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Question about Socializing Puppy
I've been lurking on this forum for a couple months, learning a lot about this breed, and now have some question I haven't quite seen addressed yet. We have a 19 week puppy named Oscar (see my other thread for pictures). We got Oscar between the holiday's at 10 weeks and he has been well socialized with people. We have 3 children and all their friends and friend's parents, and an au-pair and her friends, so that hasn't been an issue.
The problem so far has been socializing with other dogs. We waited until his second round of puppy vaccinations, and his rabies vaccine in mid January before really introducing him to other dogs. The first new dog was a friend's Shi-mix that's about 2 years old, and ~20 lbs. Unfortunately, this dog's first reaction was to jump on Oscar which scared him into my lap. After that their dog was more interested in exploring our house than playing with Oscar, and Oscar had no interest either. Since then, we've been on a long walk with this other dog, and Oscar slowly warmed-up to him. Other casual encounters have all been with much larger dogs, and Oscar has generally been very fearful, staying close to me with his tail between his legs.
Three weeks ago we started puppy kindergarten. The free socialization period has been mostly disastrous so far. The class is primarily labs and lab mixes with a terrier and a very small German shorthair. The first week Oscar started well, but then one of the hyper lab mixes started getting rough and rolled him over. Luckily the trainer quickly intervened as Oscar had his teeth bared and was about to defend himself probably with bad results (the lab was at least 25 lbs.). After that he spent the rest of the socialization period in an expen with the 8 week old small German shorthaired pointer. They got along well, so I was hopeful. Week 2 was horrible. After 30 seconds loose, the labs began trying to rough-house with Oscar, and he ran with his tail between his legs and jumped up on my lap. After the labs left, Oscar returned to the floor and sought out the German shorthair. They were getting along mostly well, until the terrier came back from rough-housing with the labs. Oscar ran from the terrier (which is actually smaller than him) with his tail between his legs. Shortly after that, I saw him panting and recognized the stress signal. I went over to settle him and while I had my hands near him, the terrier came back, and Oscar lashed out and bit me. I'm not upset about this. It's my fault. What I'm trying to figure out is how I get positive socialization experiences for Oscar. I don't want him to be so fearful of other dogs that he runs and then lashes out when cornered. I've talked to the training school, and they want me to try again this week, but not get involved. They want me to let Oscar work it out, but I don't see that going well. They did suggest maybe some more one-on-one time, since he seems to do better with that, warming up to other dogs on his own terms rather than being chased down. That's fine as long as one of the other owners wants that for their dog as well.
So my questions are these. What should I do? Do I let him alone with all the other dogs, and trust the trainer will break-up anything before it gets too rough? Do I try the one-on-one if another owner is willing? Could some of this be caused by his age and going through a fearful phase? What other things can I be doing to get him more socialization experiences with other dogs? I'm open to suggestion.
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to set the stage properly and preempt some obvious questions. Sorry also if this should be in the puppy forum, but I wanted to get a wide audience.
Kevin aka Oscar's Dad