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Aggressive Behaviour towards owner


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We rescued a 15month old GSD who had been in 2 homes. The 1st he was trained with fear and aggression,the 2nd one he started getting dominant and territorial. He was the perfect dog until he had to have a Cruciate Ligament op in 2019 then his 2nd one in 2020, both had slight complications which increased recovery time, ever since then his temperament has changed and he has started to get a bit aggressive towards us. Not all the time, so times he is very loving and playful but now and again you see that look in his eyes that he thinks you are going to hurt him especially being brushed or dried off after a walk. I think it stems from frustration and boredom due the lack if exercise while recuperating....any suggestions...??
Could it be he is experiencing pain? If you say it's when he is being brushed or dried off.. He's had a lot going on in his 15 months.
Another vote for pain, especially as GSDs have in general over-curved backs and weak hindlegs. Maybe being towelled off actually hurts more than he can cope with. Perhaps an alternative would be a moisture-wicking coat he can wear after exercise. Cruciate injuries can cause a lot of pain because of trying to support weight while they heal. It can't be helped, but is worth knowing.
How old is he now, and how long is it before he fully recovered (or seemed to fully recover) from his last op? Is he aggressive in any other circumstances? Is there always body contact (or fear of body contact) involved? And does it feel to you like a warning/snap rather than full-on losing his rag - if you stop what you're doing, does he then calm down?
He is 6 in May and has now fully recovered from 2nd cruciate op which was in August 2020. He had an internal infection ( Staph) in the wound site which all in all increased recovery time from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. I dont think he is in any pain as he is quite happy to throw himself on the floor, roll around and have his belly rubbed and legs played with but only on his terms. When he starts snarling I just stop what I'm doing turn away and he calms down, but I cannot trust him all the time. He also was happy to go to the vets..(always was a whinger. ) but now has to be muzzled as he gets very aggressive when there as he now associates the vets with pain. Hopefully now he is fully recovered we can start extended exercise and this may help channel some of the excess energy.
If you're sure there's no pain - a clue to pain might be if he's happy for you to brush his front but not his hind end, or one hip but not the other - you could try desensitising and counterconditioning. This could look something like this:

1) Pick up the brush - give him a treat - put the brush down. Repeat ad nauseam, till he gets visibly excited when he sees you pick up the brush.

2) Hold the brush close to (or touching if he's OK with that) his body, give him treats, then remove the bruch, then stop treating. Timing is important - the brush is a predictor of good things, removal of the brush means the good things stop. Repeat till he loves the touch of the brush.

3) As above, but pull the brush lightly across his fur in an area he doesn't tend to react to.

Then VERY slowly work to other areas of his body, only moving on when he is clearly delighted that he is being brushed. The idea is that in every step, the emotional response to the treat will transfer to the brushing action, in the same way that the tune of an ice cream van can make you feel happy even in the absence of ice cream itself.

You could also try 'zoom groom' type brushes to see if he's more tolerant of them.

Also, have a look at Chirag Patel's Bucket Game: Chirag Patel- Domesticated Manners (The bucket game) - Animal Training Academy - This may give your dog a better way of telling you that he's not happy with what you're doing.

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