How to Help Stray Dogs

How to Help Stray Dogs

How To Help Stray Dogs: A Safety Guide

If you have seen in recent dog news in Sioux Falls, a lost dog named Lola was often too scared and confused to approach those who called her and reached out to her. In her video, when she was finally captured by her owners, they were laying very still and waited for her to approach them. This is a common practice by animal control and humane officers to help gain the trust of scared animals. See the video HERE.

We do not recommend ever attempting to approach an animal that is exhibiting “red light” behavior. Do not approach the animal, especially directly towards their head or rear end and avoid prolonged, direct eye contact. “Red Light” behavior signs include:

  • Body that is still or frozen
  • Hairs along the backbone are up
  • Looking away or lowering of the head while still sitting up, or raising the head way up while looking away
  • Staring at you (if a defensive dog stares into your eyes, look away — to show respect and for your own safety)
  • Growling
  • Wrinkling of the lips without teeth showing
  • Snarling with teeth showing
  • Snapping or lunging

What to do when you see/find a scared, aggressive or “red light” stray

  • Change your body language. Try to remain calm and do not tense up.
  •  Immediately call Animal Control. If you are inside Sioux Falls call 605-367-7000. If you are outside Sioux Falls, call 605-254-4058.
  • Keep an eye on the animal if it is moving, so you can give an accurate location point.
  • Write down the description of the dog with as much detail as possible. It is best to include coloring, fur length, breed (if you know it), if it is wearing a collar and tags and any other distinguishing features.
  • If the animal takes off running, do not run after it or attempt to catch it yourself.
  • Do not attempt to grab the animal yourself. Any dog, no matter how sweet or kind in a normal circumstance, can bite when it is in fight or flight mode. 


What to do when you see/find an approachable or “green light” stray

  • Immediately call animal control. If you are inside Sioux Falls call 605-367-7000. If you are outside Sioux Falls, call 605-254-4058.
  • If you have a leash, have it with you in case the animal approaches.
  • If the dog approaches you, make your body “smaller”. Lower the shoulder that is closest to the dog. Start turning so that by the time you are beside the dog, you are almost facing away, but don’t have your back turned completely to the dog.
  • Keep your hands to yourself and give the dog a few seconds to sniff you or try to avoid you.
  • Glance at the dog, but avoid extended eye contact.
  • If the dog does not move away, remain still for a bit longer. Building a relationship with a friendly lost/stray dog will require patience and time.
  • Softly speak to the dog.
  • Slowly move your hand out with your palm up to let the dog know you are not going to grab it.
  • As you are talking to the dog and letting it sniff you, gently loop the leash over the dog’s head. Don’t ever try to grab the dog’s collar to clip on a leash. Once the loop is around the dog’s neck, move away slightly and wait for animal control to arrive.
  • If the dog becomes fearful or aggressive at any point, let go of the leash and back away slowly, facing the dog.
  • Do not attempt to pet or pick up the dog and avoid leaning over them as well.

We NEVER recommend interacting with a stray dog if you are at all fearful, scared or unsure of the animal in any way. 

No matter what, immediately call
Animal Control (inside Sioux Falls): 605-367-7000
or the Humane Officers (outside of Sioux Falls): 605-254-4058