We’ve talked previously about why it’s a good idea to adopt rescue dogs. What if you happen to chance upon a dog that needs to be rescued? What should you do if you find a stray dog?

Picture this scenario: You are driving along somewhere and you see a dog all alone and looking very sad and lonely. From the looks of it, the dog is either lost or abandoned. You’d like to help, but you are not entirely sure if that is a good idea or what you should do. Here are some important tips on what you should do to help a stray dog.

Safety First

Always remember that the first rule is to ensure your own safety, that of other people around you, and the dog. Using the example above where you are driving, do not just stop in the middle of the road to check the dog. Park your car in a safe area and check out the dog at a safe distance. Remember that this is a strange dog that might react aggressively if you come too close or make any sudden movement.

The same is true if you are walking your own dog and you find the possible stray. Keep yourself and your dog at a safe distance while you check out the situation.

Make Sure the Dog is a Stray

The next thing you should do is to find out if the dog is actually a stray, and not just a pooch with a taste for adventure. Look around for people nearby who might be the owners or who might who the owners are. If you see a collar, it might just be lost.

On the other hand, if the dog is dirty, weak, sick, or wounded, there is a very big chance that the dog is a bona fide stray, and probably an abandoned one.

Call for Help

Do not attempt to approach the stray yourself. That could be bad for you and the dog. The best thing you can do is to contact the authorities for help. If you have contact information for a local animal rescue or shelter, call them first. If you do not have that information, try calling the local animal control agency or the police instead.

Make sure you give whomever you call the important details about the dog’s condition and your location so they can find your easily and come prepared for the situation.

Keep the Stray at Bay

If you are fairly certain it is harmless, you can try to approach it to keep it from running away while waiting for the authorities to get there. Do it slowly to avoid scaring the dog into bolting, or worse, coming at you. Make sure the dog sees you coming, and maintain a calm manner.

If the dog seems friendly, extend a closed fist so it can smell you. Do not make sudden movements, and talk to it in a low voice to keep it calm. Give the dog some treats if you have any to help in ease the tension.

If you can get close enough, you can try to restrain the dog with a leash or piece of cloth tied around its neck. Secure it enough so that the dog can no longer slip away, but not make sure it is not too tight.

It is probably a bad idea to put the dog into your car, especially if there are other people in the car. You never know how a dog will react to strangers and a strange environment, and travelling with it could be dangerous for you.

If you feel the dog is becoming aggressive, stop and do not try to make any attempts of securing it directly. You can try restraining the dog by creating a barrier around it so that it cannot run away, but wait for the authorities to take care of the situation.

Let the Professionals Take Over

Curb your soft heart and resist the urge to simply take care of the dog yourself. This may be a good idea in some cases, but it is usually better to let the professionals handle the actual rescuing so they can check the dog thoroughly for medical and other problems.

You can keep tabs on the dog if you want, and if it has no owner, you can try to adopt the dog by going through the proper channels. This ensures such a move is in your best interest as well as that of the dog.

It Helps to be Prepared

It is a good idea to be prepared in case you do find a stray dog. Include the contact information of the animal control agency, the police, as well as any animal shelter and rescue organization in your area in your phone book. Keep a dog collar and leash, a water bottle, dry animal treats, and a warm blanket in your car.