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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
 

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Change your expectation level of what a dog "should be" and accept Flora for the way she is. Socialization is not about 'play time'. It's learning the signals or the communication of other dogs. Learning to read/respect the signs that another dog does not want to play, learning the body language or warnings, invitations, rebukes.
Start with just one dog who is a really good role model. They don't have to run, jump and play.....they just need to share space peacefully which is one of the major aims of Socialization.
The real issue here is one of confidence though. What confidence building exercises have you been doing besides the ones they taught in puppy class?
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I've learned to sort of accept her for what she is, but unfortunately, there are going to be times when I'll need to leave her at a doggy daycare, so I want to make sure she is at least /comfortable/ with being around dogs (I work super long hours in the summer, having a dog walker come over would be tremendously expensive and Flora would be stuck in her crate for long periods of time, it's unfair to her.) Our last golden retriever never really liked other dogs either (in fact, she also hid behind chairs at puppy classes), but she did grow up to tolerate them. There was only one dog ever that she really played with, so that shows you how much she liked dogs. ;P

Anyhow, at home I work on sit, down, stay, I've done some tricks with her - spin, paw. I've done some "at home" agility with her, like getting her to weave around objects and go through tunnels, etc., I groom her at least 4 times a week (I don't know if that's "confidence building" or not), I let her win at tug of war games, I'll let her sit on my chest when I'm laying down... I guess that's about it. I really do work with her, because I know how submissive she is. I obviously don't ever expect her to be a dominant dog, but I would like her to be confident enough to not feel that it's necessary to roll onto her back every time she meets a new dog. :)

Oh - and she has been around a dog for a long period of time and done fine. I took her to my cousin's place, and she has an ancient daschund, and after the initial submissive pee, Flora was totally fine around him. They just sort of ignored each other, and that was that.
 

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You're on the right track. The tug, Agility, 'lower status' while playing are all good. Be sure to praise and reward all the displays of confidence. Intercept/interupt her with a Sit command and make her hold it when meeting a new dog.....praise and more praise. Sitting down is a slightly submissive behavior and tells the other dog she doesn't want to interact and it's also better than rolling belly up.
She's still a puppy and as she learns and matures she will improve. She may never really play with other dogs and that's OK.....mine don't.....it's just not in their nature and they are both well socialized/well behaved.
 

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You're on the right track. The tug, Agility, 'lower status' while playing are all good. Be sure to praise and reward all the displays of confidence. Intercept/interupt her with a Sit command and make her hold it when meeting a new dog.....praise and more praise. Sitting down is a slightly submissive behavior and tells the other dog she doesn't want to interact and it's also better than rolling belly up.
She's still a puppy and as she learns and matures she will improve. She may never really play with other dogs and that's OK.....mine don't.....it's just not in their nature and they are both well socialized/well behaved.
Good point. I guess I had visions of my puppy frolicking around with other puppies, and I'll have to accept that Flora obviously isn't one of those dogs. That's really totally fine by me because she is GREAT with people, and that's #1 in my book. I just want her to be comfortable around dogs, that's all. I will be putting her in a doggy daycare when she's about 5 months old because I'll be working some ridiculously long hours and I can't crate her that long, so I want to be sure she'll be okay. She's 100% fine with old dogs, so I figure they can always pair her up with the older, subdued animals. :) She's a pretty mellow pup, so it makes sense.

Thanks for your replies, I appreciate them!
 

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My dog is 52 pounds and is at his most submissive with little dogs. Just because a dog is small, doesn't mean they don't give big, powerful signals to other dogs that are intimidating. Some make make my boy cower in fear.....

So, my suggestion would to be continuing to socialize with dogs that do not make your dog so uncomfortable that she pees in submission.

Obedience classes hugely improved my dogs confidence. Being in a group of dogs and learning to focus on obedience commands in their presence seemed to be a calming influence. The stronger our working bond became, the more confidence he gained.

Good luck :)
 

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My dog is 52 pounds and is at his most submissive with little dogs. Just because a dog is small, doesn't mean they don't give big, powerful signals to other dogs that are intimidating. Some make make my boy cower in fear.....

So, my suggestion would to be continuing to socialize with dogs that do not make your dog so uncomfortable that she pees in submission.

Obedience classes hugely improved my dogs confidence. Being in a group of dogs and learning to focus on obedience commands in their presence seemed to be a calming influence. The stronger our working bond became, the more confidence he gained.

Good luck :)
Yeah, some small dogs can be really feisty... I think Flora needs to stick with the older, more subdued animals for now.

I have her enrolled in another obedience class starting in less than a month, so hopefully she can meet some more well rounded dogs there. It was unfortunate that our puppy k-g class had 2 aggressive/dominant puppies in it and one puppy that had fear aggression. There wasn't any good pup for Flora to really socialize with. Then again, I think she was more interested in the humans than the puppies anyways, so no loss for her... ;)
 

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Let me ask one question - is she very light colored (more light blonde rather than dark red) with long, fine, silky fur ? Most, but not all, of the more timid Goldens that I've worked with are more delicate looking.

Also, when she whines or hides behind you, do you comfort her and tell her everything is OK ?

One of the things that we have found to be successful, if you want to improve her confidence with other dogs, is to find a smaller Golden or Lab that is confident and playful, then put the two of them in a fenced area, then leave them alone... and try to move out of her sight. We have found that when the timid dog realizes that the more confident dog is not going to hurt her, then she will relax and might even play... as long as no one is there to "protect" her.

If you try this method, after she learns to play, watch what happens when you approach... see if she rolls over and submits, when she sees you.

- Hank Simon
 

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It sounds like you have tried a lot, and are working hard, but like the above poster, i was wondering if you have tried letting her play without you there.

the daycares where i have worked, we usually wait until the owners leave the premises to evaluate the dog. most dogs are completely different with the owner there, some become more submissive, some become more dominant. And with her being a puppy, she is still in that stage where she isnt sure of somethings, and would def. look to you for guidance. sometimes, if you take the owner out of the equation, the dog figures it out for themselves, and becomes a dog, you might say.

you say you will need her to be in doggy daycare this summer. do you already have a place to take her? at my work, most of our dogs are repeat customers that we know, and when we get a submissive dog, we have many that we know will take that out of them. if you do have a place already, just start taking her about once a week now, and ask them how she is when you are gone. she might be a different dog.

it also might help to not let her hide under chairs when she is in a group of dogs. if we do have a dog like that in a group, we either put them in a pen with one other dog, to see if they will start playing, or we put them on a leash and just have them walk around with us, and still be a part of the group. that way, they can learn to accept other dogs being around them, and not running away from it.

and again, like the above poster said, dont baby or give attention when your dog is being submissive. many owners do not even realize they do this, and it is very hard to stop yourself. im not sure if this a problem you have, but i know may do have it without realizing it.
 

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Wow, I forgot about this board!

Thanks for the other replies. I do not coddle her when she shows fear. I actually just sort of ignore her and let her do her thing unless she is just absolutely terrified, and then I try to position myself between her and the other dog and I will usually pet the other dog to show Flora that I am not afraid, and there is no reason to be afraid.

She is still pretty submissive around other dogs. I have her in another class and she's actually much better (our trainer made her be the "meet and greet" dog during socialization time because she's friendly and not aggressive), but she'll still do a submissive pee around some dogs and not others (it's usually smaller dogs, fancy that.) Our trainer did say she noticed a marked improvement in Flora's behavior around other dogs, so I find that reassuring. She also met another dog from her puppy class that she used to be very skittish around, but this time she raced right up to him and started wagging her tail. All good signs. :)

I have started taking her to the dog park and so far every experience with another dog has been positive until today, when someone's dog scared the crap out of her by running right up to her and growling. The owners came up and said, "Sorry, sorry, she's mean to puppies." I was like, gee, thanks for bringing your dog here. Otherwise Flora has been really good about meeting other dogs and even following them around for a little while.

The doggy daycare I am going to go to was totally cool with her submissiveness. They said they're going to introduce her slowly to the smaller dogs first (I wish they would put her in with the older dogs, but oh well), and monitor her to make sure she's at an okay comfort level. The owners have 3 golden retrievers and were just totally in love with Flora, so I feel really good about the place. I'm interested to see how she will behave without me there. Maybe she will just sort of relax and do her thing.

I think she's just a slow learner, but she'll get there. Our neighbors got a labrador puppy and I tried having her play with him, and she WILL play a little bit with him if she is off leash and he is on a leash. However, if they are both off leash he gets too nippy with her and she doesn't like it one bit and will cry and whimper, so I avoid those situations.

Anyways, slowly but surely I think Flora and I will get to the point where she can at least hang out with other dogs and not feel the need to roll onto her back or pee. She's such a sweet girl. :)

Oh, and she is a lighter colored golden, and I know her breeder said that her mother is a great dog, but couldn't be a show dog because she would just "roll over onto her back and ask for a tummy rub" every time she met someone, which probably means her mother is also submissive. I'm not complaining about submissiveness - I love it! I would much rather have a submissive dog than an aggressive/dominant one, definitely.
 

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Dog Parks are very high risk situations and I would stay away from them if I was you. Or, if you feel you must go, go at times the park is at the lowest usage and be alert for idiot owners who are clueless about their dog's temperament and whose dog has no training.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Dog Parks are very high risk situations and I would stay away from them if I was you. Or, if you feel you must go, go at times the park is at the lowest usage and be alert for idiot owners who are clueless about their dog's temperament and whose dog has no training.
"Dog park" maybe isn't the most accurate term. This is a 500 acre area where dogs are allowed off leash. We will usually encounter other dogs one by one rather than in giant packs, so it's easier for me to keep an eye on the dogs temperament and avoid dogs I don't feel comfortable about (unless the owners are negligent and let their dog run way ahead of them, which these people did do.) A lot of times I'll go there and we never encounter another dog! I know they are high risk areas and I really do keep my eyes open for dogs that don't look very nice - especially dogs that people keep on leashes and smaller dogs. The only reason I can think of for keeping your dog leashed in an off-leash area is because it's aggressive, and Flora is pretty uncomfortable around small dogs since they're usually so yippy and hyper.
 
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