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The Problem with Retractable Leashes…

by Dr. Noelle Weeks, Veterinarian, Veterinary Resource Center of the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area


Retractable leashes, such as Flexi leash, are popular with a lot of dog owners.  The idea of allowing your dog to have more leash to move around on seems like a great idea.  However, retractable leashes can cause a lot of problems.

When I got my first dog as an adult, I used a retractable leash on my 5-month old Golden Retriever.  I had a small back yard so we took a lot of walks.  He loved to be at the end of the 12-foot leash on our walks.  One day I took him to a field to walk, he saw a rabbit

take off in the field.  My puppy also took off at a dead run after the rabbit.  I called him as soon as he took off hoping he wouldn’t hit the end of the Flexi leash and choke himself or hurt his neck.  He wanted that rabbit; he got to the end of the Flexi leash it broke and he was off after the rabbit.  I almost got a black eye from the leash retracting back to me without a dog attached.  Luckily, my puppy came back to me.

What I ended up teaching that dog was it was fine to walk far away from me on walks.  Not only did he learn to walk at a distance from me but he learned to pull on the leash to try to get further or walk faster.  I was never able to teach him loose leash walking due to the time I had him on a retractable leash.

Retractable leashes have a lot of problems primarily related to safety and training:

  1. If a dog runs to the end of the retractable leash the leash can break. If a dog runs to the end of a retractable leash (and it doesn’t break), a dog can injury its neck from suddenly being stopped after running.  For some dogs this could cause severe neck injury.
  2. Dogs can have the retractable leash get tangled around their legs which could cause injury if the leash gets too tight too fast.
  3. If a dog on a retractable leash is around people, the retractable leash can be wound around other people’s legs and create a tripping hazard or cause ‘rope burn’ or friction rub type injuries from the leash rubbing on people’s legs.
  4. Dogs on a retractable leash can get into other dogs’ or cats’ spaces and cause stress to other animals or even initiate fights. This is particularly true in small spaces such as a veterinarian’s office or at a pet store.
  5. Dogs learn to pull on a leash when walked on a retractable leash because when a dog pulls, the owner allows more leash to go out to the dog.
  6. Owners have less control over their dog when using a retractable leash. Dogs can dart into traffic off of the sidewalk or into another person’s path when the dog is too far from the owner.
  7. Retractable leashes can break.

If you decide to use a retractable leash, consider if it is the best and safest choice for the trip you are taking with your dog.


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