i invited people to visit with their dogs. i also went to other
peoples homes with my pup. a puppy class is a good place
for pups to interact with other pups.
Training without someone to tell you what YOU are doing wrong is a sure fire way to delay your dog's development.
>>>>>You also won't get the socialization aspect of training where they have to work around other dogs and in close proximity to other dogs that are under control.<<<<
>>>> There is no where that you can replicate this kind of situation in order to make sure your dogs will listen with distractions. <<<<
The fact that your puppy barks at other dogs shows that he is fearful of them...and there is no way to get through that without bringing him around dogs to show him that they aren't a threat. Sadly strange dogs are questionable at best and you can never guarantee that they aren't a true threat. At a training facility or club you are pretty much guaranteed that the dogs in there are either really good with other dogs, can ignore other dogs, or are at least under control enough to do greetings and socializing.
It really depends on your goals for this dog...do you just want a pet that will sit sometimes and down sometimes, when its not distracted and you have a treat in hand. Or do you want a trial in AKC or another venue and make sure your dog will listen to you 100% of the time and not just when its beneficial for the dog? Your 7 year old...probably great and calm at this point, but you could've gotten there faster using a trainer. You also might get help from a trainer when you just can't get through to your dog on some exercises (it happens), a trainer will give you other ideas on how to teach it different ways than what you're doing.
My club has a free "puppy class" for dogs under 6 months old. When you see puppies barking at all dogs/pups in there it is not a good sign. This is very frowned upon and those in the know will take their pups and "force" them to face whatever they are barking at. They will not accept their dogs going off on a perfectly friendly, well trained dog. The handler will help the puppy get through their fear stage and everyone in the club is a great tool for that. We all love puppies, and we love socializing our dogs with puppies. Its a win win situation for everyone that I really think you need to look into.