Very sorry what happened to Nygel, the lab mix owner makes my blood boil, has a dog reactive pet and lets it off lead, people like that should not own dogs if they can't answer that question themselves.Absolutely not a fan of dogparks & will never go to one again.
When Nygel was 9 mos old, we took him to a dog park where my sister goes. Within a minute of walking in, he was attacked by an adult lab mix and absolutely no adult owner around. We went to the back of the park and Nyg was again attacked by an adult collie mix. We were outta there in a flash but not without behavioural reprecussions. Nyg is always on guard about strange dogs approaching him and all the training in the world hasn't been able to change that situation.
My motto "Say NO to dog parks".
BTW, as we were leaving the dog park, the lab mix owner came up to me & said "Oh, I hear my boy attacked your puppy. Sorry about that. He's been doing that all the time lately & I don't know what to do with him?" I told her to get control of her dog so he doesn't hurt any others.
I agree with you with reference to "exposure to health issues" and note that I used to get my guys vaccinated against kennel cough considering that my boys are out at training classes & shows. That was until one of my boys picked up kennel cough & a bad case at that. We treated with the normal antibiotics (which cost less than the vaccination). I no longer vaccinate for kennel cough & regular vaccinations are done every 3rd year.Very sorry what happened to Nygel, the lab mix owner makes my blood boil, has a dog reactive pet and lets it off lead, people like that should not own dogs if they can't answer that question themselves.
Personally speaking, I think controlled exposure to other dogs and people is worth the fairly low risk of serious infection. Put it this way, it is far easier to treat common conditions like conjunctivitis, kennel cough than it is to treat the psychological conditions of fear/aggression/protectiveness that can come by hiding the puppy away while his mind if most fertile. When I say controlled, I mean use your judgement, only allow approaches on other dogs either on lead or where you can talk to the owner first. I do not mean be wary as that would likely result in your puppy picking up on your attitude and adopting a similar frame of mind. Just be calm and in control of every situation. If another dog approaches on or off lead then make a judgement call.
If you get into a situation where you have a dominant dog approaching, stand tall and position yourself between the approaching dog and your puppy. Stare it away resolutely. It will get the message.
Not sure if you have something similar in the USA, but often the best approach is to join in with organized countryside dog walks. Get to know the owners, speak to them and observe the dogs before you let puppy out of the car. Obviously you can not exercise a puppy like you can an adult so even if you spend 15 minutes on a short stroll the controlled exposure to adult dogs will work wonders for his confidence.
EXACTLY what happened with Flora, except I waited until she was 4 months. She was frequently mobbed by large dogs and it scared the dickens out of her (i.e. she screamed like a blooded pig and ran for the hills). Only after the damage was done did dunce head me finally realize that taking Flora to the dog park was not a good idea. She behaves exactly like your dog now - very avoidant and overly submissive around all dogs. This dog park was a 50 acre fenced in area that required people to pay a fee for a yearly permit - and it was frequently monitored by cops. So even nice, private dog parks can still present a dangerous situation to your puppy.Not knowing any better at the time, I took my 3 month old pup to a dogpark, it did not turn out well. She got mobbed by a dogwalkers pack of dogs that came up over a rise, she was not hurt physically, but seriously, she could have ended up dead, and I will never forget her screaming for her life. She is over three years old now and generally avoids new dogs, or is very submissive even to the smallest of dogs,should she have the courage to meet them. Even now a chihuahua will send her running if it growls at her.
Your choice to make but what happens to your pup now can and will very likely have a lifelong effect.Dogparks can be great fun for dogs but there is always a risk of running into a wayward dog or an uncontrolling owner.