A lost – or stray – dog isn't necessarily feral. Most stray dogs have a home – often a good, loving home – but somehow got away from their owners and became lost. Most dog lovers have a hard time passing a dog that seems alone without at least wondering where he belongs. Many dog lovers will stop and try to retrieve the dog and find the owners. If you're one of those people, here are a few tips to help get Rover back home:

  1. First, before you do anything, it's a good idea to try to determine whether or not this dog is really lost, or if he's just a neighborhood Romeo wandering his turf. Is he walking down the street with purpose? Does he look street savvy? For example, does he look both ways before crossing the street with confidence? Does he have a collar and tags? If you're in a rural area, he may just be headed home or to his girlfriend's house.
  2. A true stray may look confused and scared and may be dirty, thin, or haggard. Conversely, he could be a friendly, good-looking Golden Retriever puppy that managed to crawl under a fence.
  3. Call the dog to you enthusiastically. He may come bounding over, ready to greet his new friend. Does he have a collar on with ID tags? If so, you've got a great shot at finding his owners right away. Even if he doesn't have a collar or tags, he may have been microchipped, so take him to your local shelter or veterinarian so that they can scan him. You don't have to relinquish him to the shelter – you're just trying to find his owners.
  4. If the dog doesn't have a collar, you can use a belt or tie as a makeshift collar and leash so that you can control him.
  5. Some strays may come to you and then shy away when you go to grab them. It's helpful to have treats with you. Call him with a soothing voice and lure him with the treats. Be careful – a fearful dog may bite. If you don't think that you can safely handle the dog, don't try. Instead, call animal control.
  6. Often, a dog will come if you open your car door and call him. Many dogs are conditioned to riding in a car. If you can get him into the car, crate him. If you don't have a crate, try to tie him in the backseat – you don't want a fearful dog jumping into your lap as you drive.
  7. Never corner a fearful dog. If the dog is barring his teeth, growling, or snapping at you, leave him alone and call animal control.
  8. When you get the dog home, remember that you don't know this dog and that he may be unpredictable – don't corner him, leave him alone with children, or try to take food or treats away from him.
  9. If the dog doesn't have ID or a microchip, post brightly-colored FOUND DOG posters at busy intersections in the neighborhood where you found him. Don't include too much information about the dog just in case a scammer contacts you.
  10. If you've managed to catch a friendly dog, make every attempt to find his owner – call local shelters, get him scanned for a microchip, and check local classifieds for lost dog ads. Remember, there is a possibility that the dog was dumped and now you're his owner. You can take him to a shelter at any time, but perhaps you'll want to keep him if every attempt to find his owners has failed.