It's a question I recently asked my students and a good one too! What is the leash for? Is it for training your dog? Forcing your dog to come with you? What is its purpose and why do we use it?
The leash is the EMERGENCY BRAKE. When all else fails, you couldn't get your dog's attention by calling, or luring with a treat, and you are in a dangerous or potentially escalating situation it is the way we can make sure you can get out of trouble asap.
You should always work cooperatively with your dog and your training should reflect that. There is no need to push, pull, drag or pop the leash. In fact, by doing these things you are actively training yourself to perform bad habits, instead of building cooperative behaviour with your dog.
How can you manage your leash handling skills better? Let's evaluate the image above.
Put a smile in your leash (yes a smile between you and your dog) This means you are not pulling and the dog is not pulling. The more tension you add to the leash the more likely your dog is to pull and react poorly when greeting other dogs!
Put your leash in your hand OPPOSITE your dog (not like 1st the photo). This frees up the hand that is closest to the dog for cues and signals as well as delivering a reward when they make good choices.
Reward with the hand closest to the dog! This way they are not crossing in front of you to get to the treat in the other hand. We really want to focus our reward delivery along the seam of your pants. In this position, the dog is neither forging ahead nor lagging behind. This makes it the ideal placement for reward when walking on the leash.
Carry your reward pouch behind you if possible. This again helps minimize the desire for the dog to forge ahead.
Remember to WORK THE DOG, NOT THE LEASH. You are building a relationship with your dog, not the leash! It is there for safety and for leash laws. It is your back up in case all else fails, but do your best to get your dog's attention first!