Dos and Don'ts When A Lost Dog Is Found

February 15, 2022

Dos and Don'ts When A Lost Dog Is Found

Have you ever witnessed a lost dog on the side of the road and wanted to help? This situation requires immediate action, and you'll want to know the dos and don'ts of lost dog care to get the animal to its owner as fast as possible.  

So, what should you do when you come across a lost dog in your area? We'll go over everything you need to know in the guide below.


It's best to be prepared for the situation by knowing how to help when encountering a lost pet. Follow the guidelines below to stay safe and help recover a lost dog when you find them.

Do Be Cautious

When approaching a lost pet, make sure to stay calm. While a lost dog may be more inclined to approach you, remember that it may be stressed or anxious. So, approach them in a friendly manner. Read any body language for cues on how to proceed:

  • If the dog's ears are down and their tail is tucked between their legs, it may be best to try and corral them towards a safe location. Never guide them towards the street.
  • If a dog seems curious about you, you may not even have to move. They may come to you! You can use any food on you to entice them over if you must.
  • If the dog is baring its teeth or growling, stay back. These signs of aggression indicate it is not safe for you to approach. Instead, keep an eye on them from a distance or the safety of your home or vehicle and call animal control right away.

Do Check for Identification

When you get ahold of the lost dog, check for identification. This is usually in the form of a collar with tags on it. If there is no collar, see if there is an item such as a bandana tied around the dog's neck or another identifiable item that implies ownership somehow. These will let you know whether you are dealing with a lost pet or a stray.

If there are no tags present, take the dog to be checked for a microchip. Some pet owners do this to ensure their animal companion is safely tracked if they are lost. The information from the microchip is usually connected to a database that will tell you who the owner is and how to contact them - neat and helpful, right?

Do Contact the Owner or a Shelter

Contact the owner straight away with the information on the tags or the information from the microchip. If you can contact them immediately, arrange a time and place to hand them over. Don't wait, as the owner will likely be worried sick not knowing their pet's well-being. If you can, text or message them a picture to show that their fluffy friend is safe and out of harm's way to put their mind at ease.

If you can't get in contact with the owner right away, or if there is no contact information available to you, call your local animal shelter to report a found pet. They will help you find the owner should that owner be out looking for their dog. The shelter can also hold the dog for a few days if you are unable to care for them in your own home.

Do Post on Social Media

Regardless of whether you keep the dog in your home or turn them over to a shelter, be active on social media. Post on your platform that you found a lost dog. Provide pictures and key information to spread the word, such as where you found the pet. Hopefully, the owner will see it and reach out to you!

Make sure in that event that the owner can prove to you that they are the owner. You can do this by requesting they send pictures of themselves with the pet or by describing key details about the lost dog that only the owner would know.


While you now know what to do when you come across a lost dog, there are some things you should avoid doing to keep both you and the pet safe while trying to make contact with the owner or a shelter.

Don't Take Them Home

While not a hard-set rule, it is something to keep in mind, especially if you have other pets or small children at home. You don't want to put your furry friend or child at risk. Remember that even if the dog is cute, you don't know its behavior patterns. 

If you or someone in your household is allergic to dogs, you definitely should refrain from bringing the lost pup into your home. Take into consideration how the lost dog may react to these circumstances and determine whether it is a good idea to introduce them into your home.

You can keep the dog in the car for a short while, as long as it is properly ventilated and won't get too hot inside.

You can always contact your local shelter to have them look after the pet if you cannot provide a safe space for them yourself. They will be able to hold the dog for a few days while also trying to contact the owner. You can check on the dog in that time frame to see if the owner has come to collect them or has come looking.

Don't Neglect Them

A lost dog may feel nervous or lonely after being so far from home. Try to comfort them by providing basic dog care if you can. If you have other pets with you that get along well, consider slowly introducing them so that the lost dog will have company. If you have a leash available, take the lost dog for a walk while you search for its owner.

You can always give them some food, water, and attention if they need it while you try to contact the owner. If the animal seems reluctant to interact or becomes aggressive in your care, give them space. 

Don't Overwhelm Them

Leave food and water in an accessible place, but don't crowd the dog. Allow them to investigate on their own while you look after them. They may not be comfortable or feel safe around strangers and may grow nervous. 

Don't Keep the Information to Yourself

Remember that getting the word out about the lost dog in any way you can is essential. The longer you stay quiet, the more worried the owner may become. They may lose hope altogether, so don't hesitate to start alerting your neighbors. 

Go door to door if you must to figure out if the lost dog is local or from another neighborhood. There's a chance that if you don't know where the dog came from, one of your neighbors might!

Also, search online for people looking for their lost dog. There are message boards and Facebook groups online for neighborhoods and towns where residents will likely post about their lost pets. Make posts of your own. Don't post any private information publicly, but do provide enough information for the dog to be identified.


When you find a lost dog, it's important to know what's at stake and act quickly. Your decisions can make all the difference when a family is trying to find their beloved pet. Keep our do's and don'ts in mind just in case you encounter a stranded dog in your neighborhood. 

Now that you've read through our guide, wondering what else can you do to stay one step ahead? Join our mailing list to stay updated with dog tips and more pet information you may be interested in.

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