A lot of thought and planning goes into a decision to adopt a dog. But sometimes a dog will adopt you. It often happens – a dog shows up in a yard and refuses to leave. So, what do you do in those situations? Several things must be considered before you decide on your course of actions.

A Lost or a Stray Dog

These situations usually occur with stray or lost dogs. When a dog shows up at your front door, you must first approach him carefully or you can scare him into aggression. Offer him a treat or something to eat to gain his trust.

A Lost or a Stray DogCheck out if he has any ID on him, like a collar or a tag. If he doesn’t, confine the dog so he doesn’t escape and then go around a block or two to ask if anybody lost their dog. If this doesn’t help, take the dog to your local shelter to check if anyone reported a lost dog.

Get a scan there for an embedded microchip. If the dog has one, contact the owner and inform him that you have his dog. If he doesn’t have a microchip, you can either leave the dog in the shelter or take him home again to care for him until you find the owner. Leave a photo of the dog in the shelter along with your contact information so you can be notified if the dog’s owner comes looking for his dog.

Before you take the dog home, go to the vet first to get him checked out. Ask around if there are any vets in your area who offer free or discounted checkups for unowned dogs, otherwise you will have to pay for the checkup yourself. The least you need to do is to make sure that the dog doesn’t have any parasites or diseases that could spread to your other pets or even you.

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Look for the Owner

Put up Found Dog posters in your area. Include the dog’s general description or a photo and your phone number. Make your posters big and include a colorful background that will get people’s attention. Check out if your posters still stand after a few days since they can fall off due to weather conditions.

Look for the Owner of the DogUse social media to announce that you found a dog. Include the area where the dog was found, date, time and a general description of the dog. Ask your friends to share your post on their accounts to reach more people. Look at Facebook groups dedicated to lost and found dogs and post there as well.

Create a Craigslist ad with basic information. If somebody answers your ad or posts, ask them to produce a proof to make sure that they are the real owner. Scammers will usually give up quickly.

If the owner doesn’t show up for a long time, you need to make a decision. You can either adopt the dog yourself, try to rehome him or take him to a shelter. Check with the authorities to learn what amount of time should pass before you can claim the dog. In most states, you can claim the dog after 30 days of searching for the owner.

A Neighbor’s Dog

The situation becomes trickier if you know who the dog’s owner is, which is usually one of your neighbors. If your neighbor’s dog starts spending time in your home, the first thing to do is to check the reasons for it. It can be something benign and funny, like this story of a very tired dog who just needed a break from his owner’s children.

A Neighbor DogThe dog can also come back to you because he is friendly and likes you or he knows that he will get a treat from you. If the dog goes back to his home voluntarily and seems well-fed and cared for, there is no reason to worry.

However, a dog’s desire to stay with you and reluctance to go back to his home can signal a neglect or even animal abuse. In the case of one Reddit user, the dog was a part of a large family and the user noticed that he was particularly thinner than other dogs. When it became obvious that bigger dogs ate his food all the time, the user started to feed the dog. The dog also lacked attention and refused to go back home on her own.

In a case like this or in a similar case where you suspect neglect or abuse, like this another Reddit one, take the following steps:

  • Talk to your neighbor – Discuss the situation with your neighbor and try to explain to him why you feel that his dog is neglected. He could take your advice to heart if he neglected his dog by accident. He could also be unable to care for the dog properly or he got the dog without knowing how much dedication it requires to care for a dog. You can offer to help him with his dog or suggest that he gives it up for adoption and help him rehome him.
  • Offer to adopt his dog – If your neighbor is willing to give his dog away and you would like to have him, offer to adopt him. If he is unwilling and simply doesn’t care about neglecting his dog, you can offer to buy the dog.
  • Notify the authorities – If your neighbor refuses to take care of his dog and won’t give him up, notify your local humane society or animal control department. Tell them all about the situation and let them act or give you advice on further action.

Keep in mind that every situation is unique. Unless you are sure that the dog is being abused, always talk with the owner first. That is often enough to find the best solution for the dog.

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Camden Savage is a Phoenix based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught her every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.