if you live in colder weather)
  • Portable water bowl and bottled water
  • Dog treats

Picking a dog up off the street is a wonderful thing if you can do it, but please put your safety first!




    1. Bridgetkdoherty says:

      I’m having trouble with the dog in a laundry bag part. Seems not only difficult to maneuver but pretty scary for an already scared dog… Or any dog?

    2. Lindsay says:

      Hi Bridget,

      If at all possible, I would use a crate. Some people do not have space in their car for a crate. I said laundry bag because it is a lot like a EvacSak. They have been used in many emergency transport situations. Please check out their website and learn all about them

      Big Woofs,

    3. […] leash they keep in the car (always important to have with you, as well as other items listed in our What to Do if you Find a Stray Dog post) and brought him to their vet. The staff found a microchip, but it was registered to someone in […]

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