Retractable leashes (also known as flexi-leashes) are very popular. They are generally comfortable to hold and allow your hands to stay clean in muddy weather. Unfortunately they can also be dangerous for both humans and dogs. Here are 10 reasons why:
The ‘stop’ button often fails. This is particularly dangerous when walking beside a road, as the dog can end up jumping into traffic. This happened to one of my clients, and her dog was sadly killed.
Whether you use the broader material or thinner cord, painful burns can happen in seconds if the leash runs across you (a similar action to cutting a cake with wire). Many vets can confirm this, and in 2007 in the US 16,564 people were treated for injuries caused by retractable leashes, including entire fingers being amputated.
It is difficult to quickly 'grab' a dog with a retractable leash. If you have to move your dog quickly away from something (such as an aggressive dog or broken glass), grabbing the cord can be difficult and potentially dangerous. This leaves you with less control.
Retractable leashes don’t promote relaxed walking. The dog is always pulling to gain more length of leash, and if they get caught in something (like a bush) it can prove difficult to untangle them. The sudden ‘stop’ action of the leash can also jerk on the dog’s body (especially bad if they are wearing a collar).
If you drop the leash, this can frighten some dogs and cause them to bolt. The handles are often quite heavy which can be very distressing if they run off.
In order to gain more length, the dog has to constantly have tension on the leash. This can encourage dogs to constantly pull.
Retractable leashes make dog-dog interactions more difficult. If a dog is greeting another dog and circling, the leash can get tangled and the bulky handle is difficult to just drop and pick up again. If the dog is consistently pulled away by using the ‘stop’ button, this jerk can become negatively associated with seeing other dogs.
As the length of a retractable leash is always changing, it can be stressful for dogs as they never quite know much length they are allowed, or when the stop button will be pressed.
In Germany, retractable leashes are not covered by many insurance companies as they don’t consider them acceptable leashes. If a dog is walked on a retractable leash and causes an accident (such as a cyclist coming off their bike after being tripped by the thin cord), the insurance company is unlikely to cover this. Not to mention the potential pain for the dog!
Retractable leashes can be unreliable. Depending on the size and strength of the dog, the cord can snap or the dog can chew threw it. I have seen this happen on a number of occasions.
Those who are fans of retractable leashes frequently argue that the above only happens when the leashes are used the wrong way. Unfortunately, many of the situations do occur regularly and impact on people or dogs who were not at fault. When I started discussing retractable leashes on Facebook recently, I was inundated by images and reports from people who had been injured by these leashes. Many had been standing idly by and were suddenly circled by a dog who sped up and wounded them. The good news is that if your dog cannot be let off leash, but you still want to give them space to sniff and explore, there are other options. Try a longer leash (3 – 5 metres) or a long line (usually 10 metres) – this will allow your dog more space and to move more naturally. It goes without saying but with any leash you need to be careful and pay close attention to your surroundings.