Important things you should and should not do if you find a lost dog

Losing a pet, especially a loving dog, is a heartbreaking experience and the worst nightmare of every dog owner. Reports by the American Humane shows that one in three pets get lost or stolen in their lifetime and 10 million pets, including dogs and cat, go missing every year.

You can only imagine the emotional stress dog owners go through when they lose their four-legged pal. Everyone with a kind heart would love to reunite a lost dog with their owner.


But one common question is, “what should you do when you find a lost dog?” Another question is, “what should you not do when you find a lost dog? These are two important questions that we shall be answering in this article. Take note, we shall be answering both together in most sections below.

Without much ado, let’s get into it.

Approaching a lost dog: What should you do?

When you see a lost dog wandering into the woods, don’t be quick to run after them to grab their collar. The dog may not be friendly and might attack you out of fear. So apart from the dog’s safety, your safety is important too.

So here’s what do: Pay good attention to the body language shown by the dog. If they feel relaxed and calm, you can approach them slowly with your body turned to the side. This is important because it is a less intimidating approach to dogs than when you come straight head-on.

Next, you can squat and extend your hand so the dog can smell you. Remember to keep your body sideways and look away to keep the dog comfortable around you. When the dog seems happy to be at your side, only reach for their collar.

Another way you can approach the dog is to use a leash with a clip or fashion a temporary slip lead from a rope. You can also use treats to coax the dog to relax.

However, if the dog seems aggressive and doesn’t approach you willingly, do not try to grab or restrain the dog.

Some signs you should watch for include:

  • Bared teeth
  • Hair standing on end
  • Stiff body language

Do not be deceived by a wagging tail. It only means emotional arousal and is not a guarantee for friendship.

If you’re concerned about the dog’s behavior, you can reach out to the animal control or the police department. These are professionals that can safely handle dogs and bring them to proper authorities.

You can take videos or photos of the dog if you can’t safely approach them. This will be a good way to describe the dog than by memory alone. So if the dog leaves before animal control arrives, they can get an idea of how the dog looks.

You can also post online to reach out to the potential owner. In this case, ensure you add the exact location you saw the dog. This gives the owner direction in their search for their furry friend.

What about keeping the dog temporarily?

You may decide to keep the dog temporarily before getting them to a local shelter or finding their owner. Well, in this case, you need to think about a holding area. Whether temporarily or long-term, you need to put safety measures in place for your family, pets, and the lost dog.

Do not allow the dog to mingle with your pets until you get a go-ahead from a veterinarian. The newcomer might not have an active vaccination, and they might carry an infectious disease that can threaten the health of your own pet. More so, the lost dog might even have parasites such as ringworm or fleas to battle with.

So the best thing to do is to confine the lost dog to a separate room in your house. You can also keep them in your fenced backyard until you can get them tested by a veterinarian or move them to a shelter.

Check for collar ID tags

Most dogs carry a means of identification, especially when they go out with their owner. So check their collar ID tags for the contact information of their owner. Try to call every number listed, and if none is going through, you can leave a message.

However, you might find some lost dogs without tags or the number listed on their tags are no longer in service. In this case, you can have the dog scanned for a microchip at a veterinary clinic or an animal shelter. Do not worry, the process is painless and the number on the chip is directly linked to a pet registration service.

While some services may simply give you the owner’s detail, some others will help you contact the owner directly.

You can also check for a tattoo on a lost dog. Most times, they are located on the inside of a dog’s thigh, inside of their ear, or on their belly.

How else can you alert the lost dog’s owner?

If you’ve tried calling the numbers on both the ID tag and microchip to no avail, you can take advantage of technology and try other means.

One way you can search for a lost dog’s owner is to look for local websites that contain sections for lost and found animals. Try browsing the lost pet listings and post the details of your won.

You can also use Facebook and other social media platforms to let the world know you’ve found a lost dog.  Don’t be surprised when the owner gets the information and reaches out to you through the contact information provided.

Another way is to use the old-school method of printing flyers with the dog’s photo and how to reach you and post them around your neighborhood.

You can also visit local vet offices and request to post the flyer in their lobby. If you’re very much concerned, you can sacrifice time to visit people around that neighborhood where you found the dog in case somebody recognizes the pup.

Finally, you can place flyers in your front window to help the owner easily get to you when searching around your neighborhood.


You need to be very careful when you find a lost dog because you don’t have any prior relationship with them. Dogs have different behavior and some are very aggressive. So for your safety, tread carefully. And if the dog is not being friendly, you can call animal control to handle the case.

If you’re keeping the dog until you find their owner, do not forget to contact animal shelters and nearby vets in the area. You can leave a description of the dog and your contact information. Owners of lost dogs often visit or call these locations as soon as they realize their dog is missing.

And even if you choose to keep the lost dog with you rather than keeping them in a shelter, it can be helpful to inform the shelter about the case. This way, the owner gets a high chance of finding you and their lost furry friend.

Lastly, after finding the dog owner and reuniting them with their pup, do not forget to contact all the groups you’ve earlier informed of the lost dog. Some of these groups keep a record and they can take the dog off the list immediately.



Improve your dog's quality of life with these simple tricks which you can implement immediately.