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What Do I Do If I Find a Lost Dog?

By: Jeff Noce, i4C Innovations President

In a recent post, I wrote about the role proper identification can play in the safe return of your pet if he or she should go missing.

But what if you are faced with the opposite dilemma? What if you find someone else’s dog while out on a drive or walking around your neighborhood?  Should you call animal control or try to catch the dog yourself? And if you are able to corral the pup, what should you do then?

The answer, of course, depends on a variety of factors. The first thing to take into consideration is safety, both yours and the dog’s.

When lost, dogs often act differently than they do at home. Even the friendliest canine may run away or lash out when cornered or frightened. Never approach a lunging, growling or aggressive dog. Instead, it’s best to call animal control and allow them to take care of the situation.

If, however, the dog is friendly and you are able to safely catch him, the first step is to look for ID. If the dog has a collar and tags with updated information, this should allow you to contact his owners immediately. If not, ask your veterinarian or local shelter to check for a microchip. If he has one (and it is registered), this little piece of technology can lead to a quick and happy reunion.

Should the dog have neither type of ID, you now have two choices: take him to your local shelter or keep him while looking for his owners.

If you decide on the latter, here are some tips on what to do next:

  1. Keep him separated from your pets
    Even if the dog appears healthy and non-aggressive, keeping him sequestered will protect your resident dogs and/or cats from potential harm or disease.
  2. Contact your shelter or humane society
    When a pet goes missing, the local shelter is the first place many people turn to. So even if you’re not surrendering the animal, it’s a good idea to contact them for “lost dog” reports and file a “found dog” report of your own.
  3. Place “found dog” flyers around your neighborhood
    Be sure to include your phone number but refrain from posting a picture. Ask callers to confirm the dog’s looks, breed, weight, etc., before agreeing to meet with them.
  4. Utilize newspaper classifieds or Craigslist
    Owners will often post notices about their missing pet in the “lost and found” sections of these resources. Consider placing a “found dog” notice but again, don’t divulge too much information.
  5. Plan your next course of action
    Despite all your efforts, the dog’s owner may never be found. Think about what you will do if this turns out to be the case. Will you surrender him to the shelter? Contact rescue organizations? Keep him yourself? No matter what you ultimately decide, if you take the above steps, you can rest easy knowing that you did everything you could to reunite him with his family.

Remember, if you have any questions that I can help you with regarding pet behavior and care, I’d like to hear from you. Please email me at

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Posted on Apr 23, 2015 by VOYCE Vets & Experts