I say 'random' but in his head there is clearly a specific trigger. Ben has issues with two men in our village. He is wary of one of them but if the other comes anywhere near he will run towards him, barking and lunging to 'see him off'. I don't know what it is with this kindly old gent - except he keeps chickens and maybe Ben associates the smell with bad things that happened previously.
This happens while out on walks - ie not at home which would be more understandable. I get a lot of deliveries and he doesn't react at all to strange men in the yard or even in the house!
He is the same with dogs too - just two specific local dogs.
I thought of a 3 pronged attack
1) Reinforce the fact that I am in charge so he doesn't feel he has to react to protect either of us.
2) Make more effort to socialize him to new sounds and smells (it WILL take an effort as we live in an out of the way spot).
3) Practice just being in the vicinity when this man walks past (with Ben under control of course) and give rewards to distract him and so that he associates the man with good things - though presumably this has to be done before he actually displays aggression, otherwise I might end up just reinforcing that behaviour?
I've co-opted the gentleman concerned. We will be around when he goes to feed his chickens but he is to ignore us. We had our first 'run' today. As soon as Ben got a whiff of the man and started 'paying attention' to his presence, I got him to focus on me and take some treats. You could see there was a battle going on in his head though. Deal with the man threat or eat the treats? Tough call....
In a way it would be easier if it was an issue with all men/strangers or something that just happened at home rather than with one individual while out and about.
Am I missing anything?