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Dr. Kwane Stewart shares what to do if you find a stray dog

There are three important steps to follow if you find a stray dog.

You’re driving down the road and spot a dog walking without their parent. Because you love animals so much, it’s natural for you to instinctively want to pull over and try to help reunite them with their family. However, there are some things you should consider before rushing up to a stray pup. 

Dr. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian and member of Fetch’s Veterinary Advisory Board, shares three things you should do if you find a stray dog. Plus, he breaks down some important body language cues a stray dog may exhibit and how to react to them safely.

How can people tell if a dog is a stray? 

Stray simply means a wandering or lost dog by definition. It’s the interpretation that’s a little more difficult. Some dogs you can clearly see are owned and lost, while others may appear to be more feral and not acclimated as a pet. 

Do stray dogs usually go to certain areas or environments?

It depends. If a stray dog is recently lost, they typically try to find their way back home. A dog that’s “houseless” is usually in survival mode, looking for food, shelter and safety. 

What should people do if they find a stray dog?

Ultimately, you want to rescue the dog if possible. Oftentimes they’re recently lost and looking for their home or help. Here are some things you can do.

One, lure them in safely, if possible. If they seem friendly, attempt to approach them and, if possible, leash them long enough to see if they have identification. If so, call and make contact with the parent. 

Two, call animal control, if necessary. If there’s no identification, your next option is to take them to your residence, take them to animal control or call animal control for guidance. 

Three, always use caution. If the animal is frightened or injured, they may react aggressively and suddenly. If unsure, don’t take any unnecessary risks. Dog bites and attacks happen frequently. 

RELATED: Dr. Kwane Stewart shares why you should adopt less-adoptable pets

Are there body-language cues that indicate that a person shouldn’t approach a stray dog?

For anyone that’s owned a dog, common sense is a pretty reliable guide when trying to determine if a dog is aggressive; think: growling, lunging, ears pinned back and hackles up, or not, but sometimes the signs are subtle.

A dog that remains very still upon approach can suddenly turn aggressive. Similarly, a submissive dog is cowering or trying to curl up, which may be a dog signaling they aren’t safe.

Should people bring any items with them to capture a stray dog?

Food or treats is always helpful, a leash and collar, and, if possible, a crate

What if people can’t capture a stray dog?

Call the parent if there’s identification and if not, call animal control. 

Even if people don’t find stray animals, is there a way they can help support this cause? 

By supporting your local shelters and rescues, you’re supporting efforts to find and rehouse lost and stray dogs. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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