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:
- 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.
- Dogs can have the retractable leash get tangled around their legs which could cause injury if the leash gets too tight too fast.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.