Having a canine family member go missing is an experience that we hope no paw parent should ever experience. However, sometimes no matter how careful and thorough you’re being, it may still happen. And when it does, oftentimes, you’ll have no other choice but to hope on to hope and trust in the kindness of other people.
So if one day you encounter someone’s lost dog while walking down the street, choose to be the good soul who doesn’t turn a blind eye, and help the poor pooch find their way back home. To ensure your (and the lost dog’s) safety, remember these 7 must-do’s:
1. Approach VERY carefully
When approaching a dog that you don’t know, it’s VERY important to approach carefully and in a non-threatening manner. Refrain from making sudden movements and try to walk towards the dog slowly. While doing so, take note of the dog’s body language.
If the dog is looking like they’re ready to bolt, it’s best to not move any closer, especially if you’re beside a busy street as this could push the dog to run into traffic. Crouch down to their level to appear less threatening and avoid making direct eye contact. If you have (dog-safe) food or treats with you, try tossing them some to gain their trust.
Understand that it could take a while before they warm up to you, so if you don’t have the time, call animal control or a local rescue organization that may be able to help. If the dog is showing signs of aggression, DO NOT take matters into your own hands. Call animal control immediately.
2. Check for identification tags
If the dog is friendly and you’re able to approach them, check for a collar and try to locate an identification tag. If you find a tag with a phone number, give it a call and see if you can get ahold of somebody so you can return the lost dog. If there’s an address, take the dog home. When you get to the specified address, try to observe the surroundings and see if the dog truly is safe there or if there’s a reason why the pup left in the first place—just to be sure.
3. Collaborate with Shelters/Rescues
If the dog doesn’t have an identification tag, take them to your local animal shelter or rescue to get scanned for a microchip. If the dog is microchipped, you’ll have the owner’s information and most likely be able to reunite them both.
Even if they’re not microchipped, staff and volunteers may be able to recognize the lost dog and help you get in touch with the owner. If not, you can ask the shelter or rescue to post a photo of the dog in their computer database or email it to other animal welfare organizations within your area if possible. This is to get the word out and hopefully find the owner faster since shelters and rescues are the first places people go for lost or missing pets.
4. Spread the word
If there’s still no luck finding the dog’s owner, you’ll need to get creative. Use your social media to spread photos of the lost dog and ask friends and family to share your posts to reach more people. Posting and handing out “Found” fliers around your neighborhood can also help increase the odds of reuniting the pooch with their owner.
5. Drop by a vet clinic
At this point, you may need to bring the dog home and take care of them for a while. However, before you do so, it’s important to get them checked at the vet as a precaution. The last thing you want to do is introduce a dog with an unknown health history to your existing pets. Plus, this allows you to determine if the dog is in need of veterinary care or any kind of treatment.
6. Prepare your home
If the vet clinic or hospital allows you to take the dog home, it’s best to keep them separated from family members and pets. Remember, given the circumstance, the lost pup is probably still stressed and frightened—allowing playful kids or pets around them may lead to problems.
Prepare a comfortable space for them in a spare bedroom, the garage, or laundry room, and give them a moment to adjust to being in a new environment. Once the dog has settled in, you can slowly start introducing family members one at a time.
7. Make a Decision
After a certain amount of time, when no one has still contacted you about the dog, then it’s time to make a decision. You can choose to adopt the dog, bring them to a shelter or rescue, or help them find an adopter. Whatever route you choose to go, make sure that it’s in the best interests of the dog.