The other day I saw one of our furry students come across the parking lot heading to class at Fetch, and he surged forward on a retractable leash causing major problems for himself and his owner. Thus, another topic is born because retractable leashes, and their pitfalls, need to be discussed.
Let’s start with the obvious – retractable leashes teach your dog to pull – exactly what we don’t want them to do. A retractable leash allows a dog to pull away a long distance from the pet owner, and because it never slackens as the dog pulls away, it teaches them to pull against the leash. It’s a most frustrating concept because a dog used to a retractable leash will make walking on a standard leash a most arduous chore for the pet owner.
If your dog is on a retractable leash fifteen, maybe twenty feet away from you, and an unfriendly dog approaches, there isn’t the ability to pull them to safety. In the time it takes to reel in your dog in, or make up that distance, both animals could have inflicted serious, if not fatal injuries upon each other. Dog fights are brutal and fast moving. There is a reason why standard leashes come in six- and eight-foot lengths. It’s about being able to control and protect your canine family member.
Have you ever dropped a retractable leash when your dog is a distance away? If on a sidewalk or street, the plastic handle hitting the ground can make a startling noise, but worse still it begins retracting towards your dog. This will probably cause your dog to start running further away from you. For dogs who are sensitive or anxious, they will run in any direction to get away from the retracting handle which could place them in harm’s way.
Retractable leashes are known for having faulty lock mechanisms. If a person or another dog walks by, your dog can pull, the lock can fail, and your dog is suddenly free to react or run a fair distance before one is able to brace from the end of the leash, and then try to retrieve. If you’ve ever taken apart a retractable leash, you will appreciate that a child’s Lego set probably has more long-term strength.
A final comment because this message isn’t just about injuries to dogs. Pet owners are known to have suffered damaged fingers, cuts, scrapes, and road rash from a dog pulling in at a full sprint. Shoulder joint and elbow joint injuries are also commonly seen in emergency rooms. Imagine the force that gets applied to the human body when an eighty-pound dog is running at full speed and the 26-foot retractable leash runs out….
So yes, I am not a fan of retractable leashes, and dogs who have grown accustomed to then will require some individual training to adjust to a standard leash. If you have any questions, please speak to one of our pet professionals, and as always, I am just a bark away.
Carolyn Lapps is the General Manager at Fetch Family Pet Resort. Her love and passion for all animals began at a young age and has led to a career. She is frequently consulted on pet socialization, family integration issues, and is highly regarded for her experience with domestic animal management and care.