eyohkay- I know what you mean, I used to volunteer for a place that offered those same services. There were a few regulars that were labeled untouchable except by one or two workers, you couldn't even walk by their kennels without risk of injury to yourself or the dog. Even had some Lab sisters come in that were on Prozac, it was the darnedest thing. And a sudo-rescue was always taking in her dogs of varying temperament that were never worked with, so.... yeah, most were not happy campers.
My dog, Georgia, has some anxiety problems with strangers due to one idiot in the house encouraging her to hide beneath our coffee table and snarl at guests, I've now got her trained to approach wearily with her hackles raised. She calms down after a few minutes, and it's better than hiding, glaring, and shaking like a leaf. We lived in an apartment complex when she was growing up and she got plenty of socialization outside of the house with dogs and people of all shapes and sizes.
Although, I'm a firm believer that animals are the best judge of character, and I let them go with their gut instinct. Often, if they decide they don't like someone, they're avoided, especially if I sense that something is wrong with them. To me, when I socialize any animal, I believe that it's of the utmost importance that they develop the ability to identify people that are safe and people that could potentially be dangerous.
Here is something that I myself use on a daily basis, have since I was a child, and I think this is a tool that animals themselves use as well: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/1966-personality-traits-affect-smell.html
I, personally, can 'scent' through crowds and find a single officer with a gun, or a friend that's been lost in the swarm. And I've found myself to be much more accurate then the 'raters' mentioned in the link above when it comes to judging character/personality traits based on scent. If I myself can accomplish this I can only imagine what animals are capable of.
I'd definitely schedule a play date, but most of my friends either have dogs that are being trained improperly and are turning into snappy brats, or dogs that aren't altered and are not safe to be around puppies. I do have one friend that has some good dogs, smart things, but they're too rambunctious to play with a pup, they'd run her into the dirt in seconds.
Puppy Classes are another issue in and of themselves. The only place around here that offers them, s far as I know, is Petsmart and I never see anything good come out of them, always nippy, anxiety ridden dogs that aren't being taught how to play, but rather how to be controlled. And when I go up to their Doggy Daycare windows I never see any playing dogs, I always see them standing around in an overcrowded room too stressed to move. So.... I will try to set up a play date with my friends nippy brat before I take her to any of the shoddy places around here. The place I mentioned earlier, that I volunteered for, is not good with puppies, their play yards are too big and the play groups are always too rowdy for a young pup.
We don't have a dog park, otherwise I'd be spending my weekends there.
We have parks that people sometimes bring there dogs to, but usually there's only one person there at a time with their animals, it's wide open next to a busy road, and there is always a big man-made lake filled with geese right in the middle.
There may be one or two with walking tracks that I could bring her to, I've found that it's really easy to socialize dogs around people that are exercising, cause once they're done jogging they come over, soaked in pleasant pheromones, and are more than happy to love on the dogs.
I think we'll probably be going with, primarily, in-house socialization, due to most of the above and our current country location. My brother has a few good friends that come over that are loud and sweet, so far they've been great fun for Daisy to play with. We have at least one visitor a week, people of all ages that come in for this and that reason, and she's been open and happy to see each and everyone of them thus far. She even did splendidly when we took her into Tractor Supply her second day with us, she was being loved on by all sorts of people and didn't fuss once. And inter-species socialization should pose no problem, I've got cats that are slowly teaching her what claws are and what hissing means (no worries, they'll warm up in time).
I also have horses in the back that she's very curious about, once she's garnered some more control over her limbs she'll be back there on lead meeting them properly, which, in horse terms, is lining up nose to nose to exchange breathe.
Anyways, thank you very much for the links.
I'm already delving into 'After You Get Your Puppy' and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.
I'm so proud right now, Daisy went into her crate without a fuss and passed out. Usually she'll squeal for a few minutes before giving into the temptation of her chew toys, or sleep, you know how babies are when it comes to sleep, they deny that it exists for as long as they possibly can before succumbing to it. lol
Sorraia- Of course, she's been everywhere I can take her experiencing as much as possible since I brought her home, she's even had a roll in some loose hay, walked across pallets, and had a few grabby/squealing children pet on her. I've seen what a lack of exposure does to an animal and I'd rather not deal with that. I knew someone with a small dog that had only been trained to sit in one room, if you moved any where else it was like her mind was wiped clean, and loud noises were avoided at their house because it would set the dog off on a spree of barking and defensive behavior.