Stray dogs are a real problem in the UK. Unwanted animals cruelly dumped by their owners. Some stray dogs might be tied to something, or they're free to roam the streets. Either way, this is unsafe for both the dogs and the public. If you meet or know of a stray dog, there are a number of courses of action you can take, including calling the RSPCA and raise awareness of a missing pet.
Take a Photograph
The first thing you should do is raise awareness of the missing animal. Grab a photograph of it and make it into a poster you can print out. It doesn't have to be a work of art. It's the first step to take when you have to deal with a stray dog. Not all strays have necessarily been dumped.
Take it to a Local Shelter
If you're sure the dog is a stray, take it to the local shelter. No matter what you think of shelters, it's the first step to making sure it's being properly fed and cared for.
Never approach a dog you think might be violent. There are a number of types of stray. Some will actively approach you and whine. This means they're looking for help. Some dogs turn predatory and will actively guard their territory. Do not approach or confront these dogs. Call the RSPCA, they'll be able to come and help you.
At the local shelter, they'll be able to check to see if the owner implanted a microchip, as well as check it for fleas and any other diseases.
Bring it Home
Assuming the dog is a stray and the owner can't be traced, you have two options. You can leave it at the shelter in the hope someone will foster it. Alternatively, you can foster the dog yourself.
Stray dogs can be more difficult to train, especially if they've been abused in the past. It's an extremely rewarding pursuit to rehome a dog, though. Visit the RSPCA choices website for more information on how to do your bit for a homeless dog by participating in the 'Rehome a Dog' project initiated by the organisation.
If you do encounter a stray dog that is actively hostile to humans, you should leave it alone. Don't attempt to subdue the dog or intimidate it. Back away slowly whilst not looking at it in the eyes. Looking at a dog directly in the eyes means you're challenging it to a fight, and running away makes you a fleeing prey. You'll never outrun a dog.
Your initial concern should be the public. A stray pet can be a danger, so warn vulnerable members of your local community. Start by telling older people and families with children about a hostile stray dog in the area.
Again, putting up posters is essential in this situation. Supply as much as information as possible about where you saw the dog and how it reacted to your presence.
Treats and Fearful Dogs
Some dogs are genuinely scared of humans and will run from you when they see you. You have to try to build up trust with the dog. Leaving some treats in an area where it frequents is one way of doing this. Keep some dog treats in your pocket and put one on the ground, before walking away again.
This lets the dog know you want to help it. They will remember who you are. Eventually, they'll be willing to come closer when you put the treat down, until eventually being able to feed from your hand.
Dogs that lack confidence tend to do so because of an abusive past. This process could take months to yield results. It's important to be patient and to not make any sudden movements.
It can often be better for the dog than immediately calling an animal protection organisation. This might startle it and make it feel even less confident around human beings.
The decision on how to help a stray dog is up to you, just make sure you don't turn a blind eye to an animal in need.