Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
"Socializing" means different things to different people.
My dogs (well, my GSDs at least, the mutts not so much) do not really interact with dogs outside our pack. As baby puppies I might let them play with another puppy I know (like on Sunday Legend got to play with his brother for a few minutes), but beyond that, having a GSD that fits in at a dog park is like so not a priority for me.
They are very often off leash around many other dogs, at agility and flyball. Flyball can be chaos. During competition, you have 8-12 dogs at a time all running like crazy with people running and screaming, balls everywhere, and tug toys waving around. My GSDs are trained around this and focus on me and the task at hand. Same with agility, we usually have crates along but often get lazy and just put our dogs in a down while walking courses and taking turns.
Dog socialization to me is getting my dog used to the presence of other dogs and remaining neutral, completely ignoring these dogs. If I'm walking my puppy around and I see other dogs, I work on keeping his focus on me, not fixating or barking at other dogs. I do not run over and let our dogs play.
As far as going places, my dogs all go lots of places, including the dogs I have trained/am training in Schutzhund. I do a lot of other sports and the dogs also participate in community type events like visiting classrooms, representing my husband's school in summer parades, and doing "office therapy dog" where I work. I often bring a dog to work for an hour or so and again, I expect the dogs to remain neutral and pretty uninterested in everyone, unless there is a person I am talking with who asks to pet the dog. They aren't there to run around and run up to every person they find, nor are they there to be forced to tolerate mobs of people grabbing at them.
I do very intentionally expose my puppies and young dogs to a lot of sights, sounds, smells, textures, and weird experiences. This is mostly for me to gauge their reaction, make sure I have a good read on their temperament. I live and work in the city and we often have people over, or I'm traveling to dog competitions with my dogs and they are expected to be well mannered in hotels or staying at guests' homes. They come on vacation with us and I don't want to have to constantly supervise them around all my relatives.
My Schutzhund titled dog is my most well socialized dog but he is also the most aloof of my dogs. He doesn't really care what other people and dogs are doing. I've never had trouble keeping his focus on me. I like that he is safe in a huge variety of situations and I enjoy having him with me when I'm out and about.