Home How-To Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: Vinoth Chandar


It is our instinct to stop and help when we see a stray or injured dog, and while it is the right thing to do, you must first need to know how to help a stray dog. One can never be too careful around strays.

Stray dogs are less common in larger cities, but they are prevalent in less populated places, and this continues to be a growing problem. More often than not, there will be no problems with a stray dog, but there's always this one case when you'd wish you knew how to help a stray dog properly and you didn't.

When you meet strays, assess the situation rationally before rush into doing anything. You don’t want to scare the dog or stress him out, because that's when dogs become aggressive towards people. Leaving the situation calmly, without any sudden moves or attention will allow you to retreat without any consequences.

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: BenStoney

However, if you're attempting to help the dog rather than run away from him, your goal should be to gain that stray dog's trust.

You will need to eventually restrain him so that you can get him out of an otherwise stressful or dangerous situation. Follow these simple and effective steps below on how to help a stray dog if you happen to come across one, and you should be able to help out your next poor furry pal in danger and hopefully even find a home for him.

Before you embark on a journey of saving stray dogs, note that every time you run into one of them, you should be prepared. You need to know how to help a stray dog, and you may even need to have a few things on you. If you do not, the best thing you can do is call for help of professionals. You'll still be a hero.

Tips on how to help a stray dog

Assess the situation

Assessment of the situation is the most important when you're trying to figure out how to deal with a stray dog. The most will depend on the situation you find the dog in, as you'll be able to determine what is the best course of action at that point and how to proceed further. Use your logic to think of the best way to approach a dog under specific circumstances to avoid getting him scared or becoming aggressive towards you.

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: Adam Cohn

For example, if the dog is in a crowded street full of traffic calling to it, making a lot of noise or rushing to grab him will only frighten the stray dog and could force him to panic.

The safest thing you can do for the dog under these circumstances is to wait patiently for him to get out of the way of cars, which is something he will instinctively try to do.

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If you come across a stray dog in your street, in a residential area or perhaps a park, the dog will be a little less stressed than if he is surrounded by fast moving cars. Determine whether it is a stray dog or a pet that has been separated from his family. Before approaching, check to see (without touching) as best as you can if the dog is injured. This factors in a lot towards his aggression levels and his willingness to cooperate and be approached by a stranger.

Approach with caution

After assessing the situation and coming up with a plan of what you're going to do next to save the stray dog, start moving slowly towards him and speaking in a soft, low voice. Calling, whistling or clapping your hands will scare the dog and he may make a run for it, which could see him getting hurt.

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: Davide Zanchettin

When a stray dog is clearly aggressive, keep your distance. If you do not succeed in calming the dog down, call for professionals and do not approach the dog.

Under no circumstance should you pick up a stick or a defensive weapon of any sort: the dog will think you intend to hurt him.

Keep your voice low as you slowly and quietly make your way toward him, keeping your hands down by your sides in a submissive manner. Once he realizes that you mean him no harm, he is more likely to allow you to get close to him. But even then, always maintain caution and be ready to back off at any moment.

Gain that dog's trust

After a stray dog has allowed you to approach him to a close enough distance, it shows that he's either not scared or he somewhat trusts you (or there's something wrong and he cannot move).

Obvious tip is obvious: if you have dog treats (or anything he might find tasty), offer them to him once you've approached quietly and calmly.

Now that you are closer to the dog, you can better determine if he has been injured. Try not to touch him yet. Offer the dog another treat or some food as you inspect his body for injuries. At the same time check if he is wearing a collar, and if there is an ID tag attached.

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When you sense any discomfort from the dog, back away immediately but without any sudden movements. You don’t want to stress him or scare him any more than he already is. Offer the pup another treat until he feels more relaxed. At that point hopefully he will sit or lie down. Once he is in a more submissive position, you will be able to restrain him gently.

Restrain the dog

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: Bryce Glass

Now that the dog is calm and somewhat trusts you, you can attach a leash to his collar if he has one, or place a collar around his neck, gently (check out the dog rescue video at the end of this post to see how professional pet rescuers do this).

Whenever you're saving a stray dog, if he seems a little hesitant on doing anything, don’t rush him. Patience is a virtue here.

Let him sniff the collar before you put it on, give him a treat and slowly try again. Once the collar is secure, reward him with another treat. Now that you have a stray dog secure on the leash, you can almost go about finding his rightful owner, if he has one.

There are a few things you can and should do at this point:

  • First of all, check his ID tag
  • Take the dog to the vet
  • Look for the dog's owners
  • Finally, consider fostering your new friend

Check his ID tag

You should always make the most effort to double check for an ID tag and do everything else you can to ensure that a stray dog is actually stray, and not a lost or temporarily adventurous pet. If both of you are lucky, the he'll have a dog ID tag which will provide the name and number of his distraught human. If there is no ID tag, there are still ways you can find his home.

Take the dog to the vet

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: AmazonCARES

Once the dog is secured and calm, take him to your local or nearest veterinary clinic to make sure he is healthy, in good condition and hasn't suffered any internal injuries that cannot be determined from just looking at him.

What's also important is that the vet will be able to scan the dog’s microchip, in case he has one. This microchip will have all of the dog's registration details embedded into it, including the address and phone number of the pet's owner. If there is no microchip and no ID tag, you can speak to the vet about what you should do next. Usually, they have a boatload of instructions and advice they can provide you with.

Looking for the dog's owners

Some vets themselves may take your saved dog home, or they will recommend an animal shelter. If you're still unsure that this is a stray dog, then there is always a chance that you could find that pup's owners with a little bit of leg work.

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Try posting flyers around the neighborhood you found him in. Put an ad up online or in the local papers stating that you have found the dog and how can someone contact should you should they recognize him. Craiglist, Reddit and especially social media helps a lot in these situations. You'd be surprised how many lost dogs were found with the help of social media.

Consider fostering the dog

Tips on How to Help a Stray Dog
Photo: Christopher Lancaster

If you don’t like the idea of taking the dog to an animal shelter, and it doesn't appear that anyone will come forward to collect him, you should at least consider adopting him as your own. By now, he's probably in love with you for saving him and it's likely you've developed some feelings for the dog as well.

Know that taking care of a dog is a big responsibility as we constantly mention this on TopDogTips.com, and you should only commit to it if you are sure you are ready. Check with other family members to make sure they are prepared to take in this new pet. If you already have pets, think how they will respond to their new friend.

Owning a dog is a rewarding experience, and if you can give the stray dog a new home and a better life, you will both be richer for it.

Finally, have you ever seen how professionally Eldad Hagar of HopeForPaws and his team deal with stray dogs when rescuing them? Here's one of his recent videos (see more on his YouTube channel):