How to Help Stray Dogs: 10 Tips for Dog Lovers

Compassion is an innate human tendency. And in the case of animals, we tend to reserve a softer spot in our hearts.

Despite this, there has been a longstanding misconception about stray dogs – that they are aggressive and less fun to have around. The truth is, most of these dogs were once pets, or belonged to a long line of domesticated breeds that have been unfortunate enough to undergo stressful situations like abandonment and ill-treatment.

Avid dog lovers know that even stray dogs deserve the same amount of love, care and attention as their domestic counterparts. So, when there is an opportunity to care for a stray or an abandoned pet, you can implement these ten useful tips.

1. Find like-minded neighbours in your community

The first step to help stray dogs is building a safe haven by creating a community of dog lovers. Remember, you are never alone in the fight for a good cause. Searching for fellow dog lovers in your community is actually quite easy. Just observe the behavioural patterns of stray dogs towards people in your neighbourhood, and you’ll likely find quite a few like-minded people who want to help street dogs.

Strays develop a keen understanding of where and when to go in order to receive basic needs like food and shelter. Once you know whom to trust, simply connect with them. Work together to find out and arrange for vets, food, shelter, and more. Remember that just feeding stray dogs is not enough – real caring is when you feed them and also ensure they are sterilized/neutered by an NGO and get their yearly anti-rabies shot  Caring for dogs as a community will greatly help in reducing the stray dog population, give relief to overcrowded animal shelters, and give the stray dogs in your community someone to love and trust and live a healthy and peaceful life even though it is on the streets.

2. Arrange for shelter and regular food

Now the real work begins. This is where taking up responsibility comes into play. To function better as a community, you must try and segregate tasks among your fellow dog lovers.  Some may have an idea about the best foods, when to feed and what to avoid feeding stray dogs, while others will be keen on setting up makeshift shelters out of cardboard boxes.

You will also have a young audience who might consider adopting a stray for personal care. Ensure that kids do not pick up pups and take them home for fun. This is cruelty to the animals. The pups are best left with their mother and it is helpful if the mother gets good food at least once a day so she doesn’t have to wander away from the babies looking for food during the day. Once the mother dog stops lactating, then please contact the nearest NGO to get her spayed so there will be no pups in the future and she will stay healthy.

3. Adopt and support stray dogs

A healthy dog is a happy dog. Before considering a stray dog for adoption, get the medical check-up and vaccinations completed A quick visit to your nearest vet is essential. If signs of unease in the stray dog persist even after treatment, opt for a second medical opinion.

Bear in mind that you may also come across stray dogs that are in critical conditions, they may look malnourished, show signs of abuse, or are just too old and weak to be adopted. Don’t worry, for such stray dogs, you can get in touch with a permanent home where they can live and be loved just as much as a healthy dog.

4. Vaccinate and sterilize/neuter

If your local animal expert or vet identifies some stray dogs that are of appropriate age to be vaccinated, don’t hesitate to get this done. Neutering adolescent dogs is also recommended, and in fact a mandate passed by the Indian government, as it greatly helps in population control and improves their health.

If you are not comfortable in directly approaching a stray that needs to be vaccinated/neutered, contact an NGO that helps dogs. After a dog has undergone the required sterilization/neutering procedure, it may need five days of rest and medical care before being let back in the location from where he or she was picked up. Releasing the stray dog back in the original location is mandatory as per animal birth control laws in the country.

5. Raise awareness and learn the laws

Just like humans, dogs have rights too, and that extends to the stray dog population. For years, dog lovers have been fighting for a proper legal system that must be set in place against the unethical treatment of stray dogs. India has one of the world’s best laws in place to protect the rights of stray dogs. You can read this legal framework for stray dogs. Unfortunately, the implementation of the laws leave much to be desired. So it is important that you spread awareness about such laws within your community – refer to legal advice and precedents set by courts in India when in doubt.

A dog’s loyalty is one of its greatest assets, so ensuring their safety and security from unlawful activities will help increase the bond you share with them. 

6. Prevent and report cruelty

If you happen to come across animal abuse, don’t just be a mute spectator. If you see someone beating or troubling a dog, take it personally and object. Try to educate them instead. Tell them that it is punishable by law to harm or relocate stray dogs forcefully.

Some people in your locality may not have the best of intentions for dogs. Keep an eye out for them and be prepared to solve any conflicts that may possibly arise. In extreme cases, opting for legal advice can prove useful.

7. Rescue a lost or abandoned dog

As mentioned earlier, a major part of the stray dog population comprises lost and abandoned pets. It’s not hard to identify them. They will probably have a collar on and be responsive to commands. Sometimes, such dogs can be hostile or defensive due to separation anxiety, prior abuse, neglect and sickness. Here’s how you can help a dog that is lost or abandoned:

  • Try to secure the dog and ensure that it receives immediate food, water and medical treatment.
  • Use Facebook groups, WhatsApp, or other social media platforms to circulate images of the dog.
  • Ask around the area for lost dog posters.
  • If you receive any claims of ownership, thoroughly verify it before giving up the dog.
  • Try for adoption of the dog if no owner is found.
  • If you can’t find its owner and there are no leads for adoption, contact a dog sanctuary  and surrender the dog.

8. Organize a Dog Welfare program

One of the best and most effective ways to ensure that the stray dogs in your community are receiving the love and attention they deserve, is to organise a welfare program. These programs can come in the form of adoption drives, feeding drives, neutering, and a push for improving infrastructure and medical needs by local municipal corporations.

Should you come across a financial roadblock, you can boost funding for such initiatives by applying for a VOSD grant.

9. Become a sponsor, contribute to your favourite organizations

You can support the work of VOSD Sanctuary and Hospital by:

  • Directly donating to our organization to help support the constant hard work and dedication of our dog-loving employees.
  • Sponsoring a dog of your choice, which involves monthly expenses like food, medicine, general maintenance, and speciality support.
  • Donating to the various campaigns that VOSD promotes to support other NGOs and individual stray dog caregivers.

vAt VOSD, we believe that taking care of stray dogs is more than just a full-time job; it’s an effort that demands tremendous amounts of care and attention – a feat that can only be accomplished if we all unite as a dog-loving community.

10. Volunteer your unique skills (rescue, ,manage social media, raise funds)

While VOSD doesn’t allow casual visits to its premises, we do encourage dog lovers to actively participate in our efforts to help stray dogs by volunteering. You can become a member of the VOSD team in one of three ways:

  • Assist at the sanctuary: Help our staff in the daily requirements of caring for the stray dogs. We have opened an internship program for anyone who is interested in learning about working with dogs and having a career in this domain.
  • Spread the bark: When you combine the power of social media with the photogenic expressions of a dog, you get something truly moving and powerful. Anyone with a camera and a knack for storytelling can help support VOSD’s work for stray dogs across India.
  • Fundraising for VOSD: VOSD is one of a kind. If you are good at creating online and real world events for fundraising, we would love to meet you. We are open to hiring dog lovers who share the same philosophy. Check our current openings here.  

A friend in need is a friend indeed. And together, we can become a dog’s best friend!

For everything dog-related, visit the VOSD website.