You may have heard dog trainers say, “no retractable leashes,” as a part of the class rules. You may have even been to dog events with huge signs that state a similar ban. You might have wondered, why are retractable leashes the black sheep of the leash family? I’ll break it down here.

1.Retractable leashes promote pulling. The nature of the retractable leash is that, when the dog pulls, the leash extends in length as long as the leash has not been locked at a particular position. That means the dog is learning that to get more distance, they should pull until they feel tension on their leash/harness and then KEEP GOING. If you’ve been working on trying to get your dog to walk nicely on a leash but you use a retractable leash, you are making it nearly impossible for your dog to get the memo that pulling is bad since, with these types of leashes, pulling is rewarded nearly every time.

2. Retractable leashes are known to cut deep or even cause amputation. If you think I’m joking, do a quick internet search, though I warn you the images you’ll come across can’t be un-seen. The problem is that the lines are often very thin and made of materials that, when moving quickly, build up a lot of heat. That combination means that if you try to grab the leash to stop a dog from running off or get the line wrapped around your ankles, there is a high probability that leash is going to cut into you quickly and deeply. Many a finger has been lost to the line of a retractable leash.

3. Retractable leashes are long, which means your dog can get into a lot of trouble. The appeal of a retractable leash is often that they allow the dog to have more freedom on a walk. However, that freedom can come at a really big price. Dogs can easily wander out into a street, get ahead and out of sight of their owner (around a corner or between parked cars), or dash ahead and engage with people or dogs that want no part of them, all before the handler can react. If your dog is 20 feet ahead of you, you aren’t likely to be able to “reel” them in fast enough to prevent a disaster. And that is if you are paying attention. Check out this viral video (the dog, fortunately, is ok):

4. Retractable leashes don’t give the handler much control. One of the biggest problems I see with retractable leashes is that the dog is given too much, unearned, freedom. Let’s face it, if you had a child that didn’t listen to you, always wandered off, and didn’t come back when you called them, you probably wouldn’t let them out of the stroller much.  If you did let them walk, you would only do so under the condition that they held your hand. I see so many dogs with no recall and no relationship to the owner (evident when you see dogs who never turn around to check where their owner is when walking) being given extreme amounts of freedom on their leash. Right there, it is clear the handler has no real control over what the dog is doing. Combine that with the excessive length of the line itself, the flimsy nature of the locking mechanisms on the devices, and the fact that the line is so thin (see point #2), that an owner isn’t likely to be able to get the dog to return to them in any reasonable amount of time even if they absolutely need to.

5. Retractable leashes are notoriously flimsy. The locking mechanisms aren’t reliable and the leashes themselves, in order to make them retract nicely, are thin and slippery material. They are prone to snapping and that is made all the more likely by the fact that the leash promotes the dog to pull harder when they meet resistance (see point #1). If you think that the lock is going to stop your 80-pound dog from lunging towards a squirrel, you might be in for a big surprise.

6. Retractable leashes can cause injury to your dog. Remember that the leash promotes racing ahead and pulling. The problem for your dog might be that they may not realize the end of the leash is near which results in a full run only to give themselves some serious whiplash when they suddenly hit the limit of the leash. This sudden jerk to the neck or back can cause neck, throat or back injuries. Keep in mind a dog hitting the end of the leash at full speed could hurt the human holding the other end as well. The other hidden danger is that those bulky leash handles are easy to drop, and if they do, suddenly a big, clunky, plastic object is chasing (due to the retractable function of the leash) your dog, potentially right into traffic or another serious or deadly situation.

All in all, most dog trainers will tell you to steer clear of retractable leashes.  If you suddenly find yourself in need of a new non-retractable leash, check out my article HERE on selecting an appropriate leash.

Happy Training!

Nicole Lorenzetti Yuhas CPDT-KA

This blog is intended to be informative as well as entertaining. It contains my opinion which may not reflect the opinions of any organization I may be affiliated with. My opinions should not be interpreted as those of my coworkers, family, friends, casual acquaintances, and certainly not the opinion of my cat, although my dog probably agrees with everything I say, if for no other reason, than because I provide the treats and meals (cats are less inclined to agree with anyone but themselves). Information provided here is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge but, as information and opinions change, neither the facts nor the opinions expressed here may be true or accurate at any future date. As I don’t currently own a time machine, I cannot be responsible for things that prove to be untrue, or opinions I change my mind about, should those changes become apparent in the future. It should also be noted that, as I am human, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes in the information provided here. Frankly, even if I were a computer, it is likely there would be errors, as computers, in my experience, can be a royal pain in the butt. This blog may contain affiliate links which you are under no obligation to click. If you click them, they will hopefully take you the place I intended. But they may not. As I’ve said, computers can be a pain. If you find yourself somewhere you don’t think I intended, click your ruby slippers three times together and say, “there is no place like home.” If you do that, and click the “back” button, you should be safely returned. Computers can, at times, have a mind of their own. Any training suggestions or opinions expressed here should be taken as information only and should not be seen as advice particular to you or your dog’s unique situation. Please consult with a training professional before taking any action.

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