For animal lovers, finding a stray dog means wanting to offer help and find their owners or a safe place for them.
Unfortunately, strays can be dangerous if not handled correctly.
Keeping yourself safe is best for your own safety and the ultimate safety of the animal.
Knowing ahead of time what to do if you find a lost dog will provide the best possible outcome.
How To Protect Yourself Against Dangerous Stray Dogs
If you do not feel immediately threatened but wish to help the animal:
Never chase after a dog.
The dog will see you as a threat and might halt their retreat to confront the perceived threat, or it may continue running straight into a dangerous situation such as a highway.
Do not clap, pat your leg, and call the dog.
Those moves can seem intimidating to a frightened or aggressive animal regardless of your intentions.
Remain still and speak in a calm voice.
Use this time to assess the dog’s body language and physical appearance.
Modern Dog Magazine has an excellent guide on how to read a dog’s body language.
Does the dog appear injured?
Does their body language, such as raised guard hairs, a straightened tail, or growling, look aggressive?
If the dog is injured or shows aggression, back away slowly and call animal control for help.
If the dog approaches you, avoid making direct eye contact.
Direct eye contact is also seen as threatening in the animal world.
If the dog responds to your voice and approaches, do not stick out your hand for them to sniff.
Sticking your hand out may seem like a natural reaction but it could be perceived as threatening and invite a dog bite.
Allow the dog to approach and smell you while you speak calmly and soothingly.
If the dog seems to relax, you may gently attempt to move your hand toward them slowly.
If the dog tolerates your touch, you can proceed to attempt to lead the dog to safety.
Food is always the best motivator, so use anything you have handy to convince the dog you are a friend.
Once you have secured the dog in your car, home, or yard, check for identification on the collar.
Call the owner immediately if there is a phone number on the collar.
If there is no number or you are unable to reach the owner, use the following steps to reunite the dog with its owner.
Take a clear picture of the dog, but remove any collar the dog is wearing.
If the dog is not wearing a collar, make sure the sex of the dog or some other identifying feature is not visible in the picture.
Post a picture of the dog on your local lost and found pet pages on social media.
List the dog on local neighborhood apps like NextDoor.
Use lost and found pet apps such as PawBoost, Finding Rover, or Shadow.
Take the dog to your local shelter or veterinarian to have them scan for a microchip.
Veterinarians and shelters will perform this service at no charge and contact the animal owners with a microchip with up-to-date information.
If you are prepared to keep the animal if the owners cannot be found, make a flyer with a picture of the animal and label FOUND in bold letters.
Put the flyer on poles, signs, and bulletin boards in the area where you found the dog.
Place flyers with all local shelters, rescue groups, and groomers.
Take the dog to your veterinarian for a check-up
This is to ensure the animal is healthy and does not need any immediate medical treatment.
If you cannot keep the dog safely
please take the time to find a reputable rescue group or no-kill shelter for the dog.
If you are confronted by a stray that appears to be aggressive, or you have your dog with you and the dogs are behaving aggressively, follow these steps to keep yourself safe:
When we are frightened, our instincts scream at us to run.
However, Dogster.com cautions that running can trip a dog’s prey drive and cause the dog to give chase.
Do not turn your back on the animal.
Use a firm voice to give a simple command like “no.”
Try to back away without turning your back to the dog.
If the dog continues to approach aggressively, assess your options for giving the dog something besides your skin to bite.
If the dog lunges, use your purse, fanny pack, or a jacket for them to latch on to while you back away.
If there are others around, call out for help.
If you are unable to get away, hit the ground and curl into a ball, protecting your neck, face, and stomach while continuing to call loudly for help.
These tips will permit you to help dangerous stray dogs while protecting yourself from injury.