Dog on the Run

I am wondering something. Yesterday as my practically husband and I were driving home, we saw a basset mix running loose in the street. Back and forth she ran, across a fairly busy intersection. At first, I thought she may have belonged to the owner of the Aussie walking a little ways ahead. But it didn’t add up. Why would one of her dogs be on a leash and the other not? The PH turned the truck around so we could investigate the matter further.

Sure enough, it was clear the basset wasn’t attached to anyone. Once I got out of the truck, I crouched down, hoping she would come close enough for me to see her collar. All I had in my pocket was kibble – enough to entice Shiva, food motivated dog extraordinaire – but not enough to bring this little dog closer. I need to start carrying chicken at all times for situations like these. I could tell she had a tag with her name but that’s all I could see.

After a few sniffs, the basset mix took off down the sidewalk. I didn’t want to chase after her so I tried to get her attention again to get her to chase me but she was a dog on a mission. It seems she lived in one of the houses further down the street. She ran up to the door and started baling. I couldn’t see from where I stood but when the PH went to check, she had clearly been let inside. That was a relief. All I cared about was preventing her from being hit by a car.

But it brought to mind several questions about the right course of action to take in these situations. I have encountered loose dogs many times before, usually on a walk with Shiva. Most of the time all they have are their license tags, no name or number to call. I have been lucky in that some friendly neighbours have helped me return the dogs home very quickly. But not always. Since I typically have my cell phone with me when I leave the house, it is an easy thing to make a quick phone call. But what do you do when there is no phone number and you are blocks and blocks away from home?

Have you run into loose dogs in your neighbourhoods? Is there a standard procedure? Should I just leave them and hope their owner finds them eventually? What would you do if one came up to you while you are walking your dog? I am sorely in need of some advice.

33 thoughts on “Dog on the Run

  1. It depends on the situation. Two of my dogs (Oreo being one of them) have been victims of viscious attacks due to loose dogs. Therefore, if I see a loose dog while walking my mutts, I walk the opposite direction, with pepper spray in hand, to assure my dogs’ safety. Then, I call the dog warden when I get home. Both my dogs were attacked by “good dogs”, who lived with children in their homes. You just never know what dogs you can trust.

    If I’m alone, and the dog looks friendly, I have checked their tags and called their owners.


    • To be sure, I understand that. I am not a fan of stray dogs running up to Shiva either, especially given her reactive background.

      But what about when there are no owners to call, or at least, the number isn’t on their tag? I don’t love the idea of calling animal control but perhaps that is the only option. Better than leaving them to roam.


  2. I would call animal control if i couldn’t get close enough to see a tag – I would rather a dog is picked up than run over


  3. Providing the dog isn’t showing any signs of being nasty to my Song, I would try and get hold of it’s collar. If there was an address which was Nearby I’d take it home. If no address, I’d ask at a few doors to see if anyone recognised the dog. If no joy, or the address was too far away I think I’d take it to my vets.

    I always carry a spare lead (ever since my previous dog broke hers it seemed like a good idea), so I can either clip it on the collar, or if there’s no collar put it round the dogs neck.


  4. We have dog wardens here but they get taken straight to the pound…I fear I might end up being a bit of a soft touch and taking a stray in until I could figure out what to do. Not the right solution at all…


  5. My mom always carries around an extra leash for just such occasions. And she keeps meaning to put some good-smelling treats in her car, too. But if you can’t get the doggie to come to you, you should prolly have the number to animal control on your cell phone so that you can give ’em a call. Much better for the doggie to be taken to a shelter with at least the hope of finding his owners rather than getting hit by a car.

    Wiggles & Wags,


  6. I’ve wondered about this as well. I was walking with Oly the other week and there was a black lab that was loose. He and Oly romped and played as I continued walking, but he didn’t have a collar. After two blocks I started to wonder what I should do if he followed me all the way home. Thankfully before I needed to make a decision his owner drove up and snatched him. If he’d had a collar with a number I would have called asap.

    Mostly, it made me hope I’m NEVER the one in the car searching for Oly…


  7. There are a couple of known wanderers in my neighborhood. They like taking themselves for walks. If they’re within grabbing distance, we take them home. Otherwise, we hope for the best carwise, because they do know how to get home themselves.

    Very occasionally, there are unknown dogs on the loose. If they hang around one area, we go home , grab a leash and food and try to capture. We have managed this a couple of times and handed them in to the vet who checks for microchip. If there is none, they go to the pound.

    If the dog is not approachable for capture, we call the SPCA. I think it’s preferable to leaving them on the street. If it has a microchip, the owner will be found anyway.

    I wouldn’t approach them if we had our dogs with us. Too many things could go wrong!


  8. You handled that great, best thing to do is try to get a hold of the dog and call authorities. That is also the fastest way for the dog to get back to the owner. There are huge local differences though, like Georgia mentioned. Here in Denmark a stray dog is a much rarer sigth and I also understand not wanting to call animal control in some counties as it might mean they put the dog down.


  9. It depends on a lot of variables, but we do carry extra leashes with us. If we see a loose dog we don’t recognize and worry about its safety, we’ll try to coax it over. We live in a pretty rural area, so you never quite know what you’re going to run into!


  10. Uh, I think this might speak for my potential to be eliminated from survival of my particular blood line… but I pretty much never even question that the dog might have some disease or rabies or will hurt me. My first thought is always “Get dog to protect them from being run over!” And then my second thought is “What if their owner is standing nearby and wondering why I am trying to steal their dog?”

    The conclusion is two-fold: I will probably die in the event of a stray-dog-rabies-apocalypse and two: I am not the best person to ask for a course of action.

    I think others made some good points, call SPCA, if tagged, try to find owner. Don’t listen to Kim….


  11. LOL I’m with Kim too, unless there are obvious signs of rabies or aggression I assume all dogs are fine to approach (gently, of course). I’m lucky that in my neighborhood a ton of people have dogs and Dante has wandered off twice thanks to my wonderful parenting and his love of people – both times I was called immediately. I just have my cell number on his tag and that’s been enough. But I also keep his microchip up to date too, just in case.


  12. Speaking from the other side of the issue, if it was my dog on the loose, I’d be so very grateful for anybody that came to the rescue. When my first dog, Seamus, a lovely rough coated collie, was in his senior years, he took to having a bit of wanderlust, and my stay-at-home dog took some walks by himself. Twice he let himself out of a not-very-well latched gate, and wandered over to his girlfriend’s house, and another time, he joined the Easter Egg hunt with the kids on the lawn at our nearby church. Thank GOODNESS somebody called me. He was so friendly and trusting, he’d go with anybody!

    If I come across a dog on their own, I just assume that somebody is frantically looking for them too and try to get a leash on them to keep them safe. Of course, if a dog attacked, I’d have another response, but so far, dogs I’ve found seem to be relieved that somebody else is in charge.


  13. When I see loose dogs I take them home. I have only ended up taking 2 dogs home and almost took 3 or 4 home before an owner appeared and took them home.

    Once I get home I start calling around- the dogs I’ve found never seem to have clear tags- both ended up happily at home. One stayed with us overnight.

    On the occasions when the owner shows up I make a point of saying that I was about to take their dog home- one guy I helpfully suggested he get his dog a decent tag as the one he was wearing was completely unreadable.

    Oh yeah. I’m that kind of pleasant when I think people need to tag their animals better 😉


  14. I am pretty lucky that loose dogs aren’t common at all where I live. In fact, in over a year I have never encountered one.

    If the dog were out on a busy street I would surely try to get it to safety and look for a tag. Or take it to the vet o scan for a chip.

    On the other side, being the owner of hounds (my childhood beagle mix was the WORST) I know that hounds tend to roam if they accidentally get out and they seem to always find heir way home given enough time.


    • Sorry, just saw your other question in comments. If you have AC available, it might be a good idea to call them. Mine only work during regular working hours so I wouldn’t even bother where i live. Most likely the dog would be long gone before they ever got to my call a day or two later. Many times my AC is also assisting in animal abuse cases. You have to know your own AC department.


  15. I would most likely try to leash the dog (I tend to have a spare leash with me) and try to find his home. It makes me so angry that pet owners would feel okay about letting a dog roam around unleashed and unfenced. It’s like they could never imagine the dog getting hurt or running off or getting stolen or getting picked up by the humane society…. all of which happen all the dang time.


  16. This is why we feel our pet tags are so important to our policyholders. We have a 24 hour lost-and-found service where if someone finds your pet, they can call us and we will call you. That gets rid of the privacy issue some have with putting their phone number on the tag.


  17. This happened to my friend late one Saturday night. The dog didn’t have tags, and AC was closed until Monday. Luckily, while she was looking around her neighborhood, another person put two and two together – he had seen an owner looking for his puppy a few streets over. As someone who has an escape artist for a dog, I would hope that someone would try to get close enough to Bella to catch her, read her tags, and call me.

    It’s tough to know what to do in the moment though – I agree it does depends on the situation. Thank goodness I haven’t seen a lot of loose dogs here, though when I lived in a more rural area many people just let their dogs run loose, which always worried me.


  18. Here’s a funny/typical story: we were on our way to a dinner party when I saw a dog walking down the sidewalk, no human in sight. What do I do? Pull over, call the dog (he came), take off my belt and fashion a collar/leash, and walk around looking for the owner. We found the owner! They were not appropriately grateful. Lesson: always wear a belt.

    So infuriating that people just let their dogs out and about. Lucky for the dogs people like us exist.


  19. To be honest Kristine, I have been rescuing lost dogs and cats all my life. Just last year, I caught a dog just as it ran across a busy intersection I actually covered my eyes with my hands when I first saw her, because she ran out in front of a truck and I thought she was about to be hit (she turned around faster than any dog I’ve seen and averted disaster). Here name was on her tags along with her phone number and I called the owner and kept her on a leash until he came to get her. (Turns out she was part Greyhound and was a runner and a great escape artist.)

    I usually leash the dog and call the dog catcher or try to find the owners if I can.

    It’s funny you bring this up now because I was recently speaking with my mother about a stray dog that hung around us kids one day while we were outside sledding on our hill. The dog was awesome. Friendly, great with kids, playful, and sweet. We wanted to keep it, but my parents said No. So when we went inside, the dog stayed outside.

    That evening, it was hit by a car. I remember how all of us kids cried and cried. We were so upset. My mother said she never forgot that and is still haunted by it. I think that’s why I do everything I can to help the stray animals. I am always afraid that if I don’t it will be hit by a car or die in the cold.

    I say do what you can in the moment. That’s all you can do.


  20. I have extra leashes in my car so assuming the dog’s body language said friendly I would round em up and then call the humane society.

    If I was walking with my dogs I would be more careful, but again assuming the dog said it was friendly I would still try and grab it.

    Thankfully all the dogs I have found so far have had phone numbers on the tags.


  21. We are fortunate to live in Vermont, because there simply is no stray population, mainly because the minute an animal runs loose someone grabs it.

    I just imagine that it were mine. I wouldn’t want someone to let it go…


  22. Loose dogs with stupid owners and lost loose dogs are two different things. The former I abuse verbally and loudly and do my best to keep away (I also have Spray Shield, in case they don’t get the first message). The latter I try my best to get a hold of. They’re usually somewhat frightened, so you have to approach slowly. My dogs are pretty great off leash (training wise), so what I’ll often do is unleash one of my dogs (usually the Poodle), put him in a sit/stay and then try and rope in the other dog with his leash, if they’ll let me get close enough. But that’s all if the loose dog isn’t trying to eat my dogs. We were once run upon by a mean loose Husky who tried to eat Emma, and I just tried to get him away from my guys. I’ve returned several sweet off leash dogs back to their owners. I was lucky and all of them had their tags with addresses. If I found a pup with no info I’d probably take it home (I have lots of extra crates) and try to find its owners – again assuming the dog’s not trying to eat my dogs.


  23. When I was a little kid, I was constantly bringing stray dogs home! If they had tags, my Mom would call the owner. If they didn’t have tags, we would call our local animal shelter to see if there were any missing dogs fitting the description. I once spent the day finding the owner of a chicken that I found in the backyard.

    Where I live now, stray dogs aren’t a problem, because a good part of the city population don’t own dogs. I can’t even the last time I saw a stray dog here.


  24. There is a pack a strays in my area but nobody can reach or come close to them, let alone get them to SPCA. They live in the nearby reserved forest and they are extremely street wise.
    When I walk the dogs, I always take the opposite direction if I see them in front of us as I don’t know whether they are friendly or not friendly.Anyway, I don’t want to take the risk either as my two dogs are not fighters at all.


  25. I wasn’t sure I had anything to add–you have some good suggestions here. I’ll second the folks who would want someone to help their dog if he got loose.

    The first time I walked Shadow, 12 hours after adopting her, I slipped on the ice, lost hold of her leash and she started trotting down the street. I didn’t trust her to be interested enough in me yet to follow if I ran away calling her. I just watched in fear as she got farther and farther away.

    Luckily, a woman several blocks away saw what was happening. She put her dog in the house and knelt down to coax Shadow to her. When I caught up, she handed the leash to me. I was never so thankful to anyone in my life.

    You won’t get that reaction from someone who just turns his dog loose but you never know.

    One other thing I’ve done is bring the dog home and put a notice on craigslist. I also walk the dog around the neighborhood putting up notices. That helped me get an immediate call from a woman who discovered a visitor had let her dog out accidentally while she was sleeping. Oh yeah, and the dog didn’t have a collar because they were changing his tags and didn’t finish the job.

    Stuff happens and I think it’s always a good thing to try to help if you an do it without putting yourself or someone you love at serious risk.

    Of course, your first responsibility is to Shiva. I remember trying to do these things with my previous dogs who were very dog reactive and it is really hard. It was one of the contributing reasons to my decision to adopt my first purebred puppy–to improve the odds of getting a dog that could cope with such things.

    I think it’s great you and PH tried to help. Just realize you don’t have to be the Good Samaritan every time. Sometimes other folks will want to help too.


  26. This once happened to me. I was by my brother-in-law’s house and saw a liltte cocker spaniel in the road. I made Marc stop the car, and I went over to the dog who was just sitting in the middle of the street. I saw that he had a collar on, and that he lived on the block. I picked him up, and carried him to his house. I rang the doorbell, and the door was answered by a 20ish guy. He saw me carrying his dog, and was angry at me. “how did you get him?” he asked. When I told him he was just sitting in the middle of the road, he replied, “oh, I guess he got out of the house.”. I felt so bad for that dog, because it was obvious that his family didn’t care. My sister-in-law later told me that he gets out often, and she gets the same vibe from his family, that they don’t care too much about this sweet little guy.


  27. If I’m walking Gus alone I always turn and walk the other direction. We had an unfortunate experience several years ago and now I always avoid loose dogs. If M is with, he always tries to see if he can help.

    We’ve had lots of dogs stowed in our backyards until their parents could come pick them up!


  28. We have Melanie today because T picked her up when she was running loose. She was in terrible shape though, so even if she had a home we wouldn’t have returned her.

    If we don’t have our dogs, then we try to get loose dogs if we see them. If they seem at all aggressive though then we back off and let animal control do the work. We almost always make an effort to try to get the dog though. Growing up, one of my dogs was a real escape artist and we were extremely thankful for helpful neighbors on a couple occasions. If I can help someone out like that then I consider it well worth the work.


  29. Pingback: Bad, Bad Dog Owner! « Rescued Insanity

  30. It’s good to hear all this. We actually had this happen to us last summer. We were walking and this tiny dog came running out to meet the dogs. It had some kind of pillbox tag; I had to unscrew it and it had a phone number on it. Then the dog took off. We called the number and no one answered. Then we saw some guy go running after it, so we thought it was ok. We really didn’t know what to do after that, as it’s so much harder to get another dog, especially if I’m already walking our 2.


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