Can dogs have selective toy aggression? 2 recent-ish, isolated toy aggressive park reactions and I don’t know what to do!!

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Since I adopted my dog when he was a puppy I’ve worked on making sure he isn’t aggressive in any capacity – food, toys, etc. He has never once been aggressive when I, a stranger, or a dog takes a toy or food from him. Very proud that all my work has paid off!

Until now. He has twice snapped and at the dog park when another dog goes for the tennis ball he has, or when they both chase it and another dog grabs it he snaps. This behavior I find unacceptable!

Both times it was dogs that were younger than him, also males, and unfixed. I’m not sure if any part of that adds to the equation but I’m looking for links. These events were months apart (6 months) and we’ve had plenty of successful park trips with no issues so this isn’t constant and very much isolated events. We’ve been going daily to different parks, hikes, beaches since he got his shots at 4 months and never had any issues except these two encounters. I cannot express how uncommon and out of character this is for him.

The first time he snapped (6 months ago) a puppy got close to his new toy. I made my dog down beside me in time out and let the puppy play with the toy. Today I didn’t do anything because it caught me off guard and they immediately went back to playing so I didn’t know if he would understand timeout. Any advise or insight would be super great! Although this has only happened twice in the two years I’ve had him I’m afraid that people will think he’s an aggressive dog! He’s big, ‘looks scary’, and a mix of a number of ‘aggressive’ breeds so I’m extra on guard to make sure we avoid any and all issues!! Two isolated events is already too many in my book. How do I make sure he never does this again??

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