Are Retractable Leashes Safe For Dogs?
Although the retractable dog leash receives bad reviews by some, I believe it can be used effectively and safely if you know and follow a few common sense rules.
I’ve yet to find the one perfect dog leash for all occasions. I have a regular 5 foot long sturdy hand leash, a hands-free leash that I use when jogging with my dog, and a retractable leash. The retractable has several benefits that the others cannot match. It gives the dog some extra freedom to roam, sniff around, and explore. My dog loves to swim but many of streams and ponds near trails have leash laws. So the retractable lets my dog swim and I stay compliant with the trail policies.
But before you purchase one, here are 5 things to beware of before using one with your dog.
1. Stay focused on dog and surroundings.
Just like driving a car – if you are paying attention then it’s relatively safe. But if you’re distracted – like texting and driving – you greatly increase your chances of incident and injury.
While running on a remote trail in the woods, I stopped to read a trail sign. For a brief moment, I dropped my attention to read the sign. From behind me, my german shepherd mix spotted a squirrel and she charged after it. I had no idea she was in a full on sprint until the retractable leash reached is full length – my relaxed arm was suddenly yanked outwards and stretched. My shoulder screamed in pain. My dog was yanked backward by the leash as well. We were both okay but it was a good reminder to pay attention at all times to my surroundings.
The risk of injury (especially for the dog) is one of the main reasons why some dog professionals advise against the retractable. Which brings me to point number 2.
2. Retract the leash in and keep it short for better control.
Inevitably you will experience times when you will pass by other people, dogs, busy streets, etc and you need to keep your dog under control.
When I stopped to read the trail sign, I should have called my dog to me and retracted the leash in so that it was short and then should have locked it in place. You have more control over your dog and the situation when the leash is short.
3. Use only with well-mannered dogs
If your dog is aggressive or pulls very hard then avoid using the retractable.
Most retractable leashes are constructed from thinner material. My shepherd mix gets very excited for walks. She often takes the end of the leash in her mouth to encourage me to quickly follow her. However, with the retractable she ended up chewing through part of the leash and one day during a walk it easily tore apart. Thankfully, she is not aggressive so no dog or person was in harms way. Plus, she comes when I call her (as long as there are no squirrels around).
4. Dropping the leash can be bigger than just an “ooopps” moment
Some retractable leashes come with additional features. I had one with a flashlight on it and have seen others with poop bag attachments. I’ve found that a leash without all the bulky attachments are easier to handle and less likely for me to drop.
I’ve seen it happen several times – someone (me) drops the retractable, it hits the sidewalk behind the dog. The loud “BAM” noise startles the dog. She quickly glances behind her to see what the noise was. The handle starts to retract and to the dog – it appears as if the leash handle is chasing her. I’ve seen dogs take off running, fearful that the leash was going to eat them. If you are around a busy street when this happens, the results could be disastrous.
5. Don’t use in congested areas
Taking your dog on a walk with a retractable leash where there are lots of other walkers, runners, and bikers is really not a good idea – it’s a bad idea. Avoid using near streets. Imagine the tangled mess, if your dog unexpected crossed into the path of an oncoming bicycler.
Which Brand To Buy?
There are several retractable leash brands but here is the one I have used with most success.
For Medium Dogs Up To 44 lbs
For Large Dogs Up To 110 lbs