What to Do With a Stray Dog After Hours – Complete Guide

Encountering a stray dog at night can be more stressful than finding a stray dog at any other time of the day. That’s because animal shelters are already closed, which means that the right thing to do is to allow the furry fellow to spend the night at your place. And this requires you to have a clear idea of what to do with a stray dog after hours.

The stray dog should be captured safely, without harming both parties concerned. It should then be placed in an area where it can stay warm and comfortable overnight. Moderate amounts of dog food and clean water should be provided. The following day, the stray dog’s owner should be identified and contacted.

Especially if the stray dog is not accustomed to spending the night outside and in an unfamiliar environment, it can easily have a brush with speeding cars, aggressive feral dogs and others that can put it in danger.

Giving a stray dog what it will need to survive the night away from its owner, who is probably missing or has abandoned it, is the most compassionate and self-respecting step that you may take.

The choices you will make the next day when the nearest animal shelter is open can change not only the life of the barking being but also yours.

Keep Everyone’s Stress to a Minimum

Running into a stray dog without a collar bearing its owner’s contact details can give anyone a mini heart attack because it’s apparent that finding its home will be more challenging than usual.

It may be microchipped alright, but no average person has a scanner in their pocket or home.

While some animal shelters are open 24 hours a day, others have operating hours just like those of other establishments. Driving around with the stray dog to look for an animal shelter in your area that’s still operating after the sun has gone down can be extra stressful not only for you but also for the scared and confused canine.

It’s exactly because of this why allowing the stray dog to spend the night on your property is a much better idea — it’s the less stressful thing for the two of you to do.

Besides, even if you choose to let the stray dog stay with you for a while rather than look for an animal shelter operating on a 24/7 basis, it’s for certain that the many different questions that will pop into your head will surely leave you feeling frazzled. What if the dog has been abandoned? What if the dog deliberately chose me as its new owner?

Before your stress levels go through the roof, take slow, deep breaths — and read on.

There’s no need to make guesses about what to do with a stray dog after hours. Below, you will come across a step-by-step guide necessary to keep the homeless pooch out of harm’s way while everyone else is taking a trip to dreamland.

Follow them, and reuniting the animal with its owner (or welcoming it into your life for good) should go smoothly.

Capture Stray Dog Safely

stray dog
Image credit: Canva

Properly capturing the stray dog can spell the difference between its safety until it’s reunited with its rightful owner and early demise.

The last thing that you want to happen is for the animal to end up being hit by a speeding car or wind up in the den of a pack of feral dogs after running away from you.

Besides the stray dog’s welfare, you should also maintain your safety at all times while trying to capture the canine. Even some of the friendliest dogs on the planet will bite when threatened as a form of self-defense.

Refrain from making eye contact with the stray dog — dogs don’t like it when people look directly into their eyes as it makes them feel afraid or threatened.

While avoiding looking the animal straight into its eyes, keep your body low and avoid making sudden or big movements. The goal is to make yourself look smaller and thus less threatening.

Talk gently and try moving closer to the stray dog. Stop advancing if it looks like it may run. Stand still and remain quiet until the dog no longer looks like it’s agitated.

Your work will be so much easier if the stray dog approaches you out of curiosity. If this happens, do not reciprocate by spreading your arms to attempt to hug it.

What you need to do instead is allow the dog to get to know you more by familiarizing itself with your scent — dogs tell humans apart by their unique scents.

Winning the stray dog’s trust and confidence may also be done with the help of treats.

Fret not if no dog treats are accessible.

That’s because there are many human foods that dogs find irresistible, such as fish and chicken. In a few, we will talk more about offering stray dog food and what foods to offer it, so don’t stop reading now.

A collar and a leash can keep the stray dog from escaping until such time that the nearest animal shelter is open.

Just make sure that you do not reach around the dog’s head to put the collar and leash in place unless it’s showing signs that it’s comfortable with your presence.

Rushing to the ER because of a dog bite can make the already stressful night even more stressful for you.

In case you have no collar and leash or an improvised slip leash using a rope or belt, just make sure that you secure the area so that the stray dog won’t escape while you are getting some shut-eye.

Important things to remember when capturing a stray dog:

  • Maintain your safety and the safety of the dog at all times.
  • Avoid approaching the dog if it seems like it doesn’t want to be approached.
  • Get the trust and confidence of the dog with treats or human foods.
  • Keep the dog from escaping by putting it on a leash.
  • Do not reach around the dog’s head to put a collar without it being comfortable with you.

Provide a Temporary Home

A problem may arise if the stray dog is not happy with its temporary dwelling, and it’s in the form of incessant barking and howling that can keep you and your loved ones sleepless and your neighbors angry.

Because of this, it’s not enough that you make sure that the canine is safe and protected — you should also see to it that it’s warm and comfortable.

The stray dog may fail to get a good night’s sleep for missing its home alright, but offering it a relaxing space in which to stay can make the time it will spend on your property less frightening for it.

It’s a good idea to keep the stray dog in an enclosed structure, such as a garage, garden shed or tool shed. Inside one, the canine can be kept from the elements so much easier.

Opt for a temporary home for the stray dog whose floor is out of hardwood, concrete, tiles, or vinyl — a carpeted floor can be hard to clean if the dog makes a mess.

Placing the stray dog in a crate large enough to accommodate it may be done, too, just to keep it from escaping while you are fast asleep.

Do you have a pet and take it to the vet for its check-up in a carrier? Then it may serve as the stray dog’s temporary dwelling, provided that it offers the canine plenty of room.

Allowing the stray dog to spend the night indoors is fine, too. However, keep in mind that it may damage some cushions or break some figurines while it’s unattended and feeling stressed and anxious.

No matter where you intend to keep the dog overnight, see to it that it won’t have access to toxic chemicals or plants that are poisonous for dogs.

Some common examples include aloe vera, daffodils, sago palm, American holly, gladiolas, tulips, lily of the valley, philodendrons, lavender, and the tomato plant.

Offer the stray dog some blankets if the temperature tends to drop at night.

And also, see to it that children won’t be able to see and pet the stray dog without your knowledge. Excited kids can leave the stray dog agitated, and it may bite if it feels threatened.

Important things to remember when providing a stray dog a temporary home:

  • Block potential exit points with sheet metal, plywood, or old pieces of furniture.
  • Check that the dog is protected from rain, snow, hail, or flood.
  • Opt for a place where the floor is easy to clean, just in case the dog makes a mess.
  • Place the dog where there’s enough available space for it.
  • Ensure that there are no toxic chemicals or poisonous plants around.
  • Keep the dog where it will be inaccessible to kids.

Offer Food and Water

Especially if the stray dog has been wandering for some time to look for its home or search for an exciting place to visit, it’s not unlikely for the whiskered creature to be famished.

stray dog
Image credit: Canva

It’s because of this why giving it food is one of the most important steps on what to do with a stray dog after hours.

Do not worry about your pocket that much. That’s because most dog owners are more than willing to reimburse the amount of money spent by people who take good care of their pets while they’re lost.

Refrain from giving the stray dog lots of food — it will do it more harm than good.

Overfeeding a hungry canine can make it feel nauseous and give it an achy tummy, which can be relieved by vomiting everything.

In some instances, dogs that consume lots of food after having an empty stomach for some time wind up suffering from diarrhea.

Instead, offer the stray dog a small amount of food at a time until it looks happy and satisfied.

Any commercially sold dog food may be offered to the stray dog. If you have cats and the only available pet food is cat food, then go ahead and allow the stray dog to feast on it.

Canines can certainly eat cat food during emergency situations. It’s a different matter if dogs are given cat food all the time as it may have an unfavorable impact on their health.

Since animal shelters are already closed after hours, pet food and supplies stores in your area are likely to be closed, too. Fret not if there’s no pet food available because you can offer the stray dog human food.

White rice, bread, peanut butter, plain popcorn, boiled carrots, tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, shrimp, pork — these are some human foods that are safe for dogs. You may also give the stray dog milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.

But keep it to a minimum because, if it’s lactose intolerant, the canine may have diarrhea and an upset stomach.

Never offer the stray dog avocados, grapes, raisins, coffee, tea, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts and chocolates as all of these can harm the furry creature.

Besides being hungry, a stray dog that’s been missing for a while is also thirsty — offer it clean water.

Important things to remember when offering a stray dog food and water:

  • Commercially available dog food is okay to give, whether wet or dry.
  • If dog food is not available, cat food will do.
  • Refrain from overfeeding the dog.
  • Just in case any pet food isn’t available, many human foods may be given to the dog.
  • Never give the dog human foods that are toxic or unsafe for it.
  • Do not feed the dog out of your hands — use a bowl.
  • Remember to give the dog clean drinking water to keep it hydrated.

Look for the Owner

The following day, it’s time to spring into action and find the stray dog’s home.

No matter if you plan to adopt the canine or prefer to let the animal shelter put it out for adoption, there’s one crucial thing that you need to do first.

It’s none other than doing everything you can to identify and get in touch with the friendly fellow’s owner.

In some instances, taking the stray dog to the vet in the morning is a good idea.

This is especially true if it looks like it’s not okay because of a trauma or injury, which it could have incurred while roaming.

The cost of having the stray dog checked by a veterinarian can be reimbursed from its owner — so keep the receipt!

Taking the stray dog straight to the animal shelter for microchip scanning is fine if it’s in excellent shape.

Just because the stray dog has a microchip doesn’t mean that it will surely be reunited with its owner. In some instances, dogs end up on the streets because their owners no longer want them around.

If the stray dog’s owner doesn’t come forward before the stray waiting period is over, the dog will be put up for adoption.

And if the animal shelter is full and no one wants to adopt the stray dog, it’s likely that it will be put to sleep — about half of all dogs taken to animal shelters per year are euthanized.

If you want to welcome the stray dog into your home since it already spent a night with you and the two of you have grown attached to one another anyway, you may adopt it if no owner shows up.

This is especially true if you cannot bear the thought of the dog being killed just because nobody wants it.

Taking care of the dog at home while waiting for its rightful owner to come forward is possible, provided that you file a found animal report at the local shelter or police station.

Important things to remember when looking for the stray dog’s owner:

  • When it comes to finding a stray dog, the phrase “finders keepers” doesn’t apply.
  • Do everything necessary to contact the owner.
  • Take the dog to the vet or animal shelter for microchip scanning.
  • File a found animal report if you want to take good care of the dog in the meantime.
  • Wait for the stray waiting period to expire before adopting the dog.


Not all pet dogs have collars.

While some of them may be microchipped alright, not everyone who runs into stray dogs owns a scanner.

It’s because of this why finding a stray dog at night can cause more stress and anxiety than finding it at any other time of the day — one will have to wait for the nearest animal shelter to open.

When a stray dog appears before you or pays your property a visit, the very first thing that you need to do is take reasonable steps to locate its owner and get the two of them reunited.

But finding a stray dog after hours is an entirely different ballgame — you will have to give the canine a temporary dwelling until the sun comes up and the animal shelter near you operates once again.

And if you cannot bring the stray dog to the animal shelter right away, you will have to provide its other needs, such as food, water, and even a check-up.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.

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