What to Do if You Find a Lost Dog
If you’ve encountered a lost dog in the past, you likely know the dogged efforts required to bring about a happy reunion with his family. But for those who’ve never found a lost dog, the steps to take aren’t always clear, especially when the dog is injured, sick, or fearful. What can you do for a dog in one of these scenarios?
There are several effective strategies to help a lost dog find his way home. These tactics are not meant for the neighborhood dodger who is still wearing his personalized collar and ID tags—if that’s the lost dog who found you, you’re both in luck. His owner is a phone call away, maybe even right around the corner.
These guidelines are for the rest of them, the dog who slipped his collar, or wormed out of an enclosure without his collar, or whose collar has no identification on it. Here is the perfect chance to do what you’d want anybody else to do for your own lost dog: it’s time for some detective work to help get him home.
Is this Dog Lost or Abandoned?
Regardless of the answer to this question, the ragamuffin you just found definitely needs your help. However, the answer can guide the next steps you take. Keep in mind that scars, injuries, or a dirty coat aren’t proof of abandonment or abuse. When a dog has gone missing for days, weeks, or months, he can become thin, filthy and sick. But without ID tags and/or a collar, how can you tell if this dog belongs to a family who may be anxiously looking for him? Spaying and neutering are excellent signs, as is a microchip. Get to a veterinarian or shelter and ask the staff to check for evidence of ownership in your bedraggled foundling.
Important questions to ask yourself when you find a lost dog:
If you can’t put in the time or know you’ll have trouble letting go, consider enlisting the help of a friend or acquaintance who always goes the extra mile in these situations. At the very least, take the dog to a local animal shelter. It’s a kinder gesture than leaving the dog as you found him, and improves his chances for a happy reunion with his family or for joining a new family.
How to Help a Lost Dog
Here’s what to do first:
Quick Tip: Never remove a found dog’s collar—if he escapes from you he’ll be lost without any identification.
Quick Tip:Many people are afraid to bring a lost dog to local animal control—a.k.a."the dog pound”—believing any animal left there will be euthanized. But animal control and local animal shelters are often the first places a distraught owner looks for a missing pet—few people think to read the classifieds for lost pet notices.
If you decide to shelter the lost dog yourself:
Making a Lost Dog Poster and/or Flyers:
If someone calls about the dog, ask for a full, detailed description of the animal. Request photos of the dog—a dog’s legitimate owner will be happy to comply. Meet in a public place, bring a friend along, and make sure someone at home knows where you are.
How to Help a Fearful or Aggressive Lost Dog
A fearful or injured dog can behave unpredictably. Be slow and calm in your approach; chasing down a dog can cause him to panic and bolt. Never approach a dog who appears ready to bite or attack. If the dog seems aggressive or won’t allow you to come close:
Reading a Lost Dog’s Body Language
A lost dog’s family may be trying to find him. Keep your eyes peeled for lost dog posters, but also be advised the dog you found may have wandered far from home; try to look within a one-mile radius for up to a week after you found him.
A multi-faceted approach that includes the local animal control or shelter is a dog’s best bet for the most expeditious reunion with his family: it’s the kindest thing you can do to send a lost dog home again.
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