Contrary to popular perception, a retractable leash isn’t really a leash. It’s basically a length of thin cord wound around a spring-loaded device inside a plastic handle designed to fit comfortably in a person’s hand. A button located on the handle controls how much of the cord is extended at any given time.
These so-called leashes are popular because they’re not as confining as regular leashes, allowing dogs to sniff around more freely during their walks. Unfortunately, however, their dangers are many. Consider the following reasons to give them a definite “paws down.”
1. Since some retractable leashes can extend up to 26 feet, they enable dogs to get dangerously far away from their walkers, putting them at risk, for example, of running into the middle of the road or making unwanted contact with people and/or other dogs.
2. Because these leashes allow a dog more freedom to pull at the end of them, it can give the appearance of aggression to another approaching dog who may opt to “fight back” at what he perceives as a threat.
3. On the other hand, should your dog suddenly be approached by an aggressive dog, it’s far easier to “rein him in” at the end of a standard, flat 6-foot leash than if he’s 20 or more feet away from you at the end of what’s merely a cord.
4. The cord of a retractable leash can break, particularly when walking a powerful dog. Should he decide to bolt after having spotted something of interest, not only is he in danger of either disappearing or getting hurt, but the cord can snap back and injure the person walking him.
5. The handle of a retractable leash is bulky and can be pulled all too easily out of a person’s hand. The result: a runaway dog.
6. Dogs have been known to suffer painful injuries – from neck wounds and lacerated tracheas to spinal injuries — as a result of the sudden jerking on their necks when they “run out” the leash.
7. If a person becomes entangled in the cord of a retractable leash or grabs it in an effort to reel in a racing dog, it can cost that person anything from simple cuts and burns to the loss of a finger or wrist. Some people have even lost their balance and fallen hard because of dogs reaching the end of the leash and not stopping, resulting in road rash, bruises, broken bones and far worse.
8. Dogs, especially fearful ones, terrified by the sound of a retractable leash handle being dropped, may run off in sheer panic. Compounding their panic is the sound of the handle clattering after them as if chasing them, making it impossible for them to outpace it. They may not suffer any physical harm from such an incident, yet it may leave them not only fearful of leashes, even the standard ones, but of being walked from then on.
9. Like most retractable devices, these leashes tend to malfunction the longer they’re used: refusing to extend, refusing to retract or, worse, unpredictably and randomly unspooling.
10. Particularly unsuitable for dogs not yet trained to walk politely on a regular leash, retractable leashes will “train” them to pull because they learn that by pulling, it extends the lead, granting them all the freedom they want – and shouldn’t have.
By Nomi Berger