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Tips for Catching a Stray/Lost Dog

Tips for Catching a Stray/Lost Dog

Have you found a dog wandering in the neighborhood streets or loitering by the main thoroughfare, and you have a strong suspicion that it’s lost or been abandoned? It’s natural to want to come to the rescue of the poor animal, especially if the lost pet seems to be in harm’s way. But you must be careful about your own safety as well. If you have no idea how to catch a dog, here are some useful ideas and reminders. First, you have to assess the situation and gain its trust before you can safely capture and help the lost dog.

Assess the Situation

1.      Study the dog’s body language.

Before you learn how to catch a stray dog, know that the dog’s behavior upon seeing you tells you a lot about how hard or how easy it would be to gain his trust. If the dog is showing signs of restlessness, he might have rabies. Aggressive behavior such as growling or snarling is also something to watch out for. If the dog is fearful, you’ll be able to tell if he’s stiff or whimpering.

2.     Know the difference between a lost dog and a stray.

There are telltale signs that would indicate if the dog is simply taking an independent stroll around his “turf” or if he’s truly lost and possibly, abandoned. If he’s looking smart and seems to walk towards a certain direction with a purpose, chances are he is simply out to visit a friend or headed back home. A real stray, on the other hand, would look unkempt, confused, and a little scared.

3.     Call for help, if necessary.

If the dog you encountered is acting aggressive and fearful, you might have to call for the assistance of animal control, trained on how to catch a feral dog. If the stray is infected with rabies, you’d be putting yourself in danger by trying to capture it on your own.

Gain the Dog’s Trust

4.     Secure the area.

If you found the stray near the road or in a location where there is a lot of traffic, it would be difficult to determine how to catch a dog that runs off. So, first, make it your goal to take him to a secure space first. The last thing you want to happen is for the dog to suddenly run away and get hit by oncoming traffic. Find anything you can use to create a barrier between him and any immediate threat or danger. It could be a crate, a piece of cloth, or a long rope. If you parked your car upon seeing him, keep your hazard lights on.

5.     Send calming signals.

If you’re confident that you know how to catch a lost dog, the first step to gaining its trust is to let it know that you’re not a threat. Don’t try to approach him immediately. Stay still and don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t even pat your leg as he may see it as a threatening signal. See if the dog approaches you out of curiosity. Just allow him to get familiar with your scent but don’t hold out your hand as he may bite.

6.     Offer treats.

Food and treats would entice any dog who has been roaming aimlessly for days. Calmly put food on the ground near you, sit down if you can to appear non-threatening. If he doesn’t approach right away, act like you’re eating food from the ground. If he remains unresponsive, you can try throwing a few treats his way but don’t face him directly.

Capturing the Dog Safely


7.     Prepare a leash.

Have a collar and leash ready for when you’re able to successfully lure the dog towards you. This is the simplest and most effective means of how to catch a stray dog. You can lay the leash on the ground for him to investigate first, before putting it on him. If you’re afforded the time to prepare, you can capture the dog with a catchpole, which you can obtain from pet supply stores, as a safer way to catch him without getting too near. 

8.     Use a trap.

A humane trap would be the best way to catch a dog that’s fearful or aggressive. Choose a trap that’s sturdy and just the right size. Place the trap at a feeding site the stray dog has been seen, or any other location the dog may likely frequent. Check the trap periodically and handle it carefully once you’re able to successfully catch the dog.

9.     Prepare a holding area.

Once you’re able to successfully capture the dog, you need a special place at home where you can hold him. A stray dog must never be let close to your family or other pets, in case he’s carrying any diseases or behaves aggressively. The holding area needs to be secure so he can’t escape, and at the same time, quiet, safe, and comfortable enough for him to stay in while you look for the dog’s owner.


What to Do Next?

10.Look for identification.

Check the stray dog’s collar tags for identification once you’re able to capture it. If there are not tags, or the ID information isn’t updated, take the dog to the vet for microchip identification. It would be best to take him for a general checkup at the vet clinic as well.

11.  Report the lost dog you found.

Report the lost dog you found by providing information on PawMaw.com. Aside from alerting the PawMaw online community, other things you can do to find a lost dog’s owner include printing flyers, posting on lost and found listings, calling vets and animal shelters, and asking around if anyone is looking for a missing dog.


Knowing how to catch a dog that seems lost is a skill that surely comes in handy. But if, for some time, you’ve still come up empty on leads and no one has come forward to claim the stray, you need to find a new home for it. If adopting him yourself isn’t an option, ask people you know whether they’re looking to adopt a dog. Some people are worried about leaving strays in the shelter, but if you have no other choice, be aware of the shelter’s holding policies and stay actively involved in finding a new home for the dog. 


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