Yes, retractable leashes are popular, mainly because they aren't as confining as regular leashes. They can be convenient, sporty, and allow a dog some extra walking freedom but, unfortunately, there are many downsides to this type of leash.
All those who have used one of these have realized how difficult it is to have control over the dog, as well as the inconvenience it generates during the walk. In addition, these straps spoil your dog so that he can go at his own pace, where he wants, without control.
Common Injuries to Dogs and Humans
While the retractable leash does allow a larger area and distance for dogs to roam and sniff, it also opens up a world of increased risk. Because the cords on these leashes roll out at up to thirty feet in length, it’s much more difficult to control a dog’s sudden movements. While attached to the wandering end of a retractable leash, dogs have been known to easily dart into the street and get hit by a car. They can bolt after a squirrel, cat or another dog. Pet owners in a panic might grab the leash cord or attempt to engage the locking button on the handle to stop the dog but these actions can happen so abruptly that the dog gets jolted back by their collar, causing possible damage to their trachea, neck, or spine.
Also, without warning, the cords can suddenly snap off the reel mechanism inside the plastic handle while in use with any size dog, but especially by the forceful pull of larger animals. The dog is then free to run unprotected, meanwhile the owner may be smacked in the face by the recoiled leash handle.
Another situation that happens more often than pet owners think is while fumbling with car keys, mail, or distracted by a smartphone in hand, the bulky plastic handle of the retractable leash is accidentally dropped on a dog’s body or even their head.
Lacerations, bruises, rope-type burns, and fractures are commonly seen injuries in both dogs and humans. There are even reports of finger amputations as a result of grabbing or being entangled by the thin cord. Retractable leashes now come with a warning stamped on them, and some manufacturers include a guidebook describing not only proper use but potential hazards.
Other dangerous scenarios are associated with the use of retractable leashes. While dogs are busy exploring their surroundings, the leash cord might snag on obstacles such as trees, bushes and other objects. The cord can also be caught around their neck, causing strangulation. When a dog on a retractable leash encounters another dog to play with, their leash cords can easily become wrapped around their bodies or limbs increasing the chance of various types of injuries to themselves and their owners. If either dog is aggressive, an uncontrolled greeting can turn into a vicious attack that is difficult to prevent or break up without the strength and reliability of a solid leash.
As dogs learn to associate pulling on the leash cord with independence, this additional perceived freedom becomes a rewarded behavior, so dogs continue to pull and ignore training commands. When a dog tugs the cord hard or unexpectedly, the heavy cumbersome handle can be yanked out of a pet owner’s hand allowing the dog the ultimate escape to run loose and into potential trouble. The dog might be so terrified by the sound of the plastic handle banging against the ground as it trails behind him that he panics and runs farther away from his owner. This situation not only is hazardous but also creates an associated fear of leash walking.
Safe Leash Walking
The whole purpose of using a leash is for safe and controlled walking for both you and your dog. While it’s fine to allow some slack for sniffing and exploring, the longer a leash extends out, the less control you have, which minimizes the ability to manage potential problems. The best method of safe leash walking is using a fixed-length four to six-foot flat standard lead, with your dog either by your side or nearby obeying your commands.
Take the time and patience required to train your dog not to pull by offering high value treats while practicing walking nicely beside you. Combining a harness with the leash is a great way to protect your pet from accidentally slipping out of a collar or damaging their neck or trachea. Walking with your dog safely by your side on a sturdy leash makes for much more relaxing and enjoyable outings together.
Most pet professionals recommend a good quality leather leash. The reasons are many. These leashes are strong, more comfortable to hold, less slippery in wet weather, and easier to grip. Cowhide leather leashes are more durable than nylon, will last many years with basic care, and become more supple over time.
Now you have to pay attention to your pet on your walk instead of your phone or your neighbors or your music. In return you will have quality time with your pet, who will learn the commands easily and have a pleasant walk. Then when you see someone who has a retractable leash, be sure to avoid them while educating them at the same time! Let them know how much better your relationship with your dog is by using a standard leash and provide them with the information found on this blog about how dogs (and humans) can be seriously harmed or even killed by using them.