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Warning, long post incoming.

I adopted a(n adorable) puppy from a shelter here in Italy. I was not able to meet her beforehand; the way it works here is that Southern Italian shelters adopt out pups to central and northern Italy and they send them up 20 or so at a time in a big caravan, hand them off to you, and you go on your way. There is no placement or meeting the dogs beforehand. I did a ton of research on getting a dog and had been actually planning on purchasing a Golden Retriever for years now from a very responsible breeder but at the last minute changed my decision because I thought rescuing a puppy in need was much better. I kind of got guilted into it because of the high cost of a GR. Now I am second-guessing my choice and think that I should have absolutely gone with the bred dog.

My puppy was one of a litter of 11 and raised only with her siblings in a horrible shelter/kennel. She was not raised with her mom. She was not socialized with humans of any kind outside of the volunteer who fed her. I chose her based on her personality in a video. Admittedly, I probably shouldn't have adopted a dog without meeting her but having been around dogs growing up, naively I thought all puppies could be "molded" to a certain extent.

When she and I first met (my SO took her home two days before me as I was traveling), she growled at me. Like full on adult dog growl with hackles up. Then about thirty mins later we became best buds. She is extremely affectionate and loving and is a lick monster now though :) She follows me around the house, plays well, is taking to the crate well, is very smart (she knows leave it, sit, down, up, stand, look at me, her name), etc. but I am not sure I am the best dog mom for her. Here's why:

I'm not sure I'm equipped to handle her. How much shyness is "normal" at 12 weeks old? It's been difficult socializing her because puppy classes are closed here due to Covid and she's not fully vaccinated (she will be by January 8th) so we can't take her to the dog park. We've been walking around with her on our busy pedestrian-only street multiple times daily. She is very shy with strangers. I would say that out of every 100 people who try to interact with her (hypothetically) she only warms up to 10 of them, and by warming up I mean not running away.

She doesn't allow herself to really be pet, but what she will do is run after people (tail wagging) who are walking past her or whose backs are turned to her. She often times will cower away if people approach her, even gently, and go between my legs for shelter. I've been giving people treats to give to her but in those cases she will just take it and then walk back between my legs. I take her into stores and have shopkeepers gently pet her but she legitimately trembles in fear.

She also is iffy with other dogs at best. There is a small terrier in my building who wants to make friends, but she yelps like she is being hurt if she even sees him. She has also growled at four dogs so far: one during play, one who just simply approached her inquisitively, one who walked by her, and one who approached her while she was in my significant other's arms. She snapped at this first dog also during play but I will chalk that up to puppy play and exploring boundaries. She has yelped at other dogs who have her on the street as well. It is not an "I want to play" yelp. It is an "I am terrified" yelp. Her reaction with dogs is either: run away and cower with us, play (only if they are very small, and only if the other dog goads her into it; she never plays first), growl, or yelp in terror.

I really think I'm having the puppy blues. Having helped raise my brother's dog (who is a mush that literally wants to be friends with everyone and everything), I guess I just expected all puppies to be friendly little balls of love and curiosity! It has been difficult adjusting to the fact that my dog may never be people- or dog-friendly, which is something I place huge importance on.

Am I doing the right thing by socializing her this way? What else can I be doing? Tomorrow I am going to the doggy daycare and we are going to have an "interview" to see if she can play in a supervised indoor area with other dogs, but I don't know if she can handle it because they're not puppies. I don't want to set her back but I am also afraid we're reaching the end of the window of opportunity for the socialization period. I really want to rehome her to a family that understands shy and nervous dogs, but my significant other has bonded with her and will likely leave me if I do. As a dog lover, I feel so sad and stuck.

Thoughts?
 

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She is a BABY. Do NOT let dogs come up to her. Do NOT let every person you see come up to her. Socialization is NOT letting all of that happen. Socialization is letting her see different environments and teaching her that being with you is SAFE.

If you had a baby in a carriage would you let every strange person you met touch your baby or pick your baby up? Probably not. Same with your puppy.

NO Doggy Day care. She is too young!!! I would not do that anyway. NO DOG PARK she is too young.. and dog parks are great places to get a dog hurt.

You need to work on training her. You need to let her know you are safe. You need to teach her to be with you.

Take a look at:
Or this:
 

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You are more than likely going through the "puppy blues" and maybe a bit of regret that you didn't get the dog that you wanted.

When I was searching for my second dog, I wanted a well bred Border Collie. I felt guilted and pulled in several directions, and ended up handing over the choice to my husband (as it was going to be more his dog). I ended up with a working bred Border Collie, from a "meh" breeder. Because this dog wasn't what I wanted, I felt regretful of her for a long time. I didn't actually like my puppy.

She had a lot of the same things you are going through. Her fear periods were terrible. She nasty growled and snapped at my adult dog, for the first 2 days. She was not social with other dogs/puppies in class (this also wasn't a good class, lol). She would even growl at me if I was in her space and she didn't want me to be, or if she was afraid of getting "punished" (I never punished her on purpose, but we had an incident during a fear period). She was friendly with people thankfully, but after awhile she could still revert to the uncomfortable growl once the excitement wore off.

Part of the reason she was like this is that she wasn't well socialized prior to coming to me, at least not with any kind of special program. Part of this was because her breed/breeding are not like your typical pet bred dogs. Her behaviors aren't atypical of her breed, especially when the owner is lacking in how to deal correctly with this type of dog. The biggest reason for most of her issues: Incorrect socialization on MY part or accidents during a fear period that imprinted forever.

Careful socialization is KEY with dogs that lack confidence or aren't your typical "pet" breed. It's not that a Golden Retriever shouldn't also have this correct socialization.. it's that Goldens, Labs etc are more hardwired to forgive your mistakes. They are bred to be more outgoing and friendly. That's why they make such great pets.

Correct socialization means setting your dog up for success and building confidence. I prefer puppy classes that focus less on socialization with dogs and more on building confidence "around" dogs. So introducing them to lots of different surfaces, showing you how to build a positive relationship with your dog and such. Your dog doesn't need to actually meet a bunch of dogs to be well socialized. Meeting the wrong dog can backfire for life (as it did with mine -- she hates black dogs to this day). Casually seeing dogs, or sniffing/hanging with a very well behaved neutral dog will be MUCH more beneficial in the long run than ever getting to play with dogs. Dog parks and doggy day cares are just asking for bad incidents. The same with people. They don't have to directly meet and love every person. Walking by casually, rewarding them for being calm or interested without fear while the human basically ignores them until they gain more confidence. That is really all you can ask for. So my advice, take a step back. Take things slow. Build confidence through play, and relaxed casual encounters. Like, I would go to a park or a college campus with a bag of treats and a high value toy. Then I would walk around at a distance, and just play, work on obedience skills, climb on nearby rocks, benches (make it fun and confidence building). Slowly get closer to the "commotion" as the dog is relaxed. And unfortunately, you will have to turn people away if they want to pet, or have their dog meet yours. There are lot of different socialization resources out there with ideas! I'm not the best at gathering them though.

I wish I had known with my girl. In the end, she still has some quirks but she actually turned out to be a really good dog. I regretted her for about 2 years -- but that was my own fault. Instead of accepting the dog I had and changing the way I did things I just resented that I ever let my husband talk me into her. But having her has completely changed the way I see dog behavior and socialization. I appreciate everything she is. I appreciate the ways she's shaped my attitude and understanding. Turns out, I don't regret her one bit. I can't tell you what is best for you, but I thought I'd share my experience.
 
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