She sounds like a gem. don't worry to much about her background, she's obviously been around people and dogs enough to be familiar with them and interact with them. However socialisation is a different thing altogether. Socialisaton is getting the dog familiar and habituated to everything and anything including other dogs and how to behave around them. Getting dogs socialised is never to late, but will take longer the older the dog is. Proofing =
Here is an area that some owners don't always take seriously. They train the dog at home to be really obedient 100%. They then believe that their work has been done. However when they take the dog out into the big wide world the dog has problems generalising the command. Proofing the command is basically training the dog to ignore the distraction and is the MAJOR part of training. It is hard work and includes putting your dog in all sorts of situations that it is likely to come across everyday and situations in which they have to comply with your command. For this it is best to attend a well run dog class, so that you can train your dog with loads of distractions around. Recall can be taught in situations that get more and more difficult. Like other dogs, people, rabbits and birds.
This is what I mean by proofing. It is proving that your commands are heard and obeyed every time and no matter what is going on at the time.
So why does she come back to you when there is no-one else in the field, because your the only game in town at that time and as soon as something more interesting comes along its bye bye. Believe me your not on your own, I have been taking my boy to dog class over the last few weeks in order to crack this and this is because he failed to recall from another dog when I wanted him to. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. And to be honest trying to train this in a park with lots of other dogs is in my opinion useless. The beauty about dog class is that you can control the situation. to begin with. For example, have the other dog sat quietly and on lead and not running around, make sure you are close to her when you recall her. Steadily increase distance, reward everytime she gets it right, don't reward when she gets it wrong. (you can reduce and evetually drop rewards later) Steadily increase the number of dogs. The dogs should be quiet and on lead. When you have cracked it, so she is returning to you everytime, increase the difficulty by letting one dog off the lead and let them have a sniff, stay close and recall. she should come, if not then go back a step. Eventually you should have a load of dogs milling around and then you should be able to recall her. Once this is done in class you take it outside and start from scratch. With one dog on lead and quiet and increase the difficulty. This part should go a lot quicker. Once you have explained this to a good trainer they will understand what you require. They may suggest 1-2-1 training and use their own dogs to set up the situation or invite you to an intermediate class with other well behaved dogs. To give you an idea of cost, my dog class costs £10 per session.
if you can't find a trainer in your area. Speak with your doggy friends and set up the situations your self. I'm sure they will help.
So what are the other things you can do..........
DO NOT recall her when she is sniffing other dogs or otherwise distracted. all that does is teach her to ignore the recall whistle/command.
Walk in the opposite direction and if neccessary hide. (whilst keeping an eye on her, but don't let her see you looking, you have to remain non-chalant) She will eventually wake up and discover your not there and go into panic mode. She will find you.
Never never never chase after her, she will think this is a game and it is, but it is one you will never win. She can run faster than you and once she knows the secret that humans can't catch dogs. You will have difficulty.
Only recall her when she is bounding towards you so that she gets associated with the return to you with the recall whistle. This includes when she is retrieving. As soon as she's picked up the thing and turns towards you, blow the recall whistle every time. Fall on the floor make funny noises have treats ready, heaps loads of praise, treat furiously with tasty snacks. The whistle will come to mean. FOOD. PRAISE. AFFECTION. GAMES. much more interesting than a smelly dog.
You have to be more interesting than other dogs. Loads and loads of games and treats when she is recalling correctly. Includes in the house.
Put a long lead on her and if neccessary pull her towards you blowing the recall whistle. When she's in fornt of you treat furiously.
Don't speak or do anything when she is behaving badly, if you do you are reinforcing her behaviour, better to ignore her and walk on leaving her behind.
You can also try the about walk. Let her off lead as soon as she goes in one direction you take off in the other, when she runs past you turn and walk the other way and keep doing it, you will notice that the distance becomes less and less. Turn now and again and face her as she comes towards you and blow the recall whistle. Once again loads of praise, treats, funny sounds. This can take a month and needs to be done in an area with no distractions.
This is also true of the lunging at other dogs when on lead. Go to dog class and teach good manners in a controlled environment, then take it outside. Meanwhile correct her with a tug of the lead and an abrupt sound AH AH. let the lead go loose. Don't get into a pulling match. Don't wait until you are right up next to the dog, as soon as you see another dog and she seen it, correct her with a tug and AH AH. This way she will get focus back on you. when she gets focus back on you reward with praise or treat.
Your trainer might advise no walks until she is obedient in class and then proofed outside, when they are happy then they might let her off lead. If she doesn't recall, they will take a step backwards.
Believe me dog class is well worth the money. Check out the trainer and make sure they are competant and qualified.
just an afterthought, I mention treats a lot, this is only to reward the good behaviour and will eventually be phased out. If treating a lot, do not feed the dog as much, balance the treats and food so that the dog is not being overfed. You can use the dog food as treats of course. Mine is partial to broccoli.
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.