My philosophy is that the dog walk is the dog's. It's not my walk. Yes, I get the benefit of fresh air and exercise, but it's the dog's opportunity to get out, stretch his legs, and follow his nose, within the boundaries of wherever his parents say he can travel. I let the dog stop and sniff as many times as he likes. This is his time outside. Not mine. I want him to enjoy his walk, even if he wants to stop and sniff every ten feet. That's his choice. I find that dogs don't pull if I give them endless opportunities to stop and sniff. The trade off is that each stop and sniff has to be really short, 5-10 seconds. That's my choice: I lead the walk. If I'm walking other dogs while one dog has stopped to sniff, I tell the other dogs to "wait," so they don't walk to the end of their leash and get an unnecessary jolt. Overall, I want the entire walk to have a feel of speedy, on the go cohesion and that only happens with communication. At the end of 5-10 seconds, I say, "This way" to let the dog know we're moving on and I start walking. 9 times out of 10, the dog will move with me, eager to find more smells. Occasionally the dog will be really into whatever he's smelling. I'll give him another 5-10 seconds even after I say, "This way." It's like friends and shopping. One wants to go to the next shop. The other friend doesn't hear because she's so focused on finding the price tag. Now the first friend wouldn't drag her friend out of the shop by the neck just because she didn't respond. That would be mean and rude. No, a good friend would ask again. So I say, "This way" again, which means we're really going. I'm already walking the slack of the leash. If the leash tightens and the dog still hasn't budged, I lead him with a slowly applied tug. He gets the message and we're quickly back on the walk.
My trick to getting back on pace is a fun little phenomena that every dog owner knows: Dogs LOVE to walk ahead of us. So whenever the dog stops to sniff, I don't stop behind the dog or even next to him -- I walk ahead of him and stop, but I keep the leash slack. This creates a sort of rubber band effect. The dog finishes his sniff or pee and sees me ahead of him. The dog immediately feels the need to sling-shot himself to the front and we're back on pace...until the next smell.
I pay full attention to the dog's behavior on the walk so I can reward him and more importantly so I can protect him. Aside from "this way," "wait," my other favorite command is "good boy." I use that whenever he's doing everything he's supposed to be doing: He's on pace. He's not pulling. He's not chasing after squirrels. He's not barking at other dogs. I don't go on walks with headphones because I want all my attention on the dog. I watch his ears to see what he's picking up. I want to hear if there are cars coming or bikes or skateboards. I also watch the ground ahead to see if there's food he might snap up. Always watch the ground for discarded food. Always. I once walked a golden lab in a Santa Monica park at night. She had her nose to the ground and we were having a good walk until she found a discarded chicken wing in the tall grass. Her nose. It works. Well, I caught her just in time because I was paying attention. I grabbed her snout and managed to pluck the bony chicken wing from the back of her throat. Always check the ground. You will save yourself a lot of grief.
So that's how I walk dogs. I give them my full attention. I treat them with respect and allow them the freedom to chase smells to their hearts content as long as we keep things moving and we get a little sweat going. : D In the end, we're all happier and healthier for it.