My dog’s ‘selectively aggressive?’

Bad wording for the title.

This is kind of long winded, confusing and hard to explain, as I’m still trying to figure out what’s up myself. For those of you who don’t know me and Soro on the forums, he’s 3.5 years old now, Black Lab mix, neutered, loves people, food and toys.

He grew up around people and other dogs ever since I got him when he was 12 weeks old. At a dog park, he usually likes to sniff/greet other dogs, ignores most of them that aren’t his type, plays with the puppies/boisterous ones… And then I make sure we stay clear of other more dominant types. Um… I don’t know what other relevant info I should add at this point so I’ll just get to it:

I don’t know how long ago this started, but definitely after he ‘matured’ at around 2 yrs old… He started getting really leery with other dogs. Most times the fur on his back will go up when he and the other dog are doing the sniff routine, and then he usually goes off on his way rather stiffly. The worst case scenario is what I’m writing about: Sometimes, and I think these instances are happening more frequently, he’ll turn around, lunge, and ‘air snap’ at the other dog. Like, no skin contact with the other dog, but it gets me the evil eye from everyone else in the park because it seems like aggressive behavior/is aggressive behavior depends on who you’re talking to. He can run around and play with the same dog later on, or if the other dog doesn’t back down, he’s gotten into ‘fights’ before. As in they snarl and bark at each other, but when I stop them there doesn’t seem to be any physical damage. In general he doesn’t go around picking fights, but he gets wary when other dogs sniff him.

SO I’m trying to figure out why this is happening, and possibly reverse it if possible? It makes it very hard to board him in someone else’s home (with other dogs) when we need it, let alone go to dog parks. He’s been bitten by another dog before, though it wasn’t anything serious (a very small clump of fur out of the tail) and I can’t recall how it started, as it was over a year ago.

I thought maybe it was just a natural grown-up-thing, though that sounds more like an excuse than anything else. Like… Even though he still loves everyone to death, he’ll raise his fur and tail and bark at the door or strangers if they come into mom’s office or knock on the door, but only a few warning barks before he stops, and then he’d be happy to lick the person’s hands if we greet them. Never trained or encouraged him to guard or anything at all.

I also thought it might be experiences with other dogs from less-than-experienced owners. He’s never been to happy around most uneutered dogs and he listens very well when I take him to a farther part of the dog run, though sometimes the other owner can’t call their dog back.

Either way, I’m thinking of looking for a behavioralist, or whatever those people are called.

Thoughts and the likes?

Thanks in advance, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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