Dog Care 101: Tip # 163: Rescuing A Stray Dog


Best Bully Sticks loves supporting animal shelters and rescues. (In fact, every Tuesday the Healthy Dog Blog highlights a rescue or shelter.) It’s pretty easy to figure out that our readers and customers genuinely care and hurt for rescue animals. But what happens when rescuing a dog falls into your own hands? Best Bully Sticks knows at some point you’ll see a dog in need, whether you’re driving or just happen upon a loose, unattended dog. Today BBS will go over the correct way to handle the rescue of a stray dog.

Your Initial Reaction:
Remember that your initial reaction is key. If you’re in your car, do not slam on your breaks. There’s no reason to get in a wreck. If you’re walking by your self, do not startle the dog.  Any dog, no matter how friendly, can act out when scared.

If You Don’t Feel Comfortable:
If there is any reason you don’t feel comfortable rescuing the dog, don’t proceed! Whether it’s because you’re alone, you’re nervous or scared, or just don’t feel confident, by all means, don’t try to rescue the dog. Dogs can sense fear and you don’t want to provoke the dog in any way. Call your local SPCA, or 411 number to find out who to contact. Provide your nearest animal rescue organization with as much information as you can: coloring, markings, breed, color of collar, gender and where you last saw the dog and which direction it was heading.




If you decided to help the dog, here are some absolute no-no’s.

-Do not chase the dog. If you run, the dog will run and that could mean out into traffic, or just away where you can’t follow.

-Do not move suddenly or speak loudly. Again, you don’t want to frighten or provoke the dog.

-Do not proceed if the dog becomes aggressive. We shouldn’t have to say it, but it won’t be worth it or help either one of you if you are hurt. 

Securing the Dog:
This part of the process is a very delicate one. First, try calling the dog to you and maybe even offer a treat and incentive. If you’re on the road, try slowly opening the door and see if the dog jumps in.  Dogs who are used to riding in cars will be familiar with this. If you don’t feel comfortable riding in the car with the dog, call your local SPCA or Animal Rescue to meet you where you are. If you happened upon the dog in your neighborhood, trying coaxing the dog into a fenced in yard or any closed off area.

If the dog isn’t willing to come, but still seems friendly, slowly and calmly approach the dog while squatting. You don’t want to be looming over a scared dog. Use gentle words and show the promise of a treat as you approach. Strong smelling treats such as tuna or liver are great options. Make sure the dog can see you at all times. If you are able to get close enough, let the dog smell your hand and if he shows submission, try petting the dog gently. If you have any way to collar the dog, such as a slip leash (usually available at shelters and vet’s offices for free), rope or belt, create a noose and slowly and calmly drape this over the dogs neck.

Once you have secured the dog, it’s good to have something to wrap the dog in, such as a blanket, towel, coat or jacket. If a dog has been a stray for a time, most likely the dog is wet, dirty and feeble.  Wrapping the dog up may feel like a welcome relief and might calm the dog as well.

It should go without saying, it’s always good to have help in these situations. Especially when driving with a stray dog, which you wouldn’t want to do by yourself. 

What Next?
It’s important to take the dog to the vet first thing. Calling ahead to your vet to say you’re bringing in a stray is always a considerate step. Taking the dog to the vet first is good because you’ll want to know if the dog has any immediate medical needs and if a microchip is present. Be aware, of course, that you’ll be required for any medical expenses. However, some vets do give free or discounted prices to rescues or unclaimed animals.

The next step is up to you. You can take the dog directly to the shelter or take him home. If you do take the dog home, don’t automatically assume because the dog was a stray that it didn’t have a previous home. Obviously, if the dog has a collar and tags, try contacting the owner.

If the dog doesn’t have tags or a microchip, you can consider putting up ads for a “Found Dog” and gauge the response. If you take the dog home, keep any resident house pets away from your new rescue. The rescue could be fearful or aggressive toward other pets.

If no one claims the pet, at this point you have three options. You can:
1. Decide to keep the dog yourself.
2. Rehome the dog yourself.
3. Take the dog to the animal shelter.

Know the Laws
If you decide to keep the dog, don’t assume because you rescued the dog and are now keeping it in your home that it is automatically yours. Most states have what is called a “stray period” that can range from 3 to 15 days. This period is for you to make a valid attempt at finding the owner or for an owner to make a claim. After this period is up, you can claim the dog as your own, or surrender it to a shelter.

A Final Word from the Humane Society of the United States.
We couldn’t sum all of this up better than the HSUS.

“If you’re uncertain about whether or not to help or keep an animal you see alongside the road, here’s a final word of advice: First, think of what you would want the finder of your animal to do if he happened to find him injured without his collar.

You’d want him to take your pet to a veterinarian, and you’d want him to try to find you. At the same time, be reasonable about how much you can afford to do for that animal if no owner shows up.

Good Samaritans who have never lost a cherished companion animal may conclude that the owner of the found dog or cat callously abandoned him or, at the very least, neglected to keep him safely confined at home. But accidents can happen to anyone. The frantic owner could be looking everywhere for their beloved pet.

Finally, be honest with yourself in answering these questions: Are you willing to add him to your household? And will you be willing to return him to his original home if the owner turns up after you’ve started to form an attachment? If you answer “no” to these questions, your best option may be to take the animal directly to the shelter or contact animal control for assistance.”

Tell us about your rescue story in the comments section of our blog!

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