As regular visitors to this board know, I have a Mastiff puppy, he is now 20 weeks old. We are actvely working on walking on the leash. He does tend to pull a bit, and as he is getting bigger by the day, he can be a handful, but he does listen and will walk nicely. He is super friendly and wants to say "hello" to every human and dog he sees. If he spots someone way in the distance getting into their car he will try and go off in that direction to say hello, and I have to really stand my ground to prevent him from pulling me (and I am not sure how much longer I will be winning these tugs of war). He is not too bad with greeting leashed dogs and is curious and friendly. But today on our walk we encountered a loose dog and Oscar really wanted to play. The other dog was a little skittish, her hackles were up but she wasn't aggressive, no growling, lashing out, Oscar really wanted to engage but I am wary of encounters with unleashed dogs while mine is leashed and wanted him to move on. He didn't. He tugged and pulled on the leash and plonked himself down and it took a lot to get him moving, it didn't help that the other dog was following us from a distance. I pulled way harder than I wanted to on his collar, and did finally get him to move when we got into our driveway. There has to be a better way than this. I would love some suggestions.
How should I handle this?
Have you considered a Gentle Leader or a Halti? I have also used a prong collar. While it looks scary, if used correctly is a very fair way to control a dog who is pulling.
That said these devices are simply tools to help you gain control while you train. For me, I used these tools when I wanted ti simply take my pup for a walk. When we trained I used her regular flat buckle collar and worked hard on loose leash walking with the plan of only going a few houses if necessary.
There are several ways to teach loose leash walking-but it must be taught. I find this is one area where dogs are simply flabbergasted that we do not want to be dragged behind them as they chase after every sniff, dog, and squirrel.
I would go with either a martingale (partially tightening) or prong collar myself. I agree that none will teach him how to walk on it's own but they will give you a "window of opportunity" where you can reward the good behaviour. And though prongs look scary, if used correctly they are not harsh to the dog at all (no yanking or corrections, keep the leash fairly short so he can't lunge and hurt himself). Just make sure you have a backup collar on, same as you would for a Halti or Gentle Leader, as they can slip off or pop open. A very loose nylon slip collar works well for this and doesn't get in the way.
Dealing with irresistible distractions like an unleashed dog and friendly looking people. We are doing "reasonably" well with loose leash walking.
Teach him a "watch me" or a "focus" command. Either word will do.
To teach it-use a small treat and bring it up to your eye so his eyes meet yours. Reward with the treat. When he is reliably following the treat to meet your eyes, start adding the command word. You will need to practice this in a distraction free environment first. When training commands that will be used under distractions also start at the easiest level and only work your way up once you have it rock solid at each level.
I always remember the three D's of dog training-duration, distraction, and distance. Only work one at a time and you will have good success.