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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I adopted Dilly-Dally, a 1 year-old (or so) mutt, at the beginning of March. Thus far, she's been the perfect dog for me - well behaved, even-tempered, affectionate, and obedient. However, a number of recent incidents have made me wonder about her past, and what I can do to help her.

Every now and then, a person will 'set her off'; she takes up a defensive stance, and starts barking aggressively. She doesn't bite or attack, but she's clearly trying to drive the person away, and will try to follow them as they leave. I generally resolve it by positioning myself between the two of them, and body-blocking until she calms down. I'm worried because, even though she's not attacking, it seems like only a matter of time before she does. It seems to be a fearful reaction rather than aggressive, but fear often immediately precedes aggression, and I'm not sure what to do.

It's always towards men, but I can't figure anything out after that. The particular incidents were as follows:

1. Homeless man in the park who kept staring at us. Honestly, I felt like this was a good reaction, which is why I didn't think much of it at the time.

2. Security guard from the next building over, taking a smoke break about 50 feet away. Large (6+ feet, 200+ pounds) man of indistinguishable race, wearing a heavy, puffy coat and scarf due to the cold weather. Again, given the circumstance (alone in the dog run, with a big guy standing in a dark alleyway nearby, looking at us), this seemed like a normal reaction at the time.

3. A close friend - 6+ feet tall, caucasian. Very little experience with dogs; I assumed it was just bad body language. I had him crouch down and turn away, after which she attempted to murder the poor guy by drowning him in saliva.

4. Random man standing outside the dog park, watching the dogs play. 6+ feet tall, lanky, caucasian, once again watching intently.

5. Upstairs neighbor; I'd just called regarding water leaking through the ceiling, and he came down to discuss it. 5'6" asian guy, like myself; he was very obviously nervous and tentative before the dog. I assumed that is what set her off.

6. Random man in neighborhood pet store. He had his arm in a sling and was moving oddly due to injury; I assumed the unusual posture & behavior scared her. Caucasian, approximately 5'9" tall, over 50 years of age.

7. Random man in dog run. Over 50 years of age, caucasian, about 5'10" tall, average build. This one puzzled me, because as far as I could tell, he did absolutely nothing aggressive.

Each man is obviously giving off some sort of warning through their body language, but because I never notice them until after she starts barking, I can't tell for certain what it is. Incident #1 happend in mid-march, #2 a few weeks later, and #s 3-7 in the past two weeks. Something seems to be accelerating things; is it just because she's now bonded to me, and is acting to protect me?

I am completely at a loss as to what I should be doing next. 99% of the time, she's confident, happy, friendly, and energetic. Sometimes, though something happens that clicks in her head, and I have no idea what, or why.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies, everyone. I think I was hasty in suspecting abuse; I had the same reaction again this weekend, this time to a guy flying a kite. Unless she was once attacked by a five-foot kite shaped like an F-16, this seems to be a clear indicator that it's a socialization issue rather than abuse.

That said, though, I still can't find a discernable pattern other than the fact that it only happens with men. We live in a high-rise in a dense neighborhood, so she encounters literally hundreds people without incident every day (sometimes thousands; I live six blocks from Wrigley Field, and have taken her on walks on game days. She doesn't exhibit a hint of nervousness even when surrounded by a throng of drunken Cubs fans). I really and truly have no idea what sets her off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I agree about the worthlessness of speculation, but in my case, I'm trying to figure out what the trigger is; if I knew her past, I might be able to filter out some of the causes. But since I don't, you're right - spending time to figure it out is just wasting time better spent on observing & identifying the triggers.

Like I said, I live in a bustling neighborhood of a large city, so my dog literally encounters hundreds to thousands of people on a daily basis, usually with no reaction. It might even be different stimuli for each incident, in which case I'm really hosed (though I'm pretty sure the dude with the kite and the homeless guy, it was 'giant kite' and 'psychological disorder'). Given the small percentage of people she reacts to, it shouldn't be too hard to figure it out, but, thus far, the only consistent thing I've noticed is a 'Y' chromosome.

As much as I'd like to surround myself with only women between the ages of 19 and 25 and 1/2, I just don't think that's going to work. *sigh*
 
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