It is something that is apt to happen to all of us now and then, dog owner or not; a strange dog suddenly appears in your garden or on your property, and the owner is nowhere in sight. Obviously some people will simply shoo the dog away or leave them to it, but as dog lovers, most of us will try to find out where the dog came from, and help them to get back home safely.
There is also of course the potential issue, if you have a dog of your own or another pet such as a cat, that having a strange dog wandering about on your property is going to cause a problem, and this is something that you should also bear in mind when dealing with or interacting with a strange dog.
Read on to learn more about how to deal with a strange dog that has just appeared in your yard without an owner.
First and foremost, any strange dog on your own property should be approached with caution, in the same way that you would any other strange dog without an owner present and whose behaviour you cannot be sure of. If you have pets of your own, keep them well out of the way inside, both in order to avoid an issue arising between your own pet and the dog, and so that your attention will not be split between your own pets and the dog in question.
A strange dog might be wild, lost, hurt or confused, all issues that can lead to defensive aggression and guarded behaviour, even among dogs that are usually calm and friendly. Once a dog is outside of their comfort zone or away from their familiar handlers, their behaviour might be dramatically different to that which they would display in a different situation.
It is important to assess the dog’s body language carefully, and from a safe distance. Raised hackles, a stiff posture, growling, bearing teeth and staring at you directly all indicate a dog that is potentially going to react aggressively to an approach, so stay back and call the dog warden.
If the dog looks relaxed, is wagging their tail, has a relaxed open mouth and generally doesn’t appear to be stressed, they will likely welcome a cautious approach. Take the time while observing the dog to also try to ascertain if they have any obvious injuries, such as cuts or hurt legs, and bear in mind that inadvertently touching the injured area or getting too close to it may cause the dog to snap.
A dog that is prone to wandering off or running off when out on walks will quite possibly be delighted to meet you and interested in playing. Jumping about, barking while wagging their tail and looking as if they are trying to entice you into a game all indicate the likelihood of a friendly dog that has simply inadvertently lost their way.
Speak calmly to the dog, and try to encourage them to approach you rather than the other way around. Having a lead to hand will help you to catch the dog, and having a pen in your pocket will allow you to note down any details on the dog’s collar without having to take it into your home.
Try to get a lead on the dog and secure the dog while you investigate where they might have appeared from, either by closing them into your garden, tying them up, or if you wish, bringing them into a room that is closed off and will not bring them into contact with your own dog or other pets.
Your next step is to try and find out where the dog came from, and get them back there! Hopefully the dog will have a collar with a tag on, and contacting the owner from the tag’s details should mean that the owner will come and collect the dog quickly. Failing this, try taking the dog for a walk around the local roads (on the lead) to see if anyone is out looking for the dog, or the dog appears to know where they are going to. Bear in mind when you do this that the dog is not yours and you will not be able to be sure of its reactions to any external stimulus, so only undertake this course of action if you are confident in doing so.
If you still don’t come up with an owner, the next thing you will need to do is get the dog scanned to see if they are microchipped. Veterinary surgeons can do this for you (without charge) as can organisations such as the RSPCA, rehoming centres and the local council dog warden.
At this point, you will also be able to make the decision about whether or not you wish to hand the dog off to the appropriate organisation to trace the owners, or if you wish to keep trying to do this yourself.
If the dog is lost and their owners are aware of this and are looking for them, the dog should make it home fairly quickly, and there are several steps you can take to try and make this happen faster.
Contact all of the local vets, the police, pet charities, rehoming centres, the dog warden and grooming parlours with the details of the dog, and let them know you have found him. This way, if the owners are ringing around or searching, someone will be able to put them in touch with you. Take pictures of the dog and place them on websites such as dogslost.co.uk, and ask local dog lovers and neighbours if they recognise the dog.
Ultimately, if the dog is not reunited with its owner within a few hours, you may need to consider asking the RSPCA or another charity to take the dog and keep it until the owner can be found; unless, of course, you are willing to do this yourself!