4 month puppy - Aggression or Protectiveness???
My husband and I have a German Shepherd puppy who is 4 months old. We've had him since he was 8 weeks old. His name is Riley. About 3 weeks into us having Riley I got very sick and had to go to the hospital for a couple weeks. When I was discharged we went home and I wanted to walk him. Not 5 minutes of us into our walk Riley was run down by another dog and attacked. The dog had an underbite and thankfully was not able to do any damage, however, it created a fear in Riley. Before the attack he was very friendly and not fearful of any dog or anyone, he tried to play with anyone or anything. After the attack it seemed as though everything "safe" was flipped on it's head. (excluding my husband, myself, and our daughter)
Since then we have been working with him diligently on it. We go to the dog park now and he's fine with all animals. At first he was quite timid and any dog moving in the direction of him (even from a great distance) would have him crying and running back and he would hide. We have worked through this, taking him to places/people/other animals (cats and dogs, etc.) that are friendly to teach him it's okay and not all dogs (most at that matter) will not attack you.
Flash foward to present. Riley is doing AWESOME. We go to the dog park several times a week and there is no dog aggression. He tries to play with the largest of dogs, and the smallest. Sometimes he has a timid moment but it's rare now a days. It seems he is back to his old self, and you can see him really coming out of that shell. Now we don't live in the best part of town, but not the worst. We do currently live in an apartment until Novemberish, and I am home all day so we are out and about quite a bit.
He is AWESOME with *almost all* people. It's seriously only 3-5 people he is that he is not okay with. For most people he is friendly and tries to go up to them, even on leash, and just wants to say hi get pettings, give licks and kisses. For these other people? He see's them coming and he stands at a posture of alertivness. He watches them intently and NEVER lunges but if they get close he lets out either a "huff" or a bark. I have only seen him growl at a man before. We were walking off leash in a field near by with my daughter (she's 4). The stranger was walking on the trail up to the apartments and when Riley saw him he came in closer to us. He put himself in between us and the guy and huffed. As the guy got closer to us on the trail, Riley would get closer to us. I told him it was okay and fine (not in a babying voice, but a normal voice). When the man got closer to where he was across from us he tried baby voicing Riley to him. Riley looked like, "Yep, that's not going to work" on his face. I walked towards the guy and tried introducing Riley to him. He was timid, didn't want to go near him. Finally he did but very slowly. He let the guy pet him like 2 times then he ran back to me and did that attentive stance. He watched the guy go on his way and didn't bark until the guy was about to turn a corner. The guy turned around and looked at us and Riley ran a little forwards (a couple feet in front of us) huffed, barked, and growled a little. When the man turned around and left Riley was fine.
It is to only a select few that he does it to. It doesn't matter how many times he's met them, if he sees them he does this stance and watches them intently. He never pulls the leash to go towards them or anything but will bark sometimes. My husband comes home at 1 A.M. and will walk Riley. There were some people out there in the dark and Riley didn't see them. On their walk they came out from under a pine tree and I am told Riley flipped. Riley was barking and showing teeth from the noises in the dark. He didn't pull the leash, no lunging, but intesive growling, fur up, showing up teeth and barking. The other thing is when another dog is close to us and starts barking - but not in a playing manner, he will bark back. Or if our window is open and a dog outside starts barking (not from another apartment but something is going on with the dog) he will get up and bark. He's done it once really late at night when he heard someone outside our door.
He doesn't play bite much anymore. We have curbed that. He is pretty good about it now. We say, "Gentle" and he softens up or completely let's go. He's been doing the latter as of late and not doing it at all. No issues really there.
My question/and sort of a summary but leaves out some of it from above:
To me, I think it's part defensive either to himself or us, and/or protectiveness. However, he is our first German Shepherd Dog. I do not want to mistake these things as protectiveness instead of possibly being aggression. If it is aggression I want to get ontop of it ASAP. As I said earlier his barking at other people, it's only to a handful (3-5 people at most) around here. He doesn't bark unless he hears the dog outside our apartment (but it's not all dogs, and not dogs barking from their apartments). He also only barks if another dog starts barking in an non-playing manner. The barking at other dogs isn't really the issue. I just am mentioning it so that it's all on the table so it can all be assessed, so to speak. My concern is with these other people. I'm of the opinion that if your dog doesn't trust or like someone it's for good reason (usually). I am wondering if there is a smell, or something about them he doesn't like and he doesn't want them to come near? or if it's for some reason aggression? Can you give me tips, advice, or suggestions please?
Thank you very much everyone!