The same thing that happened to Malta happened to me about five months ago. I have owned two GSD and now have my third. The first two never growled at me or showed even the slightest aggression. The third dog I now have, however, (as I said, about 5 mo. ago) also growled at me and then snapped when I approached his bowl while he was eating meat, as Malta described.
LittleGuy receives meat leftovers when I come back from a restaurant. I live alone, and once in a while some friends invite me to a nice steakhouse, and when I get back I have a huge bag of leftovers for LittleGuy. This one evening, a friend hardly touched his Filet Mignon, and when I returned home that is what LittleGuy got for left overs.
After giving him the pieces of Filet Mignon, I approached again to give him the pieces of my leftover steak. First he quickly growled, and then snapped at my hand. It did not draw blood, but it pinched me and caused pain. I have never gotten drunk. I have never struck LittleGuy--in fact, quite the opposite. He is showered with love and attention.
So, if this has never happened with your GSD, let me assure you it is quite shocking, as you realize very quickly that even when you think you know the GSD temperament, you may still have something new to learn with every new dog. I do not agree with Malta punching his dog. However, I also find it offensive that as a result of this one incident, which would be upsetting and shocking to owners who are inexperienced and asking for advice, some of you are suggesting he is unfit and should find another home for his pet.
Please put your emotions in check and cut people some slack who speak English as a second language and are sincerely calling out for help after having made a mistake which can be explained from intoxication. I also have the impression of people who are too knee-jerk or love to pontificate to other owners on their fitness for owning a dog.
I was blessed to know a fellow owner who said almost word for word what Lauri wrote above. Lauri, your advice was not only sound and non-judgmental, but it works. After leaving LittleGuy alone to finish his food, I call this friend who first joked, "HE GOT FILET MIGNON--heck, I'd growl and bite your hand for some Filet Mignon LOL."
My friend explained that LittleGuy has been so spoiled, especially since I got him so soon after the death of BabyGirl and could never bring myself to correct him when he needed it (because I was in overwhelming grief). I wanted LittleGuy to be such a happy puppy that I abandoned my role, in his eyes, as pack leader and needed to gently reassert it. The part of approaching the bowl carefully in the future with extra pieces of meat did the trick.
LittleGuy is still uncomfortable when anyone approaches him while he is eating meat (kibble is fine), but now the overt aggression is gone. And I simply tell guests who visit that when LittleGuy is having some meat, please do not approach him.
There are other gentle ways to reassert being the pack leader. I am guessing that Malta cares about his GSD and also needs to gently assert himself as the pack leader, especially if like me he has allowed his dog to get away with things and have the run of the ranch, so to speak. Sometimes, if we spoil a GSD and hardly give correction, they do indeed get confused and lose a sense of stability, which can even lead to aggression.