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I've got a 1yr. old lab/heeler mix, who up until yesterday has been nothing but friendly and gentle towards every living creature (including kittens and even a bunny). She eagerly greets new people, so much so that it's taken some training in patience to prevent her from running up to every house guest or person on the street for a belly rub. Everyone she meets comments on how sweet and loving she is.

So, imagine my surprise when we were out on a walk yesterday and a stranger passed by us on the sidewalk. I didn't notice him make any sort of acknowledgment of her at all, but suddenly she began barking and growling and lunging at her leash at him. I'd NEVER heard her growl before and she very rarely barks. I walked her in the other direction to a safe distance and commanded her to lay down, which she did, but she continued to bark and growl until the stranger was out of view. Ten minutes later my neighbor came outside and she was back to her sweet outgoing self, eager to say hello. She has not lashed out at anyone else since.

Maybe it was an isolated incident, but it's made me a lot more on edge. I would like to know what possibly could have happened in order to prevent any future harm. I'm a first-time dog owner so any ideas would be helpful.
 

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I've always considered my dogs to be good judges of character. Maybe your dog sensed something wrong with that person and was warning you. If it is an isolated issue, I would chalk it up to something wrong with the stranger and not the dog.
 

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Try to remember whatever you can about the strange man's appearance just in case it does happen again. She could be entering a fearful phase or it could be an isolated incident based on instinct.

My last dog at first was afraid of everybody with dark skin. My African American friend told me I had a racist dog. Imagine living in a very multicultural neighborhood with a large strong dog that would snap at everyone with dark skin that passed by. Best thing I did was go on vacation for two weeks and leave him with my above-mentioned friend and her large family and leave him immersed in a world full of only people with darker skin caring for him while I was away. Cured that problem.
My current dog was afraid of tall or large men especially men or anyone with hats, especially large hats, headpieces or helmets. Barks, lunges, growls, jumps on them. Lots of praise and treats when he sees them for good calm behavior and if he approaches them in a calm friendly way.
But good to note the mans appearance if you can and write it down.
Was he tall, wearing a hat, race/skin color, anything unusual about his gait or appearance, had a bike or skateboard, carrying anything, looked strange in any way.
 
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