Monday, May 25, 2009

Big George's meet and greet

There's been a lot of local interest in people luvin' big George, the Tibetan Mastiff at Toronto Animal Services, but most inquirers are dissuaded from paying him a visit when they hear about his sometimes unruly behaviour with other dogs. If he were a 10 pound Shih Tzu or even an 60 pound mutt who was occasionally reactive with some canines, that may not be such a big deal, but having a 130 pound dog angry at something is a whole other story.

Nevertheless, one couple did decide to try a meet and greet with George on Saturday, and brought their own female Tibetan Mastiff, Stella, along. I took a series of videos to show the progression of the meet and greet with the hope of recording a mutually agreeable ending but, well, you'll see what happened (don't worry, there's nothing graphic, not even close).

Here's George when he was first brought outside and got sight of Stella about 20 meters away. He's obviously excited and can't take his eyes off the other dog. You might notice there are two leashes on George and that's because one is going to his Gentle Leader while the other is a back-up going to his collar. A couple of days ago, George took a swipe at a haltie someone had put on him and broke it and shook it off.

It turned out that the Gentle Leader held up on Saturday, but still, better safe than sorry.

Here's Stella, interested but much calmer than George.

As George starts to walk in Stella's direction, he gets more and more excited to the point where he's on his hind feet and doing loops around James trying to get closer to Stella. You can imagine how this behaviour would not be tolerated on a city sidewalk.

There was a soccer game on that afternoon and the crowd noise was quite loud so it was decided to take the meet and greet inside in case the noise was making the dogs more anxious than they needed to be.

Inside, George and Stella are walked at a good distance from each other for several minutes just to get them accustomed to one another. George is still quite focused on Stella, but he is no longer jumping and lunging at the mere sight of her.

George is brought closer to Stella and he does okay, reacting mostly only after Stella initiates with a bark or some other signal (she's inviting him to play). George has also calmed down enough and is not so focused on only Stella that he is now aware of other people's attentions on him and leans in for affection when he gets some pets.

George is still reactive, though, so the handlers ease off a bit and do some more walk-bys with both dogs for several more minutes.

Another attempt at closer contact but while George is better than before, he's still unruly.

It's decided that it would be safer to muzzle George before allowing him a face to face with Stella. He's got such a big noggin, though, that the muzzle, sized for another Tibetan Mastiff, barely fits George and he doesn't like it much so he puts up a bit of a fuss. Not bad though. If he really didn't want to be muzzled, there would've been no way.

More walking. George spends a few moments trying to remove the muzzle but is leash corrected from doing so.

George tries to stick his nose into Stella's face but learns pretty quick that the muzzle isn't going to allow him to do much. Then it's Stella who tries to give George a nose to nose but she's surprised by the muzzle and doesn't know what to make of it.

Both dogs now seem very calm around one another. Stella even starts to mouth near George's face, trying to get him to play but the muzzle is kind of freaking her out, and George, for his part, doesn't seem that interested. This is where things were definitely starting to look positive for the two of them getting along.

George seems to have lost interest in Stella now, preferring to get lavished with attention from a person instead. He's also getting quite hot. The muzzle's only been on him a few minutes but that's long enough.

The muzzle is removed and George still seems pretty good around Stella. He's more interested in getting a big drink of water at this point.

Back to more walking with muzzle off, and side by side. George shows almost no interest in Stella now and it's Stella who is now more interested in getting George's attention.

Stella's still trying to get George to play but he's not interested and walks away. At one point, he seems to get a little fed up and tries to respond to Stella but is blocked.

I had to leave TAS at this point and was really quite hopeful that things were going to work out between George and Stella.

Unfortunately, a couple of hours later, I got a call and was told me that George had attacked Stella and that it had taken a couple of the guys there to pull him off her. It wasn't a serious incident as Stella wasn't hurt and George didn't in any way lash out at the people who were restraining him but it became obvious to the couple interested that they wouldn't have been able to handle George if they were alone with him.

George had basically gotten fed up with Stella trying to initiate play with him and was telling her to stop it in the only way he knew how. How far he intended to go with his rebuke is anyone's guess but no one was going to take any chances considering the damage that could've occurred if there had been a dogfight.

It's too bad the meet and greet didn't work out but George has still got options and hopefully one of those options will firm up in the next few days. The safest route for him now is to go into a rescue or an giant breed experienced home either with no other dog or at most, a very relaxed, non-provocative dog.

George is great big teddy bear with people but he needs guidance on how to behave around other dogs or else he'll need to be in an environment where there are no other dogs at all and I think that would be a bit of a shame considering how much he likes Boo, his little Shih Tzu girlfriend. He can obviously get along with other dogs. He just needs to find the right friend.

Continued here.


Anonymous said...

Something about George and Boo reminds me of Koko's Kitten.

Fred said...

Oh yeah, I remember that. That was amazing.

Barb said...

It's actually very promising that Stella wasn't injured when George went after her - I'm assuming he had actual contact with her, from your description and even with all the hair, he could have punctured her immediately if his intent was to cause injury. That shows good bite inhibition - like he was just trying to teaching her some manners. I'm not saying those people should not have passed on him - things can escalate in a hurry and with giant breed dogs it can be really overwhelming. But it sounds like he's not hopelessly aggressive at all.
I sure hope you all can find the right placement or rescue for him.