Found a Stray Dog? Here’s What You Can Do.

If you have found a stray dog, follow these steps to make it easier for the dog’s family to find them.

If you find a stray dog, take them to an animal shelter. It’s the first place their family may look. Photo: Jim & Rachel McArthur

When you find a stray dog, you can’t assume they’re yours to keep.

Follow the proper procedures, even if the dog is in bad condition. It’s possible they were trapped somewhere or have been looking for their people for several days, weeks and sometimes even months.

What to Do When You Find a Stray Dog

1. See If They’re Microchipped

Take them to a veterinarian’s office or animal shelter and have them scanned for a microchip. If the dog has a microchip, the vet or shelter will try to contact the family.


Sadly, many people don’t register or update their pet’s microchip information, so this step may not yield much success.

2. Take Them to the Animal Shelter

If you can’t find the dog’s family through microchipping, take the lost pet immediately to the animal shelter closest to the area in which you found him.

If someone has lost their dog and can’t find them, the shelter is the first place they’ll look.

Linus, one of my former foster dogs, escaped from his yard, and his family went to the shelter less than a half-hour after he ran away. The good news? Someone had already turned him in.

After a shelter holds a lost pet for 3–4 days and the pet’s family doesn’t show up, you can adopt the dog for a fee. The price usually includes a spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip.

Found a lost dog — what to do?
If you have found a stray dog, use our free Found Dog Flyer template — link below. Photo: isakarakus

3. Make a “Found Dog” Flyer

Before going to the shelter, take a photo of the dog to put on a flyer:

  • Include the date, the area in which you found the lost dog and your phone number.
  • Hold back a few facts, if possible, so you can make sure anyone who contacts you is the pet’s real family.
  • Post these flyers throughout your neighborhood as well as on your front or garage door. If the family is driving around the neighborhood, they’ll see the sign and inquire within.

Here is a free template from Petful (Microsoft Word): Found Dog Flyer template.


4. Ask Around the Neighborhood

Given that I’m the local Crazy Dog Lady, it usually falls to me to figure out where stray pups belong in my area.

If you’re anything like me, you know the name, breed, family’s name and residence of almost all the dogs in the neighborhood.

So, if you’re a normal person, try to find someone like me near you:

  • Walk around and look for “Beware of Dog” signs, which usually indicate the resident is a dog person (and, with any luck, a nice one). Someone might have information on the dog you found.
  • Take a flyer with you, too.

Prevention Tip: Make Sure Your Pet Has Identification

Prevent this scenario from happening to you and your pup by getting them microchipped and registering this information with the microchip company.

  • If you move, update the information.
  • Even if your pet is chipped, make sure they always wear a collar with a tag that includes their name, your phone number and your street address.