Space; the final frontier, well maybe but I'm just talking about space as in the distance between two items, places, people etc. Dogs need their space; each one is an individual and has their own "personal" space. Once you enter a dog's space their behavior becomes reactive; there is a reaction to the action that you have taken, entering their space. So simply yet most humans take a dogs space as an insignificant importance, we tend to enter without thought. And there are some dogs that have a bad sense of reading space signals from other dogs; these individuals tend to get in trouble a lot.
As a youngster Luke was a space invader; he tended to become over excited and forget the "rules," which lead him into trouble. I clearly remember one particular trip to the park; he was off leash and saw a dog on the other side of the park that he wanted to see. At that young foolish age; there was no calling him back, I simply waited for the obviously senior dog to give him his lesson. It was a very large female white GSD; she stood her ground and Luke came charging in a straight line (rude behavior indeed). She waited until he entered "her" space and charged back at him. She was not aggressive; but made it quite clear that she was not in the mood for his young shenanigans. He jammed his brakes on throwing it into reverse while trying to stop moving forward. She got her message across loud and clear and Luke came running back to the safety of Mom. Lesson learned.
Being that all dogs are individuals you MUST read what they are saying with their body language about their space. Some dogs don't have a space when it comes to humans; they are on top of you before you know it leaving a space void. Others need a small amount of space; they are not the touchy feely type and are just fine and dandy visiting at a distance. This is the part that people; we humans don't get, not every dog wants you wrapped around them. Nor does every dog even want a strange human touching them.
Tilley makes her feelings pretty clear; she is friendly but in no way wants strangers touching her. She gives off a leery message as she lowers her head to sniff the air around the person and if they continue their approach she backs up. She is very calm in her movements which seem to be understood as most people are apprehensive to touch her initially. She likes to meet people but slowly; she is not a Golden Retriever.
As far as dogs around other dogs; many need their space as well. They typical signal this very clearly which is usually just as clearly understood. But there are those who are the strong and silent type who don't quite get their message across quite as clear leaving the approacher a little in the dark. And then there are the approachers who are not reading signals from the other dog and get into deep trouble upon their approach. Many young dogs who become overly excited find themselves in this situation. Their excitement gets the better of them and they don't heed warnings.
Space is good; a lack of it can lead to a stressful situation. This is why when I see a dog park that is huge; one that consists of different areas and wide open space to roam I consider it to have been well thought out, at least the space part of it. If you pack too many dogs into a small space; problems arise. Dogs need to feel the space around them; it gives them a sense of not being trapped, of being able to move away if they should feel the need. This is why I tend to like dog beaches over dog parks as the ones in my area give a far larger sense of space between both humans and dogs.
A lack of space can cause tension; tension can lead to fights and when a fight starts in an area with a lack of space it is far worse. Space is a big consideration when you have dogs; everyone needs some space. Take away space and that act can alone initiate behavior issues. Think about this the next time you approach a strange dog; give them some space, read their signals about how they feel about their own personal space.
After-all; everyone needs a little space now and again. ;)