The idea seems good
As adults, we enjoy our freedom. We’re able to go just about anywhere that our body can take us and apart from legal or physical restrictions, there aren’t too many places we can’t go.
It makes sense then as good dog owners, we want to give our furry best friends that same sense of freedom. To be able to sniff, walk and enjoy nature without the restrictions of a 4ft or 6ft nylon leash seems like a naturally good idea to most dog-loving people.
Gadgets like retractable leashes are popular with dog owners. They provide a comfortable way to give you dog freedom to roam with the benefit of your dog still being safely attached to you.
There are a few reasons why I don’t like retractable leashes however. As both a dog walker and a dog trainer I’ve seen some dangerous yet avoidable situations caused by these tools.
1. Less control
When your dog is on a retractable leash, they have up 26 feet of leash length. That means there’s a potential 26 foot radius away from you without any way to reel them in quickly if there was an emergency. This could potentially be a danger if there’s traffic nearby or another not-so-friendly dog. All it takes it one jolt to send your dog running with little ability to stop them.
Sometimes the taut line of a leash can make the dog’s chest puff up and make them appear more aggressive than they are. Other dogs can read this body language as a threat and react accordingly. What happens when your dog gets into an argument with another dog and it’s 26 feet away from you?
2. Reinforces bad training
Retractable leashes aren’t great for training either. When I’m training a dog to walk on a loose leash, part of that training is to teach the dog that there shouldn’t be any tautness in the leash. Eventually, your dog could potentially walk beside you without a leash because they’re relying on your commands and body language rather than feeling something attached to their neck.
As Dr. Karen Becker says, retractable leashes are an especially bad idea for dogs that haven’t been trained to walk politely on a regular leash. By their very nature, retractables train dogs to pull while on leash, because they learn that pulling extends the lead.
It might not seem obvious but there have been cases of serious injury resulting from the use of retractable leashes. Burns, cuts and even amputation of a finger have happened from people trying to grab onto the rope of a retractable leash while their dog bolts away.
In an article written by Dog Time, they also mention that a dog can easily jerk the large handle of a retractable leash out of the human hand holding it. The sound of that big piece of plastic hitting the ground can frighten the dog and cause it to keep running.
Another thing to keep in mind is your centre of balance. When your dog is so far out from you, it totally changes your tipping point and makes it easier for you to fall over or be dragged to the ground if your dog decides to run quickly after something (a squirrel for example).
Can a retractable leash ever be okay? Well, maybe. If you’re not confident with your dog completely off a leash and you’re walking along a trail away from traffic and other animals, a retractable leash might work. Or if you were on a beach somewhere and you want to let your dog enjoy sniffing and swimming without being right next to you, a retractable leash might be a good choice.
In either case, I’d personally opt for the non-mechanical type of leash. I’d buy a lead that was 25-100 feet long so that you can have the safety aspect without the potential for the retractable mechanisms to break. Do you use a retractable leash? What are your experiences with them, good or bad? Share your thoughts in the comments below.