Guild of Shepherds & Collies

Meet Igor, the German Shepherd Dog Raising Wild Animals

raising wild animals

Have You Heard? There's a German Shepherd Dog Raising Wild Animals

It is quite a rare occurrence to find a dog getting along with a tiger. But not at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami, Florida where a German Shepherd Dog has taken on the role of a surrogate parent - not just to a tiger, but also to monkeys and a hyena. So let’s meet Igor, the German Shepherd Dog raising wild animals …

Quite the friendly dog, Igor is a popular tourist attraction among the curious visitors who can't help but take a few once-in-a-lifetime pictures and videos of a dog carrying a monkey and playing around with a hyena and a tiger. Most people still wonder just how these unusual relationships happen.

raising wild animals

According to the owners of the sanctuary, Mario and Maria Tabraue, they consulted a friend who trains police dogs to help them find a dog that will get along with everybody. Little did they know that the German Shepherd Dog they’d get would eventually turn out to be a surrogate parent tending to the emotional needs of the wild animals in the sanctuary. In fact, it was beyond their expectations that Igor would play a major role in the well-being of other wild animals. Of course, they had to consider other dogs before settling on Igor, who was recommended by the K9 trainer. Three and a half years later, Igor has risen through the ranks to become an important member of staff in the sanctuary.

Igor’s best friend is a Bengal Tiger named Optimus, who is not yet a year old. The young tiger cub was abandoned by his mother within the sanctuary, so Igor took over her role and began caring for the young cub. Now, it is quite common to spot the two companions kissing each other, playing, and napping together to the point they are almost inseparable. They truly have a lifelong bond.

Read 4 Basic Steps for a Lifelong Bond: Canines and Felines, by Guild Evangelist Kris Crestejo, CDBC.


Like any typical herding breed dog, Igor the German Shepherd Dog possesses natural instincts to guide and protect other animals. It is probably the reason why he interacts better where other dogs would have failed miserably. Let’s face it, not every dog is capable of such skills and it takes a dog with just the right combination of herding instincts to get along with different wild animals without causing conflict.

According to Mario Tabraue, Igor is gentle and avoids causing injury to the wild animals - he is entrusted to protect. In fact, there has never been a single incident of Igor biting a wild animal at the sanctuary. Though, sometimes the tiger plays too rough, but Igor reacts by (gently) shaking the tiger and letting go. The monkeys like to ride on Igor’s back, too, and it doesn't seem to bother him.

Of course, children change once they become teenagers and the tiger will likely become too big and aggressive for Igor in the future. Are the sanctuary owners concerned about Optimus the tiger harming Igor the German Shepherd Dog in the near future? Mario and Maria Tabraue don’t think so since Igor is the closest thing to the tiger’s mother.

When a Cat loves a Dog, by Sue Sveum - an inspirational story of a cat befriending a dog after the loss of his brother.


Living in a sanctuary designed for endangered species, the only tiger that would have interacted with Optimus abandoned him and he will probably grow up looking to Igor as family.  The owners are only concerned Optimus will get jealous since Igor is quite popular with everyone in the sanctuary.

Does your herding breed dog have an “odd” relationship with another species? Tell us about it! Join our email list and let us know!

Article By:
Martin Mooray


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