Why You Should Ditch Your Retractable Dog Leash Today

My dislike of retractable dog leashes began when my friend used them to give her dogs more freedom during our walks together. My dogs were on regular 6-foot leashes and walking by my side while my friend’s dogs ran back and forth on the end of the long retractable nylon line that constantly got wrapped around my legs and around my dogs.

A quick Google search of retractable dog leashes reveals that people either love them or hate them.

In 2013 retractable leashes were named one of the “Hottest Pet Products of the Summer” by the American Pet Products Association. Those who use retractable dog leashes say walks are more interesting for their dogs, because the longer leash allows them to do more exploring.

However, retractable leashes are banned in many communities in the U.S. and Canada due to length restrictions in leash laws. Some pet stores also ban retractable leashes to avoid dogfights or injuries to customers.

Many veterinarians and dog trainers discourage the use of retractable dog leashes, especially in the hands of owners who don’t know how to properly use them. Experts at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter say that retractable leashes should never be used if your dog doesn’t heel or come when called.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Using a Retractable Dog Leash

There’s a greater risk of injury to dogs and people.

The retractable leash is not like a regular leash. Instead, it’s a thin, rope-like cord that can cause severe burns and deep cuts. It can also cause entanglement and strangulations, say veterinary experts at the Animal Hospital of North Asheville (AHNA).

Flexi North America has warnings on its website cautioning that when used incorrectly, its retractable leash can cause “cuts and burns,” “finger amputations and fractures,” “eye and face injuries,” “falls” and “injuries to bystanders.”

If two dogs on retractable leashes get tangled, there is an even higher risk of injury to the dogs or to the humans attempting to untangle them, according to the AHNA. Tangled dogs are more fearful and unpredictable, creating an increased risk of bites or cord injuries. The cord can be wrapped around a neck or leg cutting off circulation of blood flow and oxygen.

A sudden jerk on a leash can injure a dog’s necks.

In an article on why owners shouldn’t use retractable leashes, Karen Becker, a holistic veterinary expert on the Healthy Pet website, cautions that dogs have received terrible injuries as a result of sudden jerks on their necks.

This happens when dogs run full speed before being suddenly stopped when the leash locks. According to Becker, these injuries include neck wounds, lacerated tracheas and injuries to the spine.

Retractable leashes teach dogs to pull.

While most of us work hard to teach our dogs to walk politely on a leash, retractable leashes actually teach dogs to pull. When using a retractable leash, there’s always tension on the leash, and the collar is always tight.

According to professional trainer Laurie Luck of Smart Dog University, if a dog knows that to go anywhere his collar must be tight, you’ll never convince him to not pull, even when he’s on a regular leash.

There’s a greater risk of your dog getting loose.

Professional dog trainer Ken Nolte of Etlon Training Academy that serves Middletown, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh in Orange County, NY, discourages the use of retractable leashes. One of the big reasons he dislikes these leashes is because of the risk of dog’s getting loose.

“The force of a dog racing forward and hitting the end of the leash can pull the handle right out of the owner’s hand,” Nolte said. “I’ve seen this happen to a couple of dogs, and once they get loose, they are chased by the handle. The leash retracts, and the handle catches up to them; this scares the dog, and they start to run again.”

There’s also a high probability of entanglement when dogs get loose dragging a retractable leash. When owners want to use retractable leashes, Nolte highly recommends that they add a strap to the handle as an added precaution.

Retractable leashes are dangerous in public spaces.

Retractable leashes are so long—some extend up to 26 feet—so many owners don’t use them properly. Dogs can quickly get into trouble.

For example, a dog on a retractable dog leash can more easily run out into the street in front of traffic or run up to other dogs and people. According to Becker, retractable leashes allow dogs more freedom to pull at the end of them, which can look like aggression to another dog who may decide to “fight back.”

Retractable, extendable leash and dog.

Malfunction can lead to dogs getting loose and injuries to owners.

Retractable leashes have a tendency to break over time and some can malfunction. This can result in the leash not retracting or releasing or the cord snapping when the dog pulls.

In addition, because of the tension on a retractable leash due to the spring-loaded mechanism inside, if a dog’s collar or the metal ring breaks, the leash could fly back in an owner’s face and cause serious injuries.

Trainers say that retractable leashes are not appropriate in public spaces. They are best used when exercising your dog in a big open space like a field, where your dog can sniff and pounce and play without invading the space of other dogs and people.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

97 comments

Diane E
Diane E14 days ago

Thanks for the warnings.

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michelle m
michelle m14 days ago

I walk my 5 fur kids together on their favourite beach.I am a huge animal advocate and I am involved in animal welfare and rescue when I am not at work.One of my much loved dogs cannot be let off her lead or she would run away.Her retractable lead is excellent and allows her to have some distance and still be under my guidance on her lead. Your article is definitely too harsh.

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Renata B
Renata B14 days ago

Never used and never trusted them.

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hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD15 days ago

tyfs

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Ruth S
Ruth S15 days ago

Thanks.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

I resented my brother's non-retractable leash for walking the dog this vacation a lot less after having read this.

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Latoya B
Latoya Brookins3 months ago

I think it's only dangerous if abused, which is true for a lot.

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Carole R
Carole R3 months ago

Good advice.

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Mia G
Past Member 3 months ago

thanks very much

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Marija M
Marija M3 months ago

tks

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