Here are some situations.
1. Walking in our neighborhood and a dog is lunging on leash and owners asks "can they meet?" (me...uh no)
2. At park and dog lunging and barking on leash and owner asks...."can he sniff?"
3. Trying to enjoy baseball game and other adult dog attending barks and pulls towards our pup and owner asks "would it be ok for them to meet? He'll calm down after he sniffs your pup."
My answer in all cases is "No, I am sorry but we are not introducing our pup to other dogs on leash." Or "No, we are not doing greetings." or "no, he is training."
It is clear that we as dog professionals have communicated that "socialization" of dogs with other dogs is important but .....maybe we need to be clearer about the type of socialization and circumstances.
Several times the people we have encountered said something like "oh, I figured you'd want to "socialize" him with other dogs." Or, "our dog would relax after she sniffs your pup."
This is very frustrating as a dog trainer but also for a new pup owner. It shows a limited understanding of what is meant by socialization and how it is meant for dogs to succeed long term. Dogs do need to be exposed to and learn how to behave around other dogs, people, environments etc. That does not mean that they should meet all other adult dogs or puppies.
That said here are the situations we have decided on for our pup.
1. No intros to dogs while on leash.
We do not want our dog knowing or practicing the options of moving towards other dogs on leash. We want him to learn that he sits or makes eye contact or just hangs out with us when other dogs are around and he is on leash.
This helps to avoid the crazy pulling and lunging behavior when walking and other dogs pass by. If the person is always more important than the passing dog and the passing dog never leads to play then this makes for good behavior around other dogs.
It will be with familiar people and dogs. Rules are in place and there is supervision. We want Quentin to meet other dogs we are familiar with behaviorally so that we know he is learning appropriate behavior vs. inappropriate doggie behavior. This will be with leash dragging and play pause, play pause pattern in place. Short successful encounters for both dogs.
i do recognize that our pup needs to meet other dogs and more importantly needs to "see" other dogs of different sizes, colors, behaviors etc. I also know that these opportunities must be handled carefully for me to have a well mannered dog who learns how to behave appropriately in public around other dogs. It is up to us to decide and be sure any introductions are safe and handled properly. Not all dogs are appropriate for this situation. It is important to keep in mind that any dog your dog meets is "teaching" your dog how other dogs behave. Dogs are learning all the time. Make your choices wisely.
I often see owners misreading their dog's cues and setting up other dogs and people for a negative encounter. There is a great deal of pressure when it comes to people and their dogs.
As a family we must set behavioral goals and expectations so that we can help our pup be successful in our encounters. We must decide what to do and under what circumstances as we know what our family goals are. I encourage all families set these types of goals and expectations so that they can be consistent and their dog can be successful.
Having a pup has allowed me to revisit so many things. I hope that by sharing these moments it can help others to make better choices for their family too!