Consider this: when our dogs are pulling us down the street, strangling at the end of their leash, they are just as uncomfortable and frustrated as we are.
Neither dog nor person in this situation is having any fun. However, the dog may not realize that there is an easier way to walk down the street. It is our job, as the person, to show the dog just what that better way is.
The easiest way to teach a dog not to pull on leash is to teach them how to walk off leash.
Begin with your dog off leash in a large enclosed area such as a fenced yard, basement, or large room in the house. Let the dog wander while you begin walking around the perimeter of the space. Don’t call the dog to you, just start walking. At some point, your dog will wander over to see what you are doing. As soon as he does, say “Yes!” and reinforce (this can be with a treat, praise, play, anything that your dog adores.)
Continue on in this fashion, letting the dog do as he chooses, but reinforcing anytime he checks in with you, and continue reinforcing every few seconds as long as he keeps moving with you. What you’ll find is that after 10 minutes or so of this game, (maybe less if you are using really good reinforcement!) the dog is walking around the room right by your side. He has decided that, given everything else he could be doing at that moment, the most exciting thing for him is to walk around the room with you. This is huge! We are not forcing him or making him walk with us, he is CHOOSING to!
The next step is to add the leash. Clip on the dog’s leash and hold it loosely, so that it looks like a nice “J” (don’t let it hang so low the dog is tripping over it.) Continue to play the game just as before, reinforcing the dog for staying with you, but now everytime the dog begins to wander away, stop walking. Don’t call or pull the dog back, just plant your feet and wait. As soon as the dog reorients to you, say “Yes!” and begin walking again, reinforcing the dog for choosing to move with you.
Once you and your dog are pros at moving together around the house or yard without any tension on that leash, you are ready to take it on the road. Same rules apply outside, but remember that once out in the big world, you have a lot more to compete with for your dog’s attention. Make sure you have excellent reinforcers and be generous with them, especially at the beginning. Remember your dog is learning a new skill. Above all, have patience. Wait for your dog to offer the correct behavior and reinforce when he does. Before long, he will be choosing to walk nicely by your side and walks will be fun for both of you.