As much as we don’t want anyone to lose his or her dog, sometimes it happens. Despite our best intentions and our years of dog-owning experience, sometimes our dogs get loose, especially around holidays like the 4th of July (thank you, fireworks) and Halloween (frequent opening of doors, scary masks, constant doorbell ringing, etc.).
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a lost dog in the backyard. I’d let my senior Dobe-mix, Tula, out on her long leash outside and gone back indoors. Shortly thereafter, I heard a dog bark (not Tula) and went out to investigate.
An unfamiliar dog was playing with Tula. I had never seen him before and knew he didn’t belong to any of my close neighbors. Because he was unaccompanied by a human, I quickly realized that this happy dog was out on an adventure — and his owner was probably worried sick.
So I did the first thing that came to mind: I called fellow pack member Bri to get some advice. I knew she had just done a stint with Lost Dogs MN, so she would be equipped to instruct me. And I want to share those tips with you so you’re prepared should this happen to you, too.
Here are six quick ‘n easy tips for what to do if you find a lost dog:
- If possible, catch the dog. If the dog doesn’t want to approach you on its own, grab some high-value human food and sit on the ground. Surround yourself with the food and settle in to wait. Once they’re with you (be patient: it may take a while), leash ‘em up or keep them contained.
- If they’ve got contact information on an ID tag, get in touch with the owner. They’ll a) be thrilled to hear from you or b) be surprised to learn their dog escaped the yard. Either way, you’re a hero.
- If there’s no contact info available, take a good picture of the pooch and use the power of the interweb to help you spread the woof. Neighborhood apps like Nextdoor can be a good place to start, plus local websites and social media pages dedicated to reuniting owners with their lost pets — like Lost Dogs Minnesota and Lost Dogs Illinois — where you can fill out a lost dog report.
- Call the local police or city shelter to tell them you’ve found a dog. That way if the owner calls the police or shelter too, which they should, they’ll be able to connect dog and owner. If you’re in Minnesota, call The Retrievers, too. They may well be looking for the very dog you’ve found.
- Bring the pooch to your local vet. Call ahead to confirm, but most veterinarians will do a free microchip scan for lost dogs. If the pet does have a chip, you’ll be able to contact the owner directly.
- Even if you can’t catch the pooch, fill out a Sightings Report at Lost Dogs Minnesota or Lost Dogs Illinois. Every little bit helps!
So how did things turn out for my new furry friend? Well, I quickly attached him to my side (I’m a good ear-rubber) and checked his collar for his owner’s contact information. Unfortunately, the only tag this pup had on him was a proof of vaccination. Side note: If your dog’s ID tag doesn’t have some sort of contact info on it (for you or even your vet), you should change that ASAP.
Lucky for us, the dog’s owner came walking through our neighborhood calling the dog’s name just a few minutes later. Happy endings all around.
Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagram, and join us on Facebook and Twitter.
More reads you’ll ruv: