Safe dog meetings
A dog needs to meet and play with other dogs in order to socialise and feel good. But that said, they don't need to play with everyone they meet. Your dog will do well to have a few canine friends, around 2-3 of them, and otherwise not greet every dog it meets.
Puppy and young dog
Puppies and young dogs are often social with other dogs and it's good to let them meet safe and stable dogs during this time. For many dogs, the social time passes and they are most comfortable with their few best friends. Many dogs are not interested in meeting every dog they meet and it is often us humans who put them in these situations. It can also be the case that your dog has been greeted by everyone you meet while growing up and then gets frustrated when they suddenly can't be greeted. That frustration can look just like a dog not liking other dogs with tantrums and barking.
Difference between socialisation and dog meetings
The best thing for the dog is to differentiate between socialization training and dog meetings. If you are going to meet some canine friends, it is best to let the dogs meet loosely so they can show body language and distance themselves if they need to. For dog encounters, it's best to simply not greet other dogs on the walk. This will teach your dog that these situations look different and you will have a dog that ignores other dogs on walks but is happy to play when it meets its best friends.
How do I do the dog meeting
Even if you have a puppy or older dog, you can follow these steps to teach your dog that other dogs are not important on your walks.
1. Have your dog on the opposite side. When you meet a dog, you can take your dog on the opposite side to avoid straining at the leash and the dogs reaching each other. You also become, for the more cautious dog, a barrier that can block the other dog from coming forward and create a safe facade for your dog.
2. Keep your distance. It is important to keep the distance that your dog is comfortable with. When dogs are attached to us by a leash, they can't decide for themselves how far away from the other dog they want to be.
3. Walk in a bow. Dogs usually meet by walking in an arc around each other which is a very good way to do their dog meetings as well. The positive thing about walking past the dog meeting in an arc is also that this sends out reassuring signals to the meeting dog with your dog looking away and taking the turn.
4. Be neutral. Don't stress yourself out. Be neutral and don't notice the dog you are meeting. Then your dog will feel that there is nothing important to notice.
If your dog finds the meeting awkward, perhaps barking or showing avoidant behaviours, take a longer distance and remember how far away you needed to be for the next meeting. The most important thing to remember about dog meetings is to take the distance your dog needs. Don't start tempting with treats but calmly take your dog further away from the situation. If you can't take more distance, it may be time to turn the heel and go in a different direction than getting into a situation that your dog can't handle right now. The distance will always need to be large for some individuals and smaller for others.