Hi Guys....I'm really hoping someone can provide some insight to help us out.
We have a 2 year old dog named Nova that we've had since 8 weeks of age. He's 1/2 border collie, 1/4 german Shepherd and 1/4 lab. He's amazingly intelligent, completely goofy, and seems to know when a cuddle is the best thing needed by his humans. He's playful, loves to fetch and tug, enjoys swimming in the summer.
Like all puppies, he had his bad habits that we have gradually conquered. He's housebroken, crate trained, and has, for the most part, stopped chewing things to destruction (though stuffed toys are apparently still enemy #1..LOL). There's just one habit/behavior that we've had no luck changing, and in fact, is becoming problematic.
Nova reacts aggressively when surprised by either people or other animals. We first noticed it when my mom came to visit a year or so ago. She knocked on the door, then let herself in, announcing her presence. Nova, not knowing anybody was coming, got aggressive and lunged and barked to the point of backing mom up into a corner. He never seems to try to bite, but there is lots of growling, barking, and lunging going on. We now live in an apartment building. If waiting for the elevator, and someone is already on it, he does the same bark/lunge routine at whoever pops out of the elevator. same thing if he's the one in the elevator...lunges/barks at someone who is simply waiting for the elevator to arrive.
One thing we've learned, is that if we're expecting houseguests, we simply put Nova out onto our Balcony for a few moments while we let the guests come in. Nova can see them come in, and is curious, but shows no aggression so long as he's on the other side of the glass. Once the guests come in and are settled in, (1 or 2 mins) then we can let Nova back inside, and he's content to come in and say hello and visit happily with this new batch of humans. This tells us it's not that he hates people other than his humans, but that he simply can't handle unexpected humans, and assumes they are a threat of some kind.
We have no idea how to train around this, because every time he's surprised, he loses his mind. we rein him in, and have just gotten a chest-pull harness for him to help with controlling the lunging, but we want him to see people in the hallways, the elevators, the lobby, or simply walking down the sidewalk towards him without him feeling he needs to go on the offensive. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated!
Thanks in advance!