Dangers of Retractable Leashes

Retractable leashes are a danger to dog and human, and for an active or out-of-control dog, these leashes do nothing to help a struggling owner to get their dog under control. A case in point: my friend is dedicated to her overly-energetic Labrador-mix, and unlike many people with hyperactive dogs, she is also dedicated to giving Miss Millie all the exercise they can both stand. However, while I applaud her efforts, I dearly wish that she would replace Millie’s retractable leash collection with one sensible six-foot leather leash or a sturdy 15-foot long-line.

– Lack of Control
The basic function of a leash is control and with a shorter leash (a six-foot leather leash is recommended by most trainers), you have a chance, although whether you actually can or do is still up to you. With a retractable leash, fully extended, your dog has 16 to 30 feet of leash to get in trouble with. Even with the leash locked short, the angle of the handle doesn’t give you the right arm-angle to communicate with your dog.

Although the soft handle is used as a selling point, it isn’t easy to hold a strong dog with a retractable leash – when you use a proper leash correctly (the loop over the thumb, and the excess held in the palm of the hand) it’s almost impossible for a dog of any size to break your grip, and used correctly, you won’t injure yourself either.

The other issue with a leash that allows a dog to zip away to the end is that they don’t learn to pay attention to you, rather than investigating everything that’s going on around them. In effect, you’re teaching your dog they can do what they like.

– Not Tough Enough
Even expensive retractable leashes aren’t durable. The leash material itself is thin, and although it would take a lot to snap it, it doesn’t take much to chew through it (Miss Millie has done this several times). The sturdier models are bulkier and more difficult for a smaller hand to hold securely.

The retracting and locking mechanisms do NOT stand up to the pulling force of a determined, fully grown dog. And they tend to give out just when you need them most.

Miss Millie has been through more of these retractable leashes in the last four years than all the leashes I have owned in a lifetime! When she goes for her walk, her owners must hunt through the pile of leashes by the door, all in various states of disrepair and breakage – I bring my leather leash when I take her for a walk!

– Collateral Damage
Any tool in the wrong hands is dangerous, but there are a few “features” of retractable leashes which can do considerable damage. The most common problem is the leash slipping out of the handlers hand – and it happens a lot. If your dog decides to run away, the plastic handle bounces along behind them. Depending on the dog, they may think it’s a game and keep going, or they may think they’re being chased – and keep going.

Most retractable leashes have very thin cords. If your dog’s leg gets tangled, depending on how hard they struggle, they may end up with a severe rope burn – or they may end up amputating a limb!

Then there are the humans to consider. Miss Millie and her retractable leads have caused me to fall twice (no other dog has ever pulled me over), once because she bolted to the end before I could stop her, and once because my friend let Millie bounce around until we were all tangled up – and again Millie bolted.

There are those who would argue that for a small dog, these leashes are just fine, however a hyperactive little dog can just as easily tangle all the legs in a 10-foot radius.

There are those who would insist that THEIR dog does better on a retractable leash because they get more exercise – but being allowed to buzz around out-of-control isn’t the best form of exercise for a dog.

There are those who, when the retractable breaks blames the dog or simply upgrade to a larger or more expensive retractable – if only they would realize that one well-made leather leash would cost less and last a lifetime.