Retractable Leashes- The Dark Side!

posted: by: Morehead Animal Hospital Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Retractable Leashes:

The dark side!


(photo courtesy of

These very popular leashes are very convenient and comfortable in your hand however there are several problems that you may not be aware of  associated with the use of them.


     They can scare other pets and/or people.  Your dog may frighten or startle other animals or people. Even if your dog is incredibly friendly some people and/or their pets are scared of dogs. Just because your dog loves cats does not mean the cat and it’s owner appreciate your dog going to the end of a leash and approaching them.  Some dogs are aggressive to other dogs and may attack your friendly dog. Your pet may expose itself to a sick animal with a contagious disease. In short, if you let your dog approach another pet or person without permission, you are being very rude.  OUR ADVICE:  Be aware of your surroundings and use proper pet etiquette before any blind corners or when you see people coming, immediately call your dog back and shorten/lock the leash to a 4-6 foot length. This way you, not your dog, dictate the amount of interaction they have with strangers (animal or human).

      Dropping the leash is easy AND scary. A client of ours dropped their retractable leash while walking their dog and the dog ran in terror from the loud bouncy thing chasing it down the street. The dog was missing for hours and found trembling with the frayed end of the leash attached. Think scary big yo-yo running after you!  If you drop it you can only grab the handle back or you risk a severe rope burn. Try Googling some photos of these leash ropes burns; nasty looking! OUR ADVICE: Don’t drop it!

      While we are on the subject- Rope Burns! These can occur to you, your dog, or anyone in the range of the leash walking or biking by. OUR ADVICE: Your thumb should always be prepared to lock.

     Teaches your dog to pull. The nature of the retractable leash is that it has constant pressure on it unless it is locked  so a dog is taught pulling is allowable. If they start to run after something and have to be stopped, the momentum can really build with the length of the leash and hurt their throat and/ or neck. A friend using this type of leash dislocated her shoulder when her dog ran to the end at full speed. A client in our parking lot got tangled in the line and had a bad fall resulting in an ambulance.   OUR ADVICE: Use a harness that the leash attaches to at the back of the shoulder area that will not harm your dog and that you do not mind the constant pulling.

      No true control.  Depending on the length of your retractable leash, there is no real limit to your dog’s freedom. This can be wonderful if you are in an open field with no other people or pets nearby, but your dog can not appreciate you as a leader. In many cases, you are his “pack” and following HIM. A good walking leash is 4-6 feet long and made of strong nylon or leather. Any leash beyond that length is generally used for tracking, search and rescue. OUR ADVICE: Train your dog to listen to verbal commands using positive reinforcement and treats. Your dog should come, sit and lay down on command when on any leash; a retractable leash can be like controlling a wild yo-yo if your dog is not trained. Think of  trying to reel in a marlin!

      Retractable leashes CAN and Do break!  OUR ADVICE: Examine the leash all along it’s length for fraying or rips. Larger sizes are needed for strong and large dogs. In an emergency leash break and  your dog does not come, try calling their name and running in the opposite direction. Dogs are funny that way and may follow you to see what is up!

Link to Consumer Reports article-