What you allow will continue. Excusing behavior is reinforcing behavior.
Not only that, it will pervade every other aspect of your life.
Dogs are “single trial learners”. If we allow them the opportunity to engage in any self-gratifying behavior, you can count on seeing that behavior over and over again until it is firmly entrenched as part of their behavioral repertoire.
Excusing behavior as non-offensive because it doesn’t bother you *at that moment* often has far-reaching impact on overall performance down the road. Your frustration usually stems from not having addressed the problem adequately as it was emerging, thinking the dog would “grow out of it.”
Dogs don’t grow out of behaviors, they grow into them. Excusing behavior is hardening behavior.
Enthusiastic greeters are frequently heavily reinforced for their behavior, both internally and externally, because as long as the dog isn’t offensive, people think the behavior is cute, sweet, and a sign of good disposition.
Although all of those things may be true, allowing your dog to approach a person or other dog informally will absolutely encourage the same behavior under command.
Employing a leash and using both passive and active restraint, only rewarding appropriate behavior, could fix that in less time than most folks think, but it requires the two things people are unable to part with – forethought and follow-through. It would seem that folks would rather excuse behavior than actually … train… an alternative or incompatible behavior…
If I expect my dog to wait for my permission, train him to ignore the advances of strangers until released to engage appropriately, I run far less risk of my dog refusing to come to me, running off after potential playmates, or engaging in chase behaviors.
I would bet that the vast majority of dog bites could be prevented if people just took the time to think about what they were inadvertently allowing.
It’s not about stifling your dog’s “spirit” any more than the old trope “boys will be boys” is an excuse for predatory behavior.