If you read my facebook post on Retractable Leads this week, you’ll know that I don’t like them.
Apart from the example I gave on my facebook post where a dog ran out in front of my van while his owner was distracted and nearly caused a road traffic collision (thankfully, everyone was OK and the little dog was not hit as I managed to swerve and conduct an emergency stop in time), there are other reasons why I wouldn’t recommend them.
Retractable leads are popular because they allow dogs more freedom on walks as they aren’t as confining as normal leads. However, the purpose of using a lead when walking a dog is to keep the dog under control and safe. Retractable leads very often do the opposite.
Many retractable lead issues can be reduced if you are responsible and use them conscientiously, however, they are still more likely to cause accidents and injuries than the normal 6 foot flat leads. Why take those risks?
Here are a good few reasons why I think they should be avoided:
Using one of these leads means that your dog can get far enough away from you to get into trouble (some of these leads extend up to 26 feet). When your dog is that far away from you, it is not possible to protect him and a situation can quickly turn dangerous. Just like the experience I had the other day; a dog can run into the middle of the road or get into a situation where they have unwelcome contact from another dog. Once that lead is extended, you are powerless to help quickly and sometimes it can be too late before you are able to intervene.
If you get caught up in the lead and the lead comes into contact with your skin as it is quickly pulled, you will get a nasty friction burn or cut. This has also resulted in amputation. These injuries occur most frequently on a hand but if the dog runs in circles, tangling you up, these injuries can occur on other parts of your body too. Many people have been pulled off their feet when using these leads and this can result in broken bones. Dogs can also get injured, generally on their legs, or their tails and similar injuries can result. The sudden jerk on the neck can result in neck wounds, lacerated tracheas and spinal injury. People have been bitten by their dogs when trying to untangle them from these leads. A gentleman stopped me the other day and asked if I had a pair of scissors on me. Strange I thought, but it was because he needed to cut his Bichon Frise loose as the hair on his ear had well and truly got tangled up in his retractable lead.
They can malfunction. They are made up of lots of parts which can become faulty or break. The cord can come loose from the handle, the locking mechanism can fail, the thin cord can break. If any of these happen (and they do), you would lose control of your dog or a broken part could cause injury to you or your dog.
The handles are heavy and bulky and can easily be pulled out of your hand or dropped. This can result in a loose dog which is bad enough. However, if the handle is dropped, the noise of it dragging behind your dog can be very scary for him. Imagine, especially for a fearful dog, how this must feel when the scary, noisy object is retracting as he tries to escape it but can’t because it is gaining ground on him? This could result in a lingering fear of leads for your dog.
They are a very bad idea from a training aspect as they actually train dogs to pull while on a lead because they learn that pulling extends the lead. To teach your dog not to pull on a lead, it is really important not to allow him to pull as being inconsistent will result in your dog trying to pull - because sometimes it works! It is much better to teach your dog to walk politely on a lead beside you without pulling.
They can be a nuisance to other people as the length of a retractable lead enables your dog to run up to people before you have enough time to control it. It could have run and jumped on someone, scared a child or someone who is wary of dogs. It could have caused another dog to feel threatened, as some dogs adopt a posture when pulling which can look like aggression to another dog who may then decide to fight back.
So please think twice about using a retractable lead as they are dangerous and do cause injuries to people and dogs. I’ve witnessed these leads causing havoc and I know other dog-care experts who have too and they feel as strongly as I do about this dangerous invention.