Those whom have taken our classes know that we are pretty strict on our rules that dogs are not to meet or play during, right before, or right after class time, and there is good reason for this.
First off, unfortunately, we are never more exciting to our dogs, than the dogs standing next to us in the class line up. If we allow meet and greets before class, especially for new comers in basic training, it will make your job as a handler MUCH more difficult when you are competing for attention with another dog. This is true even when food or toys are involved (unless you own the high prey/play/food driven dog who shuts out all else but that precious resource when it is around).
Secondly, if we allow play time after class, during class session, for those dogs who are highly play and pack oriented, they are anticipating that glorious ending, and many have a hard time concentrating throughout, leaving handler frustration in their wake. We want to build on success, especially for the beginners, and these play sessions can make it hard for average owners to be successful in a class environment.
Thirdly, our goal, as trainers and handlers, is for the dogs to respond to us under all distraction, be motivated to work for us, engage with us and to start to understand that a distraction is just that, and nothing more. Nothing to be played with, barked at, lunged at or engaged with. If play between dogs is allowed during training time, we loose the opportunity to teach that engagement with handler is better than engagement with other dogs.
Lastly, there are dogs who are very uncomfortable with other dogs in their space. There are also owners who are uncomfortable with other dogs in their space. There are dogs that are too excitable with other dogs in their space. We keep everyone separate for the comfort level of all participants, canine and human.
The above is not to say that dogs shouldn’t have dog/dog play time, rather, dog/dog play time should be separated from class training time, and the two should not intermix. Dog/human play time is a different story, and can be intermixed successfully with training, especially when you are looking for a highly animated, quick and exciting performance.
So make it easy for yourself, separate dog/dog play time from training time. Make you number one when training, and teach your dog that it is better to pay attention to you, than what is going on around him/her. This helps to create a dog who is engaged, looks to the owner for fun and direction, and can handle the distraction of other dogs while being asked to work.