We're lucky to have our dogs, and even luckier to get to live with them in our homes! Unfortunately, not all dogs have homes. Many are on their own, living outside. If you see a stray dog, you might not know how to help them, since you instinct is to just pick them up and bring them inside! Here are some other ways you can help stray dogs.
If They're Sick - Stay Away
While it might feel impossible to not help a sick dog, it sometimes might be unsafe. If a dog looks very sickly (i.e. has visible parasites or open sores), the best thing to do is not come into physical contact with them. While you probably won't catch anything from a sick dog, you risk bringing home fleas or parasites home to your other pets. Instead, keep an eye on the dog while you call a local humane society, who can dispatch someone who is trained to come pick the dog up or give you information to call someone who can come collect the dog.
Check For a Chip
If you find a healthy-looking dog out on the street that runs right up to you, they might not be a stray! Sometimes, dogs just get away from their owner. Even if they're not wearing a collar, they might have a microchip that could tell you where they come from. If you befriend a dog and get them into your car, drive them to your vet to have them checked for a microchip. Sometimes, it's a happy story!
Call Local Shelters
If you've befriended a pup that you can't keep (and you've already had it checked for a microchip), start calling local shelters. Make a list of no-kill shelters in the area and take the time to call all of them and ask about available space. Since shelters can often reach full capacity, you might hear some "nos," which is why it's important to create a list of multiple shelters. Be sure to tell them everything you know about the dog and where you've found them. This helps them know that you're not simply surrendering, and will help them have a history on the dog.
Volunteer at or Donate to Shelters
It might seem unrelated, but it's not! Since shelters and shelter workers primarily do the brunt of the work when it comes to rescuing stray dogs, you can help those dogs simply by giving shelters your time. You can donate items that your dog doesn't use anymore, like crates or toys that they never liked, which can help ease stray dogs into the shelter environment. Volunteering to walk dogs can also help former stray dogs socialize and learn leash skills.
The biggest thing you can do to help stray dogs? Educate yourself! Go to events that local shelters hold or do research on stray and homeless dogs so that you know exactly what you can do to help.