We are unconventional in our walking system with my husky. I personally believe he was never the type to learn how to loose-leash walk. I think a lot of people here do not like retractable leashes. But IMO 'safe' retractable leash walking requires training just as loose-leash walking does. So here are the things I've learned:
1) If the leash is long and gets wrapped around something like a bush or a tree, do not unwrap it yourself. Teach the pup a command that makes him/her figure it out them self. I use 'go around'. It may be frustrating at first and you may be tempted to just untangle it yourself but be patient. Your pup will learn especially because he/she will not be able to continue the walk without it...But this usually only works (for us) if it's like one or two wrap arounds and not if it gets caught on a branch of a bush or something like that.
2) Teach your pup a command to know that it is time to cross the street and to wait for you if he/she is at the end of the leash. I use 'other side' (as in lets cross to the other side of the street). And if it is a busy street we are crossing like one with a cross-walk, they have to sit until released.
3) Have your pup to associate some kind of loose leash walking command when the leash is short and locked. For us I use 'with me'. Smokey only obeys this for very short bursts. But it's handy when we are for example crossing a street. This includes a release from the loose leash command; for us I use 'ok go!'.
4) Teach your pup to return to you when you need him/her to. I use 'Smokey c'mere'. So whether he is behind me or at the end of his leash in front of me, he always returns to me when I ask him to. This is probably my favorite and IMO most important command.
6) For you: always be vigilant in surveying your surroundings (this includes looking behind you). Use your ears too. I have learned to listen for bicycles and feet skidding when people may be approaching from behind. A pup at the end of a long retractable may not be a good thing if a bicyclist or stroller is going by.
7) Teach your pup not to chase critters. This was difficult for us but I've learned that if I see, for example a cat or a squirrel before Smokey does, I can tell him there is one ('do you see cat/squirrel?') and he will look for it without being caught off guard and wanting to cross a street to chase it...it works most of the time. For the times it doesn't work, Smokey is on a prong as well and he is very sensitive to it. I will jerk it to deter this behavior...
8) Have your pup know a command that tells him/her to go where you want him/her to go; for example for us it's simply 'sidewalk' or 'grass' or 'street'. This includes 'straight', 'right', 'left' and 'lets go back'.
9) Make sure if you have a male pup that your pup knows a no marking command. For us I use 'no sheeshee'. Smokey has learned for some reason to not go pee on people's front lawns when we walk through our neighborhood. But he also knows that the 'public land' (like the trees and bushes on the sides of major streets) are fair game. I don't know how he knows...but he does. But when/if he does sniff something as if he is going to lift his leg, I use the command to deter him. For me, this is simply a courtesy thing.
10) Use these commands consistently and fairly (as with all other training
) on routine walks on the same exact route. Then begin to change up the route so that your pup is exposed to the commands in new situations thereby solidifying their behavior.
Do you think if we are equipped with these commands, it is fair to put a pup on a retractable? Would you be willing to switch to a retractable to give your pup some freedom on walks with this type of training? Can you think of other commands that might be useful for someone who uses a retractable?