You, Me and the Retractable Leash

I’m going to “Rant” a bit here..so sit down!

The other day I was involved in an incident with a Flexi (Retractable)Leash, and it was a rude reminder of just how dangerous these commonly used “tools” for walking your dog are. 

We were walking our foster dog (known to be a bit dog reactive on the leash at times) in an outdoor shopping center. We had our foster dog, Shasta under control with a slip lead; so she couldn’t escape by backing out of her collar, and we were using a 6-foot leash but with a “traffic” handle for more control. 

Suddenly this Chihuahua darted out from a building towards  Shasta. Yes, her owner was on her cell phone and not paying attention. The retractable leash extended it’s full length and thankfully, Shasta proceeded to walk calmly around the little Chi.

No reaction, THANK GOD!

But let’s take a step back

Shasta CAN be dog reactive on leash. The fact that she didn’t make a peep, nor jump or growl shows substantial progress in her training, BUT what if she HAD reacted?

The Chihuahua was right by Shasta’s face, barking and lunging while the woman “responded” by trying to “reel” her dog in which took much longer than it should have. IF Shasta had reacted it would have been bad for the little pup.

Who would be to blame?
Probably Shasta!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

So while many owners who use retractable leashes think they are great, many other people, including dog trainers and veterinarians believe that they don’t belong in crowded public places. 

In my opinion, the only environment that is appropriate to use a retractable leash is rural, uncrowded and risk free from injury to people or other animals. 

Photo Credit: shutterstock

Photo Credit: shutterstock

The use of the Retractable Leash can cause injuries to you, your dog and unwitting passersby.  Take my example of the woman on her cell phone with the leash fully extended; She could have easily gotten tangled up in the cord because she was allowing the dog to access anywhere he desired. There is a high risk of getting tangled up in the cord because, the person isn’t paying attention and the dog isn’t under control.

Some of the most common injuries with these tools are: burns, cuts, and even amputations. It’s been reported that broken bones are another injury possible.

Here are the “Cautions” and “Dangers” noted directly on the packaging of the Flexi Leash:

Photo Credit: Flexi Leash Manufacturer

Photo Credit: Flexi Leash Manufacturer

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Sighthounds and other dogs with sensitive necks can suffer severe injuries to their spinal cords when the cord reaches its capacity and jerks the dog’s neck back. The injuries involved with this sudden action can cause serious problems with mobility and spine.

Any dog that has a tendency toward neck injuries or already has spinal and neck issues should NOT use this leash at all!

Another reason not to use this “tool” is that you are encouraging your dog to pull on his leash! Yes, the spring loaded mechanism that causes the strap to extend and retract makes your dog pull on the leash to move forward. By pulling forward, they gain more distance from their walker. If you were to stop using the retractable leash and start using a regular six foot leash your dog would pull, and pull hard as that is the way that has always worked in the past.

Another very unfortunate part of these leads is that the big, clumsy, bulky handle can easily slip out of your hand. The bumping, loud sound and bulk of the grip “following” the dog, who is running at full speed towards something he saw, freaks the dog out, which makes the dog run faster and longer to “get away” from this monster behind him.

The cons are many, the pros are few and far between. If I could I would BAN these leashes outright! 

Do you use a Flexible, Retractable Leash? Have you encountered a dog on a flexible leash like we did? Let’s hear from you in the comments!

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