Six months later, we have a second dog and Martha is about the same. She can handle a random dog across the street a lot better but still needs time to get over one that comes anywhere near her. We've met a few new people with great dogs that are now her friends so that's good.
I've found that she is still a little nervous on longer car rides and that amps her up, so I have to make sure she has time to unwind if we are going somewhere there might be dogs. Day-to-day she is fine with our normal routine, even if there are a few surprises. People that know her well (as a people dog and with her friends) are shocked when she goes into Gremlin mode when a strange dog is around because it's so out of character.
I WANT her to meet as many dogs as possible so I always try, unless I can see from far away that it just won't work. Or, I don't have the opportunity to say no thanks for whatever reason.
not on a leash you don't. I never, and I mean NEVER, let my dogs do the "meet n greet" other dogs when they are leashed- be extremely rude if you have to to keep people from letting their leashed dogs come up to your leashed dog. For many reasons, the top one being I want my dogs to learn to ignore other dogs when they are walking on their leashes with me. When leashed, they are working with me, not socializing. There are few things more annoying than trying to walk a dog on a leash when that dog thinks it's going to go up to and meet every dog it sees. Consider the CGC test as a basic set of canine manners- note one of the elements of this test is when you walk past a stranger with a dog, YOUR dog totally ignores the other dog. That's what you want your dog to learn. On leash we calmly walk by and ignore other dogs.
The other reason of course is that many dogs feel "trapped" on leashes, and even normally very friendly dogs can become defensive/snappy if forced to meet another dog while leashed. If your dog knows you'll always keep her safe from other dogs while she is leashed, she'll relax and her snappiness won't turn into full-blown leash reactivity, which is a pain to deal with.
For socialization with other dogs, you'll want to find a safe place for the dogs to interact off-leash, preferably a neutral location (i.e. not the yard of one of the dogs). MANY dogs feel uncomfortable/stressed when meeting strange dogs for the first time, so if you find your dog isn't really into playing with strangers, just look for one or two dogs your dog seems to like and enjoy playing with, and arrange play-dates with those dogs.
There's no reason why your dog needs to be forced to play with/interact with strangers if your dog doesn't like doing so.
Oh, and if a dog charges up rudely into your dog's face, it's perfectly normal for your dog to tell the other dog off by snarling/snapping. Your dog isn't being aggressive- the other dog is being rude, and your dog's response is perfectly acceptable.
I really don’t have much choice but to deal with some leash introductions unless I keep her home. You didn’t quote the part where I said I would prefer to be left alone when I’m out with my kids and dog(s). And, she is learning to ignore other dogs that we pass on the street. We just aren’t to the point where I can keep her attention if they start barking or dragging their owner to us. It’s too late to worry about the proper way then.
Her circle of friends is much wider than when I started this thread so I no longer feel the need to keep trying her with new dogs. I know with 100% certainty now that she is fine (under normal circumstances) and that I’ll likely always have to go through this in new places where we might see a strange dog.
My black lab rescue has some dominance/strange dog issues. Whats worked best with him is expanding the "leave it" command to include people, dogs, etc. He actually turns his head away from oncoming dogs in response to the command. The other trick I've found works well is to ask him to sit and watch me when there is a dog coming. I'll have him sit facing me, putting my body between him and the approaching dog. My turned back and the fact that I'm clearly working with my dog is a pretty good deterrent to random stranger approaches. I also tell the truly clueless that he is a new rescue (even 8 years later) and isn't ready to meet lots of new dogs. The "awww" response seems to help listening skills. Finally with off leash dogs, I let the owners know that because they are violation of local leash laws, even if my dog attacked theirs, they would still be liable for all vet bills for both dogs and be ticketed. Not certain if that's 100% accurate but it works great!