Found A Lost Dog? Here’s What To Do Next

Lonely homeless puppy on the street

As dog lovers, when we come across a stray dog our first instinct is often wanting to help them. After all, if it was one of our own beloved pups that got loose we would hope that a good samaritan will aid in their safe return. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are able to assist a lost dog, follow these tips to help get them home.


  • Take care when approaching the dog. As concerned for their safety that you might be, your own safety is important as well. A frightened or injured dog may not react well, and not all dogs are friendly with people. If the dog’s body language is relaxed, approach them slowly from the side (a head on approach can be intimidating for dogs). Squat down to their level and reach your hand halfway so the dog may smell you. Do not make direct eye contact and keep your body sideways instead of facing them. If the dog seems comfortable, try petting them starting at the chest and see if they’ll let you put on a leash (or make-shift leash). If you don’t have a leash, gently reach for their collar only if the dog seems relaxed and happy. You may try treats to coax a dog into relaxing. If the dog is aggressive, has stiff body language, or teeth bared, do not approach them. A wagging tail only means a dog is emotionally aroused, and not indicative of friendly behavior. If you can’t approach them successfully, take a picture or video of them for easy identification and posting to social media in an effort to spread the word. If you think they’ll stay in the area, try calling a dog rescue or animal control to pick them up.
  • Check for any identification. If you’re lucky, the dog will have a collar with ID tags attached. If that’s the case, call and text the numbers listed in hopes of reaching their family. Make sure to leave a voicemail if you have to! In the case that the numbers are disconnected or they don’t have any tags, the next step will be to head to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter and ask them to scan the pup for a microchip (FYI you are required to do this within 72 hours of finding a dog in Miami Dade). Hopefully they will be microchipped with up-to-date information and happily reunited with their family. If they unfortunately aren’t, you’ll have to head on to the next step.
  • Sheltering an unidentified dog. If you’ve had no luck finding the pet parent, you may find yourself faced with the decision of sheltering the animal yourself. Should you choose to, be sure to keep them in a separate room than any pets you already have, so they don’t possibly pass along any diseases or parasites, or even possibly get in an altercation. Be sure to check animal laws in your state, county, or town on requirements to be met when finding a stray. Many require that you report them to your local shelter (you can do that here for Miami-Dade county), test for a microchip, make an effort to find the pet parent, and to keep the pet for a stray holding period before claiming them as your own. If holding onto the dog is not something you can do, contact animal rescues in your area to pick them up, or consider dropping them off at your local animal shelter.
  • Dogs in need of medical care. Should you be rescuing a dog that needs medical services, be aware that the vet will require someone to be responsible for the bill – which could be you. In the case you can foster the dog but can’t afford a bill, try reaching out to animal rescues and social media to help get the donations you need. 
  • The power of the internet/social media. Whether you foster the pup or not, your work doesn’t stop after handing off to a rescue/shelter! There are many websites available to get a wider reach in hopes of finding the pet parent. Not only that, but also check social media for lost and found pet or dog groups and pages in your community. You can use these groups/pages to widen the search through shares, and to find a rescue to help you out if you need it. You’ll find there are many animal lovers just like you out there that are willing to help. One of our own DGW members has helped rescue multiple dogs through the use of social media! Create your own post to multiple groups and platforms, and search across lost dog posts to see if someone is looking for the furbaby you found. Here are a list of websites that you can try in your search: Fido Finder, Paw Boost, Helping Lost Pets, Center for Lost Pets
  • Post fliers everywhere. Make posters saying FOUND DOG at the top in large print, and add a clear photo of the dog without the collar (make sure it’s in color). Include details such as sex, if they are spayed/neutered or not, and your contact information (or the rescue/shelter’s you dropped them off to) at the bottom in large print. If they had a name tag with no contact info, do not include the name! Post the fliers around the area they were found, nearby veterinary clinics, animal shelters, pet supply stores, pet groomers, grocery stores, and anywhere else you can think of. The more widespread, the more likely you will find the pooch’s parent!
  • A happy reunion. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be the dog’s parent, take caution! Ask them to confirm by showing you a photo of the pet, telling you their name if you know it, or identifying the color of the collar if they had one. Do not let anyone know the name of the pet beforehand, as some dogs may get excited by hearing their own name. If the person correctly identifies the dog, congrats! You just helped reunite a parent and their furbaby. Once you’ve reunited them, don’t forget to take off your listing from websites and update your posts on social media.

If you’ve taken it upon yourself to help get a lost dog home, thank you for being a good person!