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What To Do If You Find A Lost Dog

Posted by Dr. Jessica Herman on

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Nothing tugs at the heartstrings like finding a pup that’s wandered away from home. With an estimated ten million dogs lost every year in the U.S, it’s not only important that we all ensure our own pets can be safely returned to us, but also know what to do if we find someone else’s. Instead of Googling What To Do If You Find Lost Dog here are a few simple steps to help reunite them with their human. 

Assess the situation

Upon finding a lost dog many peoples’ first instinct, especially if they’re a dog parent, is usually to get them to safety. This is completely natural, however, your safety (as well as any pets or humans nearby) is also important. 

Before approaching the animal, take notice of its body language and physical surroundings. Does the dog seem stressed? Is it agitated, or acting aggressively? If so, contact local animal control so they can safely remove the dog from the situation and get it help. If the pup is relaxed or, better yet, approaches willingly, squat down to their level and let them smell a hand or wrist to make them comfortable. Share a treat or two if any are handy.

Secure the animal to keep it safe

Whether planning on taking the pup to a local shelter or hand-delivering it to their owner, getting the pup secured in a safe location is key. Because dogs don’t come with a list of their medical history when lost, it’s also important to keep it away from other pets or people until a veterinarian gives the OK. Some skin diseases or parasites may not be easily visible. A separate room or fenced-in area should do the trick. Equally, keeping the dog away from cars or large or destructible items will help them feel more secure and less vulnerable.

Identify the owners

Check the lost dog for ID tags and contact all persons listed. In the event the tags are out-of-date, or the dog doesn’t have any, bring the pup to a local animal shelter, clinic, or rescue group to get it scanned for a microchip. The process is painless. If a dog’s microchip is registered the pet’s name and owners’ information will help to coordinate its return and ensure its safety. 

Notify owners or activate social networks

If a dog is unregistered or the identity of an immediate owner nearby cannot be found, don’t panic. Reunification is still possible. The next step is to turn to the internet. First, post a photo of the dog on social media, including a description of where they were located, and ask friends and family to share it with their networks. If the town or neighborhood has dedicated groups on social media to discuss news or events, this is another prime place to post. Sites like Nextdoor, LostPetAlert, or the Local Humane Society all have listing areas to help reunite animals with their owners. 

Second, notify local animal shelters and clinics that a lost dog has been secured and is being cared for. Leave them a description of the pup, a photo, and where it was located. The owner will likely call around to see if anyone dropped it off or brought it in for care. 


It may sometimes take a few days or weeks to locate owners. If unable to foster the animal rescue groups typically can help. When it comes to caring for a lost dog, just treat it like you’d hope someone would treat your dog if lost.

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