Glad to hear he is getting more confident. Just one thing you might want to consider. What happens if you don't pick Dexter up and a dog is playing with him or bugging him? Could you be creating issues by always picking him up?
I am very low keyed at the park and walk around the park very slowly, so Dexter can smell every area.
When the other dogs jump on Dexter (usually one) the dog is all over Dexter, if Dexter got away from the dog, Dexter would run away with tail between legs, Dexter would be very low to the ground and take off away from me and the dog or dogs now would chase Dexter and they would be all over Dexter (I have seen Dexter get tumbled around) scared look on his face, run to the exit gate and very frighten.
The quiet dogs and not so quiet dogs will come up to Dexter and smell him and the other dogs will often walk away and while they are walking away Dexter will smell them. Dexter has been watching the other dogs in the park for a long time and it was finally Dexter who initiated play.
Often dogs at the park will run to their owner (around their legs) when they cannot handle a situation and use the owner as a base and protection (I have seen this behavior quite often in the park). I have seen Dexter do this behavior by staying around my legs for protection, in the mean time, the behaved dogs will smell Dexter... I am very low keyed and telling Dexter "It's ok," in an assuring calm voice.
It is the OVERLY friendly (excited) dogs that Dexter cannot handle, the ones who are jumping all over Dexter and getting in his face and their nails scratching all over Dexter (Not fun to watch). This happened to Dexter in the very beginning and it terrorized Dexter and it has taken me, I know over 7 months to make the progress of Dexter playing with another dog that was not behind a fence.
Dexter still plays with Bailey (Beagle) next door....Bailey is behind a fence. Both Dexter and Bailey will run back and forth playing along the fence.
Dexter and Bailey is another story...
Bailey is also one of those overly friendly dogs. When Dexter and Bailey meet at the fence, Bailey often rolls on her back in a submissive behavior.
I am sorry this is so long....but, I like to talk and make sure all the details are clear.
I so want Dexter to play with other dogs and run like you know what in the park. Patience....be still my heart, I so want another dog, but I wanted to wait until Dexter was over a year old and then.......I need to work on dh.
Dexter and I still have lots to do at the park....and, it will take lots of patience. We made a big break through with Dexter playing (Dexter chasing the dog). Dexter will have to learn to be more confident with the greeting, to be chased by other dogs in play, learn to stand up for himself when he has had enough, learn the submissive roll when needed for some dogs, and who knows what else....I'll let you know when I see it. It is a learning experience for both of us. Thanks for listening to me. You guys are the greatest support system!