Why Are Retractable Leashes a Bad Option?

Chances are if you’ve walked into a veterinary hospital or local pet store lately, you’ve seen signs that read “No Retractable Leashes Allowed.”  What’s the big deal?  Why aren’t retractable leashes an ideal option for dog owners?

Well, there are a few main reasons why retractables aren’t as great as they seem.

Retractable Leashes a Bad Option


In an ideal society, everyone would pay attention to how their dog interacts with other dogs, people, and children.  In reality, it is common for dog owners to be juggling one or more of their own dogs, their kids, cell phones and other distracting items making it less likely they notice what their dog is doing.  When you add the ability for your dog to wander 10+ feet away from you in a second flat,  you have a recipe for disaster.

A few years ago, I was at a pet event and a few of us watched as a woman was signing up for a free give-away, not paying any attention to her dog and he caught wind of something awesome!  Of course, by awesome, I mean disgusting.  He walked about 15 feet away from her, cutting off people and other dogs in his path and started rolling in the horse poop he sniffed out.   His mom was LIVID!  How could she blame him?  She wasn’t watching him.  She gave him the length and ability to walk that far away from her.  What did she think was going to happen when she clearly wasn’t paying attention?

Allowing your dog to be that far ahead of you may seem like a dog’s dream come true but it can quickly turn into a nightmare.  How fast do you think a dog could chase a squirrel into the road and be hit by a car?  How quickly could they come face to face with an unfriendly dog as they round the corner ahead of you?

Have you ever tried to reel a dog in on a retractable leash?  Lock, pull, lock, pull, lock, pull.  It’s not a fast process.

Ah, the lock!  Yes, the leash does come with a lock option, but it is not difficult for a motivated dog to pull the line and render the lock obsolete.  I’ve even seen the lock completely brake, leaving owners to scurry around trying to get control of their dogs.

Traditional 4-6 foot leashes make it much easier to reel your dog into you in case of emergency, know where they are at all times, and keep them safe.

Your Safety

Recently, Columbia Animal Hospital in Illinois posted this picture of comment to their Facebook Fan Page:

retractable leash injury

Photo Credit: Columbia Animal Hospital

“Last week, one of our good clients found out first hand the danger of retractable leashes. She called about her little dog being attacked while on a walk. We made the appointment and found that except for some bruises and painful areas, her dog would be fine. The injury to our client was worse. You see, she had her dog on a retractable leash and when the attack happened, her dog was too far away from her to “reel” him in fast enough and she instinctively grabbed the cord with her hand. The rope quite effectively “sawed” through her finger, nearly down to the tendons.

We understand that retractable leashes are popular because “the pets love it” but for the most control and safety of our patients & clients we recommend a regular 6-foot nylon or leather leash. You will have more control because your pet is closer to you and if you have to grab the leash you will not have this kind of injury. Also, if necessary, you can put the loop of the leash on your wrist and have 2 hands-free to assist you or your pet.

If you have a retractable leash for your pet, please reconsider when there is even the smallest chance that your pet may encounter danger and you need both hands available for rescue.”

I think that a photograph speaks a 1000 words.  Ouch!

What If You Drop It?

Scary to think about this, especially for timid dogs.  If you drop a retractable leash, it automatically starts recoiling.  If your dog is running, the leash will most likely bang along the ground as it recoils, making noises and possibly event hit into your dog.  If your dog is scared already, this would most likely heighten their response and make the situation worse.

Additionally, there is no easy way to grab it once it’s out of your hands.  Although it’s not ideal, at least with a regular leash, you can step on it if drop it.

Of course, in the right places (not vet offices, pet stores, or other small areas) and with owners who actually pay attention to what their dogs are doing, retractable can be used safely.  It’s important to remember to use the correct tools in the correct situations and unfortunately, many people don’t keep that in mind.



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