3 min read

Are Retractable Leashes Bad?


By Tim Falk

Published: 04/29/2021, edited: 04/14/2023

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Put your hand up if you use a retractable leash when walking your dog. If you've found your way to this page, there's a good chance your hand is in the air already.

While retractable leashes are a popular and handy choice for many pet parents around the world, did you know that these leashes are actually dangerous for you and your dog? In fact, there are several important reasons why retractable leashes are bad for dogs. Keep reading to find out the top five.

Retractable leashes make it very difficult to control and protect your dog

One thing pet parents love about retractable leashes is that they allow you to give your dog a little bit of extra freedom when walking your dog. Unfortunately, this also means they’re a long way away from you, so it can be much more difficult to stop them getting into trouble.

This could result in anything from them jumping on a stranger to getting attacked by another dog or even stepping out onto a busy road. And even though you may see the impending danger before they get to it, you’ll often be too far away to stop something bad happening.

Finally, if your dog takes off at speed and the thin leash breaks, it’s going to be a lot harder to get them back under control than if they were on a standard leash right by your side.

Retractable leashes can injure you and your dog

That might sound a little dramatic, but unfortunately, it’s not. And these injuries are no laughing matter — people have lost fingers as a result of retractable leash incidents, so they’re a lot more dangerous than you might think.

The list of things that can potentially go wrong when your pup is on a retractable leash is a long one. For example, the leash can get wrapped around your finger while your dog yanks forward, while burns and lacerations from leashes retracting (or getting pulled by dogs) are common. 

And then there’s the fact that a retractable leash gives your pooch a chance to get a nice long run-up. So if they decide to take off after another dog, they’ll be at top speed by the time the leash runs out — and you could be yanked off balance by this extra force. At the same time, your dog’s neck can also snap back with violent force when they get to the end of the leash, which can potentially result in serious injury.

Throw in the risk of your pup getting tangled in the cord or injured by a fast-retracting leash, and there are lots of ways either you or your pooch could end up in the emergency room.

Retractable leashes are dangerous for other pedestrians

Retractable leashes aren’t just dangerous for you and your dog, but they’re also hazardous for anyone else who happens to be nearby when you walk past on your dog walk. When the leash is fully extended, it’s sadly quite easy for you and your pup to get tangled up with trees, poles, and of course other people. 

If that happens, it could cause them to trip over or potentially lead to a number of other, much more serious injuries.

Retractable leashes encourage your dog to pull

Pulling on the lead is one of the most common problem dog behaviors. It’s an incredibly frustrating and even dangerous behavior, but it’s one that you’re actually encouraging by using a retractable leash.

Think about it. When your dog sees or smells something they want to investigate, they pull as hard as they can, the leash unspools, and they get where they want to be quicker. With nothing to keep them by your side, your pup has just been rewarded for pulling. 

Compare that to a conventional leash, where you can stop your dog yanking you this way and that, and it’s easy to see why a retractable leash is not a great option.

Retractable leashes increase the distance between you and your dog

Our fifth and final reason why you should say goodbye to your retractable leash is that these leashes do nothing to encourage you to build a stronger relationship with your pup. A walk is the “pawfect” time for you and your fur-baby to spend some quality time together, develop a bond, and even work on your pup’s training.

But when your pup is 20-odd feet away at the end of a long leash, you don’t get much chance to do any of that. Instead of focusing on you and giving you their full attention, your pooch is instead concerned only with getting to wherever they want to go. 

In other words, a retractable leash makes it a whole lot harder to communicate with your dog, and that can only ever be a bad thing.

So if you currently use a retractable leash, maybe it’s time to rethink the way you walk your dog. Stick to a classic tape-style leash, and you and your dog will not only build a better relationship, but you’ll also be a whole lot safer.

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