Walking your dog on a leash should be a fun, stress free, and safe activity for the both of you. It seems that many dog owners enjoy the look of a retractable leash. The idea of allowing their dog to roam away from them seems to be a coveted luxury. Nowadays, these leashes come with all sorts of features like flashlights and poo bag holders, making them more pursued than ever. While these features are convenient, the owner should make sure they know how to properly use the leash with their dog before adding gadgets. The risks of these popular retractable leashes outweigh the benefits, especially if the owner doesn’t use the leash properly.
These leashes are made to be used by responsible owners with dogs that are already trained; dogs that can walk on a leash with manners. If your dog doesn’t already walk at your side unless he’s going off to do his business, you should focus on teaching him to “heel” before using a retractable leash. If your dog is already 15 feet away and starts digging in a neighbors yard, the damage will be done by the time you pull him back on the retractable leash. Similarly, if your dog is 15 feet away and starts getting into a tuffle with another dog (leashed or not), by the time you get to him or pull him back, there could already be bite wounds sufficient for an emergency vet visit (and that $30 leash just cost you $300 in vet bills). The importance of training your dog to stay with you while on a leash has not changed because a company manufactured these retractable leashes.
The design of retractable leashes is not reliable. The handle is designed to just be grasped by one’s hand, there is no option to wrap a loop around your hand for a secure grip. A relaxed owner can be caught off-guard when their dog suddenly chases a squirrel and the loose grasp of the retractable leash handle can easily be released on accident. Many dogs (and owners) are at danger when this happens around street traffic. The lock on these leashes is a great idea, but often faulty. And, many owners don’t even bother using them. The cord itself is very durable, but also tends to get knots, especially if the owner allows the dog to jump around and get tangled with the cord.
It’s important to remember also that just because your dog is on a retractable leash, doesn’t mean he should be free to go wherever he wants within that 15 foot line. Many owners feel that having there dog on a retractable leash should be good enough when they bring their dog out in public. Meanwhile they proceed to allow their dog to wrap around other dogs, humans, strollers, and children. This isn’t the dogs’ fault, as far as he’s concerned- he’s allowed. Owners still need to instill good behavior in their dogs, and this cannot be done while the dog is 15 feet away.
While there are so many reasons to NOT use a retractable leash, but there are a few circumstances that they may be sufficient. An elderly dog owner with a well behaved dog may find the use of a retractable leash desirable, conveniently enabling them to take their dog out into the back yard for some brief exercise and potty without the owner having to walk very far. Retractable leashes may also be safely and enjoyably used with a dog that is already properly leash trained and is mild mannered.
If you are in the market for a new leash, please be responsible in your decision. While perusing the retractable leashes, ask yourself a few questions- “Is my dog obedient enough to stay in control on this leash?”, “Am I alert during dog walks? Or on my cell phone, distracted?”, “Am I ready to be MORE aware of my dog and what he’s doing while on this leash than a regular leash?”. If the answer to any of these questions is “No.”, then I would suggest you work on your dog’s obedience skills, and your relationship with your dog before you make this purchase. For now, stick with an old fashioned, 4-6ft. loop-handled lead. The two of you will benefit from being closer while you work on your daily walks.