Bark and Purrtect

Animal Welfare, Rescue and Advocacy

Bark and Purrtect
Tips for Handling a Lost Dog

Watching recent television coverage of the devastation in Oklahoma has been difficult, even more so as we see lost animals sometimes wandering into the camera view as they search for a home that is no longer there. Professionals, social media, and pet lovers are busily working to reunite pets and pet parents and tend to those animals that were injured in the tornadoes.

But the problem of lost dogs is one that goes on every day, in many locations. It doesn’t take a natural disaster to result in a homeless dog, just a gate latch that didn’t work, a dog that darted out an open door, or a fence that was unsecure.

Over the last couple of years, we have found several dogs as we’ve been walking or driving. Each time, we’ve been incredibly lucky to retrieve the dog successfully, get him home, and contact the dog’s loving owner. In addition to the satisfaction we feel by helping a lost dog find his frantic owner, these happy reunions also benefit crowded shelters by keeping kennel slots open.

If you find yourself in such a situation you may wonder:  "What’s the key to catching a lost dog?" Besides luck, here are a few tips:

-Ask the lost dog to come to you. Instead of chasing the lost dog, drop to a kneeling position and hold out your arms wide. In a kind voice, ask the dog to come to you.

-Ask the dog to follow you. If the lost dog won’t come to you, simply turn your back to him and, in an excited and happy voice, ask him to follow you.

-Try to lure the dog to you. We travel with a bag of cat treats in the car as well as a one-size-fits-all slip leash that works with collarless dogs. Why cat treats instead of dog treats? They’re very flavorful and can lure a hesitant dog a bit closer.

Once you’ve successfully caught the lost dog, it’s time to try to find his family. Does he have a collar with an address? You’re in luck. Is there a tag with his veterinarian’s number? We’ve called several vets on the road and been able to find the dog’s home within minutes.

After the dog is leashed, have a look around the neighborhood for “Lost Dog” signs. Once we found a Yellow Lab and, while we were looking for signs, we found the owner (and her crying children), driving around looking for the dog that had bolted from the yard.

If you’ve successfully leashed the dog, you’ll need to quickly access his behavior. Will you feel comfortable riding in the car with this dog? If not, you may need to call a friend or animal control to come assist. Similarly, if you weren’t able to leash the dog, you may have to call animal control for assistance.

If the dog has no tag, consider taking him to a nearby veterinarian or shelter for microchip scanning if you feel comfortable with him in the car. The process is quick and easy and can tell you if he has been chipped.

If you intend to take the dog home as you continue to search for his owner, it’s also a good idea to make a quick run by the veterinarian’s office for an assessment of his health, especially if you have other animals at home. The veterinarian can also tell you about local laws covering lost pets so that, if you aren’t able to successfully reunite the dog and his owner, you can decide whether to rehome him or adopt him into your family.

Image via Shutterstock/Klok Design
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