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The Retractable Leash Debate: Pros, Cons and Truth


Dog trainers hate them, pet lovers can’t imagine life without them. The retractable leash has been a hot topic of debate among dog owners for quite some time. When this product was first released into the market, the idea was to provide a way for dogs to gain a little more freedom and exercise while on a typical walk with their human family. The top brand names in the pet industry were releasing their own versions of the item, and while many owners love giving their dog that ability to walk off the trail to get a sniff that they would not have been able to on a normal flat leash, some people and pets have been greatly injured by these items.

The Pros

retractable dog leashThe original idea of the retractable leash still provides the benefits it was meant to give owners and their dogs. An easy to hold plastic, or sometimes rubber covered grip, with an option to stop a dog from continuing to the end of the leash with a stop button let owners easily control when the distance was far enough for their pet. This option to lock in a specific distance also kept dogs from getting into potentially dangerous situations, like another dog on leash or a toxic substance on the ground.

One of the biggest and most widely used reasons for owners loving the retractable leash is that they love the smiles on their dogs’ faces as they can more freely romp while on a walk. Dogs love to run, and they naturally walk much faster than humans. This gives them the comfort of being able to walk at their own pace, get the cardio they really need to stay healthy while also staying under their owner’s careful control.

The Cons

For many, the pros to using a retracable leash are easily waved away with the use of proper leash training and exercise other than regular walks. This is done because the cons can be excessive and outright dangerous when using a retractable leash, even with caution. Both humans and dogs have been injured in horrible accidents from misuse, leash malfunction and situational events. Mostly, humans get hurt as the dog runs past them, turns, and the skinny rope leash gives a nice big wound or rope burn on the skin of the human. This happens on wrists, legs, ankles, and even the waist. These injuries can quickly lead to infection, need stitches due to size and leave visible scars.

Rope burns and cuts are not the only injuries humans sustain from the use of a retractable leash. Sometimes, and quite commonly, the quick stop button meant to end the growing distance put between dog and owner does not work or breaks. It can sever the rope, letting the dog run free or just not work, leading to a major jolt as the dog runs to the end of the leash and puts pressure on it.

Some of the worst injuries lead to hospitalization of a canine companion because of a retractable leash mishap. If the dog decides to run, chase after something or otherwise catch his owner off guard he has a strong chance of running full speed and hitting the end of his leash, leading to sever neck injuries and even death.

The Truth

The retractable leash can be used safely and humanely in specific circumstances. No dog should be walked or exercised on one. If you need to keep your dog on leash but give him space, invest in a good cotton long lead, which can be as inexpensive as ten US dollars. There have been reports of some wheelchair users that will attach a retractable leash to their service dog so that he may retrieve dropped items or open doors while remaining in the owner’s control. Such use does not put the dog or owner at risk.

Over all, there are very few situations in which a retractable leash is safe. Other items, exercises and training can be used to improve the safety and bond between you and your canine companion that may better suit the two of you. Choose your equipment use wisely, and at the sign of any significant wear and tear, get a new one!

Image by myraddog.com

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