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Without being able to observe the behavior of yourself and the dog it's impossible to say exactly what the problem was, but certainly having an invader on his property, while his owner was not home, and also being a senior with probably diminished eyesight and/or hearing and possibly some arthritis (pain) could all be contributing factors.

Unfortunatly, most people, especially nowadays, are not sufficiently able to read a dog's body language to understand what it is telling them.

It just emphasizes the point that one should not pet a strange dog without asking the owner first.

Regarding tethering: There is now thought that it is not tethering per se that causes aggression, but the fact that constantly tethered dogs are also frequently subject to neglect and lack of socialization and training. Rather like the old argument that unneutered dogs were more likely to bite, it is not because they are unneutered but because, in this society, people who do not do the "responsible" thing by neutering are also likely to neglect the other responsibilties of dog ownership, such as socializing, training, and not allowing the dog to roam at large. Correlation is not causation in either case.
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