I have a golden retriever puppy, Flora, who is about 4 months old. I started her in puppy kindergarten when she was 9 weeks old to begin socialization, and noticed in her class that she was pretty nervous around other dogs. She has absolutely no desire to play when a dog approaches her, and usually gets right on her belly, tail underneath her legs, ears flat. Sometimes she does some submissive peeing as well.
I have tried REALLY hard to get her to feel comfortable around other dogs. I have arranged play dates with other golden retrievers her age, I have taken her to puppy play times, I take her on walks so she can encounter other dogs (and she shows a huge interest in other dogs until they approach her)... but she's still the same. She doesn't try to hide behind me or anything, but she'll get flat on her belly, ears flattened, tail completely under her, and will usually roll over onto her back when the other dog sniffs her. She's SO submissive! Unfortunately I can't take her on any more play dates because the woman I used to walk dogs with is moving, and everyone else I know owns cats. The neighbor dogs are totally out of the question too as one is super hyper and the owners never walk the dog anyway, and the other dog is aggressive.
As of late I have been taking her to puppy play times every Saturday. She is let loose in a large area with about 5-9 other puppies (always very small puppies like chihuahuas and shih tzus, she's not put in with the large puppies.) Well, while all the other puppies play, she will hide underneath a chair and go to sleep. OCCASIONALLY she'll come out and sniff a dog, but if a dog shows any interest in her, it's right back underneath the chair. She'll whine a lot too, either at me or just in the back of the room at nothing. Sometimes it's kind of ridiculous because Flora is pushing 30 pounds and she'll get scared of a 4lb chihuahua, although I do understand that size has nothing to do with it.
Am I doing the right thing by just dumping her in a sea of other dogs, or am I pushing her too hard? People keep saying, "Oh, that's good!" but I'm starting to wonder if she's just so overwhelmed by all of these little puppies running around that it just adds to her fear.
A funny thing is, she does like some dogs, but the dogs she likes and wants to play with don't want to play with her. She'll wag her tail, whine, paw at them, jump on them, but they totally ignore her. I thought at first it was because all the dogs she likes are old and don't really like puppies, but there is one dog we encounter frequently on our walks that she LOVES, and the dog is a big hyper yellow lab who will jump all over me and lick me and bark, but unfortunately wants nothing to do with Flora. She's also had some unfortunate encounters with inconsiderate people who allowed their unleashed dogs to run right up to Flora, and Flora didn't run away, she just rolled over onto her belly and submitted.
So what gives? Why does she dislike puppies and most dogs so much, but has some strange attraction to some? I'm just so confused and a bit frustrated, because I have been trying so hard to socialize her, and it makes me sad to see all these puppies playing and see my dog hiding underneath a chair whimpering or sleeping. I'm starting to think I should just stop with the puppy stuff for a while, let her grow up, and then try it again.
Any tips would be great. I know it's not the worst problem in the world, but it makes me sad. Other than this she is a wonderful dog. She loves people and people love her, she loves going on car rides and walks, well behaved in the house, etc. She's a joy.
Thanks (and sorry this is so long)!
Kim & Flora