I Found a Lost Dog- Now What?

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What To Do When You Find a Lost Dog

There must be something about my husband and I that attracts stray dogs. In the last five years, we have found six stray dogs (or more realistically, six stray dogs have found us). We have found two dogs in the last four months alone (chalk it up to living in rural Texas). Every time we find one, I optimistically hope we have found a lost dog, not a stray dog.

Unfortunately, out of the six dogs we have found, all seemed to be abandoned, not lost. But, when you find a lost dog, how can you be sure if the dog escaped someone’s yard or it was dumped?

A few weeks ago we found lost dog number six. His name is Buddy and after spending a few weeks with him it is hard to understand why anyone would intentionally dump him; but that seems to be what happened.

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Buddy, the most recent lost dog we have found.

Each time we find a dog, I learn something new. I want to share the steps you can take to try to reunite a lost dog with his family or to find him a foster home or even a new home. Here’s what to do when you find a lost dog.

Please remember to always keep your safety and the safety of the dog first, before taking any action. 

Offer the dog water and food. I have never found a stray dog that was not hungry and thirsty.

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This is the first stray dog we found in 2012. We saw him watching us for a few days and left food outside for him until he would let us get close to him.

Check the temperament of the dog. Lost dogs may be terrified and confused about what is happening. Be careful before you try to get too close to avoid being bit. All six dogs we have taken in have been exceptionally sweet and knowingly grateful for the help. Before you start trying to load the dog in your car or consider introducing to your family or other pets, do your best to assess the dog’s temperament. Keep in mind the dog is likely scared and may be defensive.

Get a leash on the dog. Many lost dogs are scared, but somehow understand you are going to help. If you can get the dog on a leash or somehow contain the dog in your yard, do so to prevent the dog from running into traffic or becoming injured in another dangerous situation.

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This little guy was running with the mastiff we found. After no luck finding his owner, a family friend took him.


Call the animal shelter. Call your local animal shelter to report the lost dog. If someone is missing a dog, this is likely the first place they will call to see if the dog has been picked up. Ask the shelter to file a report (so if the owner shows up there is proof you reported the dog missing before taking further action). The animal shelter can likely send out someone to pick up the dog if you cannot assist further; but be aware, not all animal shelters are no-kill and the dog may be euthanized within 24 hours. It is a good idea to ask how long they will hold onto the dog before euthanizing prior to requesting a pickup.

Check for a microchip. Ask the animal shelter or a veterinarian to scan the dog for a microchip. If the dog has one, the database will have the owner information.

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Took this sweet girl to the vet to check for a microchip and have her skin looked at. She also tested positive for heartworms.

Check the dog over. If are planning to hold onto the dog until someone claims it or until you can find a foster, check the dog over for fleas, ticks, and injuries. Five of the six dogs we have found had fleas and two of the six had severe ticks. You do not want to bring a flea infested dog around your animals or into your home. If the dog requires medical attention, take the dog to a vet, if you can. Do not assume the animal shelter will provide medical attention. Often, the need for medical attention is a death sentence in an animal shelter that uses euthanasia.

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Found this mastiff in rough shape. He had to spend a week at the vet to recover and his owners were never found. A family friend adopted him.

Create found dog flyer. There is a free website called Helping Lost Pets that will let you create a Found Dog posted for free. You can also search for lost dogs on this site. The found dog will be posted on the site once you create the flyer. Once you have the flyer, you can print it out and tape up around the neighborhood. You can also share the Found Dog poster image on social media.

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Enter as much information about the dog on the Found Dog flyer as possible. I was not comfortable using my phone number since we do not live in the area permanently, so I used the vet’s number (with their permission).

Contact local rescues. If the dog requires medical attention and/or you cannot hold onto the dog until the owner is found or it finds a new home, contact local rescues in your area. Even if the rescue cannot take the dog off your hands, they may be able to help with expenses if you sign up at a foster. The rescue will also be able to provide information about where to post details about the lost dog.

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The local SPCA directed me to this facebook group to share the found dog poster. This specific post was shared 13 times.


Join Facebook pet pages. Each area we have lived in has had some sort of county or city pet page. Sometimes there are multiple pages for lost/found pets, rehoming, etc. See what you can find and get the word out about the dog.

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It is a good idea to update your post as you get more information. The updated post will appear at the top of the group, potentially showing it to people who have not seen it.


Take the dog for a walk. If you found the dog in a neighbor or residential area, put a long leash on the dog and see if he will lead you back to his home.

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We found this guy shot in the face. Unbelievably, we found his owner who claimed he was stolen from her yard, but said she did not want his back. A co-worker took him.

Take the dog to the vet. If you are going to hold onto the dog until the owner is found, or until you can find it a new home, take it to the vet if you can afford to do so. Most vets will give you a discount or some type assistance (like free wormer) if you bring in a dog that you have found. The dog should be checked for fleas and ticks and scanned for a microchip (even if you had it scanned already, it does not hurt to scan again). We have taken each dog to the vet the same day we find them to scan for a microchip and to address medical issues. One dog had dried blood and a wound on him, one dog had been shot in the face, another appeared to have mange (it turned out to be a bad sunburn). The vet can also administer wormer and depending on the condition of the dog, administer vaccinations.

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This poor guy was covered in ticks on the outside and worms on the inside, among other internal problems. He went directly to vet and stayed there for a week to recover from all his health issues.

If you find a dog and cannot do anything to help, at least snap a few photos and share on social media and notify the animal shelter. Someone else may be able to go get the animal and hold until the owner is located. 

Lastly, if someone comes forward to claim the dog, ask a lot of questions and require proof, such as vet records or photos. Questions should be open-ended and not too specific, allow the owner to provide the details.

If you have found a lost dog, what did you do to find the dog’s owner? Please share below!

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