Some fear aggression? Any advice/feedback welcomed
Apologies for the novel—but looking for some feedback/advice on what I think is some fear aggression with our GSD Ranger and I think the details may paint a better picture.
He’s about 16 months old and overall is just a great dog. But he definitely leans toward the timid side and doesn’t like to be reached out to by people he doesn’t know--he's not a rescue dog, we got him from a private party when he was a pup. And maybe this is just a ‘duh . . . yeah, he’s a young dog thing’ but want to make sure I am smart about it.
Once Ranger “gets to know” someone (and it doesn’t take long) it’s a love fest. Family members come over and Ranger just can’t get enough of them. He plays with the kids great—some are as young as 4. He just loves them and they love him and he’s never made an aggressive move. The neighbors and friends who have spent time around him are fine, too. If they come over to our house/yard or if we’re at their house/yard with Ranger all is great. They pet him and he has a ball.
“Getting to know” Ranger doesn’t involve a ton of time. If the kids have a new friend over, Ranger keeps his distance a bit, sniffs around and then that’s largely all it takes. Within 30 minutes (sometimes less) or an hour it’s game-on for who can pay the most attention to him.
Here’s where Ranger has his moments. If it’s a stranger or someone pretty new to him outside the house (say on a walk) he prefers those people to keep their distance. He doesn’t make aggressive moves while walking . . . in fact, he’s pretty good on his walks and will generally ignore people as they walk by. But if we are stopped and someone wants to chat (usually because they think he’s a cool looking dog or they have a dog and there is some sniffing going on) Ranger is apprehensive toward the human. He wants to sniff and see who it is and figure things out. But invariably the person would reach out to pet his head and Ranger snapped at a few folks. What I’ve done after seeing that is basically tell people not to reach for him and I keep a short leash and don’t let him get too close so they aren’t tempted to reach.
So I guess I am wondering that my approach should be here? Is this something that I should have a behavioralist/trainer review and/or are there things I can do to try and get him over this? Or is this just something common that he might grow out of with some time and more training? We have done training with him (Sit Means Sit) and he did pretty well with it. I need to spend more time with his training as a general rule but he’s done very good.