Having worked in the animal care field for over 20 years now, I have learned a great much about animals and their health and well-being. I am fairly well acquainted with most pet toys and gadgets too. Some are great, while others make me think “what in the heck were they thinking when they developed this thing?” Retractable leashes are one of those gadgets that make me cringe. I truly hope they, along with chain leashes, go the way of the dinosaur.
Retractable leashes are leads with plastic handles that contain a reel system. As a pet advances, the leash unreels and the pet is able to move farther from the handler. If the handler wishes to stop the pet from being able to advance, the handler typically has to push a button that “locks” the leash to prevent it from unreeling. The only way that the leash can shorten is if there is some slack between the leash handle and the pet. The first 12 to 24 inches of most retractable leashes is a flat nylon-type material. The rest of the length of these leashes is typically a thin cord. In some cases the entire length is a thin cord.
I can understand only one benefit of the retractable leash. Oh. Wait. I lied.
Why am I so down on these ever-so-popular gadgets? Let me tell you!
- They teach your dog to pull. If you have a tiny little teacup chihuahua at the end of a leash, the pulling isn’t usually a big deal. However, if you have a 75 pound lab or a 120 pound mastiff pulling at the other end of a leash, you’re going to have some pretty serious control issues there! Teaching your dog leash manners is crucial in any case, but especially when it comes to muscular breeds or large and giant breed dogs.
- The locking mechanisms are not trustworthy. As your pet pulls at the retractable leash to check out the flattened squirrel in the street while a car is approaching, are you going to trust that little plastic latch to save your dog from being struck by that oncoming vehicle? I sure wouldn’t. And for good reason. I’ve seen what happens in such a case far too often.
- The thin rope cord is dangerous to you and your dog. Imagine, if you would, the following scenario: A woman is taking her 60 pound pointer for a walk in the park when a squirrel crosses the dog’s path. The dog begins to chase the squirrel so the woman attempts to press the “lock” button, but the momentum created by the dog is able to overcome the lock! In a panic the owner reaches and grabs for the leash. BIG MISTAKE! There are cases of dog owners losing fingers in cases similar to this.
- At the vet clinic: All too often I see pet owners come into our office with a dog on a retractable leash and that dog begins to explore the entire waiting area! We see both healthy and sick patients at the office. I don’t want your healthy dog fraternizing with another waiting sick dog, or otherwise. Also, your dog’s roaming creates a snag-line to other patrons or staff members!
These are my top 4 reasons for banning retractable leashes, but I could easily come up with 20 more reasons to ditch them. Folks, if you have a dog, you need to properly leash train that dog. If the dog pulls or is too “strong” for you, please talk with your veterinary staff about head halters or no-pull harnesses.