What Should You Do If You See a Stray Dog?

As an animal lover, it can be difficult to see a dog on the street and not do anything to help them.

dog running in street with landscape behind
credit: Azhar Khan/iStock/GettyImages

With over 3.3 million dogs entering the shelter every year, stray animals are not an uncommon occurrence. But despite how common strays are, they still need our help, and with this earth-shattering statistic, you may be wondering the proper ways to do so.

Can I go up to a stray dog and pet him? Should I approach a stray dog slowly? Do I call animal control right away if I see a stray dog? What should you do if you see a stray dog? All of these are valid questions.

So, we at Cuteness have compiled a step by step guide to assist you!

Step 1: check for tags

Is there any collar or a tag on this dog? A collar will be a great first clue to identify the situation, and way to locate the contact information for the puppet's owner. Maybe the dog ran out the door, or he is on an off-leash walk with his owner not too far behind. Nonetheless, if the dog has tags, it will make it that much easier to get him back home where he belongs. If the dog does not have tags, you may have found a stray dog and will have to take additional steps to get him to safety.

Goldendoddle Puppy Laying in Grass
credit: sdominick/iStock/GettyImages

Step 2: look around for an owner or familiar face

Even if there are no tags on the dog, there may be an owner following him nearby. If not, you may be able to locate a neighbor who can identify the lost animal and help you reunite the dog with his family.

Tips

If you cannot locate anyone familiar, stay calm, so as not to frighten the dog while you try to help him. A calm demeanor will go a long way.

Step 3: approach the dog slowly

The dog may be scared, sick or injured, and this may lead him to act out of fear and bite, or even run out into the street. According to the Humane Society, you should use caution when approaching the animal, speak calmly, and make sure the dog can see you at all times. Offering a strong-smelling food or treat can also help the dog approach you and feel less threatened.

Stray dog by an orthodox monastery, Georgia
credit: Andrea Ricordi, Italy/Moment/GettyImages

Tips

If you feel comfortable in doing so, get low to the ground, and let the dog sniff your hand. If you feel the dog is going to bolt, or is sick and scared, do not hesitate to call for additional help.

Step 4: get the dog scanned for a microchip

According to ASPCA, combined with identification tags, implanted microchips are the most reliable system for recovering lost or stray animals. Take the dog to the local vet or local animal shelter to scan for a microchip. If a microchip is found, you may be able to get his owner's information from there.

Tips

Microchips are not fool proof. Be sure to always have a collar and tags on your pet to increase the chances of reunification of a lost friend!

Step 5: contact your local animal rescue or shelter

If you cannot reunite the dog with his owner, it is best to contact a local animal shelter or animal rescue so that the animal can get the assistance he needs. Research local reputable animal rescues who may be able to provide further assistance.

Tips

Animal rescues are non-profits that provide dogs and cats with additional medical assistance and find the animal a foster and new family. They may be able to offer you the further hands-on help that you are looking for.