The Case Against Retractable Dog Leashes
Why Retractable Dog Leashes May Not Be Your Best Choice
The mere fact that retractable dog leashes have earned the love of personal injury attorneys and the ire of dog trainers should tell you something.
What is a Retractable Dog Leash?
A retractable dog leash is a leash that is supposed to allow the handler to be able to adjust the distance the dog is permitted to wander away. The leash itself consists of either a very thin or a webbed cord that is commonly about 16 feet (5 m) or 30 feet (9 m) in length. The handle is usually plastic and contains a mechanism that allows the dog handler to stop the extension of the leash by pressing a button on the handle. A clip on the leash attaches to the dog’s collar.
What is Wrong with Retractable Dog Leashes?
Retractable leashes have two big strikes against them:
- They are not effective for training one’s dog.
- They pose serious safety issues for humans and dogs.
Retractable Dog Leashes are Ineffective Dog Training Tools
The very characteristic that makes retractable dog leashes seem so attractive to dog owners is what renders them ineffective as a dog training tool. The flexible mechanism allows the dog to wander away from the handler up to the length of the leash fully extended. This encourages the dog to stop paying attention to her handler and to pursue whatever interests her.
Theoretically, the handler need only push the button to stop the leash; however, when you’ve already lost the dog’s attention and focus, it may be difficult to “reel” her back in, particularly if she has scented something much more interesting to her than your commands. The flexibility of the leash gives the dog the erroneous impression that she is the master of her own destiny on the walk. If you want to effectively train the dog to focus on and follow your verbal and physical commands, allowing her this sort of freedom on the leash is not the way to do it.
Many retractable dog leashes have a locking feature that stops the leash at a certain length. However, if the leash has gotten damp or is starting to wear out, the locking mechanism may be difficult to engage.
Retractable Dog Leashes Pose Safety Hazards for Dogs and Their Handlers
Consumer Reports notes that retractable leashes have caused cuts, burns and even amputations when the cord came in contact with skin or became wrapped around part of the owner or the dog. According to the report:
In 2007 there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes, according to Consumer Union’s analysis of statistics collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC’s data does not parse the leashes into types but it’s likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.
Other injuries have been reported as well. For example, in September 2008, the Slydog brand retractable leash was recalled due to complaints that the metal clip would break and fly off. A Texas teen has sued the manufacturer after the retractable leash she was using snapped back and punctured her eye.
Safety Tips for Using a Retractable Dog Leash
If you must use a retractable dog leash, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- A retractable leash should be used, if at all, only on well-trained dogs that respond immediately to voice commands.
- Make sure to use the appropriate size leash for your dog’s weight.
- Check the locking mechanism prior to each use of the leash to ensure that it will engage instantly if needed.
- Do not allow children to use the retractable leash.
- Read and heed all manufacturer warnings for the leash.