Originally Posted by Gibbs Mom and Dad
Gibbs is 15 weeks.
I personally felt the trainers were being too protective of Gibbs, but I certainly understood their dilemma and trusted their expertise. They didn't want Gibbs to have a negative experience, and wanted everyone to be at ease.
I would have liked to see if Gibbs would have calmed himself once he realized the Shepherd wasn't a threat. The trainers separated them once Gibbs yelped twice. I'm certainly no expert, but I suspect had they let Gibbs yelp as the Shepherd calmly sniffed his butt and nose, that eventually the Shepherd would have given him one great big slobbery dog kiss and Gibbs would have settled. - Either that, or Gibbs would have snipped and the Shepherd would have eaten him. - just kidding!!!
The reason the trainers separated Gibbs when he yelped was for his own protection, There is a thing called "predatory drift", where even a well socialized dog can drift from play mode to "prey mode" in an instant when another dog, usually a smaller dog) starts acting like prey. (i.e. shrieking, yelping, running away, etc.) the problem in these instances is that it only takes one grab and shake, even if done playfully, to kill the little dog. So they did the right thing.
Unfortunately, 15 weeks is already on the late side for starting dog/dog socialization. This should really start no later than 8 weeks, and be intensive over the following 8 weeks, then continued for the life of the dog. That doesn't mean it's not possible, but you are going to have to work harder, and smarter to get him to the point that he's really comfortable around other dogs, if that is important to you. He may never get to the point that a dog who was socialized early would get.
I would try to find a few large, gentle, adult dogs to introduce him to to start with... adults will give him "puppy license" that large breed pups who are still learning social skills themselves won't. Newfies are a good choice, some older Labs and Goldens, and certain individuals of other breeds. Your trainer might be able to help you get in touch with other clients with dogs like this. Then the owner of the big dog can put their dog in a down, and just let Gibbs get used to the idea that the dog is totally, non-threatening, yet in the same space.
You should NOT force him to interact with the other dog, but should continue to praise him, and if he's not too stressed to take food, give LOTS of food rewards for even being near the other dog. It doesn't matter at all whether they interact at that point. You keep feeding and praising no matter WHAT his response is. Contrary to popular belief, you will NOT be "rewarding" his fear. You will be building an association of "Good things happen when I'm around other dogs." Over time, as he gets more comfortable, the bigger dog can be allowed to wander around freely, and they can be allowed to start to interact with each other, as Gibbs is able to tolerate it.
This system really does work, but most people aren't dedicated enough to finding enough opportunities for their dogs to practice, or think that after a few positive interactions, their job of socialization is over. Dog/dog socialization is never over for the life of the dog, if it's important to you. It's easier to maintain good dog/people social skills once they are established... partly because most dogs HAVE so many more encounters with other people. But it can save a little dog's life if they have really good dog social skills and body language, and it makes it SO much more fun for us to be able to socialize freely with friends with other well-socialized dogs!