How many dogs do you see walking nicely by their owner's side? Just enjoying the stroll, leash dangling off the owners fingers, nary a tight leash in sight? Not often. It's more likely you see the dog dragging the owner, the dog's leash is a straight line from dog to owner, the dog is probably gagging himself, but still moving forward.
Believe it or not, it really is possible to teach your dog leash manners. If this doesn't seem to be possible, maybe you're doing something wrong. Not in an intentionally bad way, of course, but still, maybe a few tweaks here and there could really improve your dog's leash manners.
Mistake #1: You follow the dog when he pulls.
Following a pulling dog is just like saying "Good dog! Keep pulling!" They get to go where they want – why on earth would they change their behavior? Watch the leash – when it gets tight, stop. Just stop. Don't say anything, don't jerk the leash. Just stand still. Wait for that leash to get a little bit of slack in it. The instant there's slack in the leash, click and move forward. If your dog is too strong and is physically capable of moving you against your will, you'll love the Gentle Leader or the Easy Walk Harness from Premier.
Solution: Don't follow the dog
Mistake #2: You use a retractable leash (a Flexi).
Using a Flexi means your dog must pull to go forward. That's the only way to get the leash to get any longer. So when using a Flexi, you're actually teaching your dog that tension on his collar is a good thing; it's how he gets to go where he wants. Unless you're on a deserted trail, you don't need a Flexi anyway. They're dangerous to use in town where there's both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There's no good reason your dog needs to be any more than six feet away from you anywhere except a big field or on a deserted hiking trail.
Solution: Use a six-foot leash.
Mistake #3: You never taught your dog how to walk on a loose leash.
You can't blame the dog if you never taught him how to do what you want. If you've not taken the time to teach the dog that a slack leash is the way to get anywhere, start now! It's relatively easy: click and deliver a super-delish treat whenever the dog is within reach when you're on your walks. Honest. It's that easy. Once the dog figures out that walking next to you is (1) really easy and (2) really reinforcing, you've got it! To make it easy for you and the dog, start in a quiet, non-distracting environment. Click and treat a lot! You want to give your dog lots of chances to discover how easy it is to earn a goodie from you. So give him lots of clicks and treats. Click every step if you want! This is fun for you and your dog – it's hard to overdo this step!
Solution: Take your clicker and treats on walks and teach your dog how to walk politely.