The Case Against Retractables

I know a lot of people use retractable leashes and I’m sure I’ll catch all kinds of pushback about this post. That said and with apologies to those of you who do use them, here’s why I’m opposed to these devices.

Sam and I particularly enjoy our weekend walks. We can linger a little bit later in bed rather than getting up at the crack of dawn and then going out later and actually seeing and catching up with people and their pets on the weekends. We can hang on the corner and chew the fat about the latest news. A recent weekend started out just like most of our other weekend outings.

Sam has a few people he completely adores. He will do just about anything to reach them to say hi and get a couple of chin or ear scratches and our buddy Steve is one of Sam’s absolute favorites but not because he almost always has a pocket treat for Sam. Steve is a super nice guy with a heart go gold and Wyoming drawl who loves all things 4-legged. In Sam’s mind, there isn’t anything better and when you throw in a treat or two…well it’s easy to see why Steve ranks right up there on our list of favs.

Steve has 3 adorable Scottish Terriers.  They are classic, busy little black dust mops and everyone in the ‘hood knows them. Boone, Poppy (brother and sister) and the latest addition, Murphy, are just as cute as buttons and typically ‘all’ terrier. They all are on their own retractable leashes as well.  I’ve known Poppy and Boone for years and they know me and are always glad to see us. In their excitement at seeing us, they always get wrapped around either me, Sam or Steve. On this encounter, they got wrapped around all 3 of us.  I usually let go of Sam’s leash so he can step out of the fray but this time the dogs were so interwoven around him and me, it didn’t matter. We were stuck and Sam was a little freaked out; the more he tried to disengage himself, the worse it got. His frenetic high-stepping seemed to get the Scotties super ginned up and for a moment it was a real cluster. It only ended with a yelp from Sam as one of the leashes had apparently pinched him. By this time both Steve and I were desperately trying to calm down all that energy and untangle the mess. Poor Sam must have been thinking WTH and I was thinking that along with a couple other acronyms.  I tried to be gracious and say “well, we better go, loads of errands to run, have a good weekend” but truth be told I couldn’t get away quick enough! My dog had gotten hurt because of those stupid leashes…which is a moronic euphemism for a thin cord that can garotte a leg or ankle tendon willy nilly quick!

In my books, the use of a leash is to keep a dog under control as well to keep said pooch safe and not have it go dashing about under everyone’s foot. By the time I got Sam home to closely examine him, I could see he had a tiny spot that looked like a rug burn.

Years go my son had one of those leashes for his wildly active German Shorthair Pointer. His thinking was by giving him room to run ahead, he’d tire out more quickly without having to try to personally keep up the same pace.  I recall once he took the dog to a softball practice and the leash extended out fully and then SNAPPED back! That $40 leash was now just a handle in my son’s hand with his dog was blocks away in a split-second. That taught me a valuable lesson that day to NEVER, EVER get one of those things.  But seeing the potential havoc they can wreak really solidified my biases against them and made me think about the danger. They do nothing to train a dog to politely walk and everything to encourage pulling.

Here are a number of reasons not to use a retractable leash:

  1. Since some of those leashes can be 20 or more ft. long and a dog can be far enough away from his human when the situation can quickly turn dangerous. A quick pivot toward a cat or squirrel and the dog could be in the street facing oncoming traffic, for instance.
  2. You could be approached by an aggressive dog and at 20 or more feet, it’s nearly impossible to get control of any potential problem quickly.
  3. A strong dog could break that thin line and could end up in a dangerous situation-see #1 & 2. Similarly, the cord can snap back and injury the handler.
  4. Dogs can easily get tangled up in retractable leashes resulting in burns, bruises, road rash, or worse.
  5. Dogs can receive an injury to their neck or spine when the retraction mechanism is engaged and the resulting jerk clicks in place (it’s not wise to challenge the law of inertia–moving objects tend to keep moving).
  6. Because dogs tend to pull with these leashes, the pulling could be perceived as aggressive by another dog.
  7. The handles can be easily pulled out of human hands.
  8. The clatter of a dropped retractable leash can frighten a fearful dog. If it’s running away, the racket simply follows the poor dog who can’t get rid of it.
  9. Like most retractable devices, leashes tend to malfunction over time, refusing to retract or extend.
  10. Retractable leashes are a bad idea for a dog who has not learned to politely walk next to its handler and next to impossible to administer any correction when needed.

 When your dog is well-trained on a regular leash and a retractable leash without any confusion in its behavior, then you my friend are a genius by being able to walk your dog with no risks to you or others. Sadly, I think few qualify in that regard, since most people (at least in my neighborhood) tend to be more focused on social media than whether or not their dog is walking calmly next to them, while not peeing/pooping all over their yards without being picked up or racing up to the next dog they see without knowing if that dog can handle something like that. Sorry for the rant, but when my sweet dog gets injured because someone can’t handle their 3-ring circus on walks, well…can you see why I’m hoping ‘retractables’ get retracted…permanently?


Live, love, bark! <3

26 thoughts on “The Case Against Retractables

  1. Agreed! We bought one of those leashes specifically for a training class years ago. One day last year brilliant me saw it and thought “hey, we never use this” and out we went … so dumb! Lulu ran around thinking she was off-leash and I ended up with nerve damage in my hand. Never. Again.

  2. Sorry I’m late commenting on this; but human things have been extremely distracting and time-consuming lately.

    I hate those freakin retractables, too! I have a couple of them on the floor of the coat closet that haven’t been used in years. It’s time to put them in the trash.

  3. Thank you for writing about these leashes, Monika. I’ve never used one for our dogs as I had thought with my mobility problems it would give them a bit more scope to run and extend themselves. They sound like mousetraps on leads. Nasty things. Do you get people walking their dogs while looking at social media on the mobile? I see people pushing prams and texting. Some people are seriously addicted!!
    Hope Sam is feeling okay now.
    xx Rowena

    1. Yes, people here are constantly texting or checking their mobiles. I’ve nearly been run into several times because their cluelessness. Sam is fine; I’m still kind of steamed-will just have to limit exposure to dogs with those leashes. 🙂

  4. We use an extension leash and harness (not collar) for Maxwell and love it. Of course there is no danger of being pulled too hard by a fat Fluffball and the leash lets the Malt go off sidewalk and explore the small areas of greenery along his route. At the same time we are obsessive about looking ahead for dangers, fellow dogs chicken bones and other potential risks and proactively act to protect the Malt. Having said all that we’ve also seen folks using the extension leashes and being totally controlled by the pup rather than the other way around so your points are well-taken.

  5. I also agree with you. I have one, but I don’t use it. I keep it in the event I can’t find one of my regular leashes! Ha! Totally off topic, but have you seen the Tether Tug toy? That is another thing that makes me nervous! Have a good day!

  6. We use ours at the lake and places like that, so the dogs can explore, go in the water etc. mostly Lily Belle. But they are only used in those conditions.

    We’ve had similar experiences on both ends of the leash, and I opt for two handled leashes, where I can give them a few feet, or grab the heel handle and keep them close to my side. I have much more control over them this way. We have a very active river path with dogs, bikes, runners etc. Control over the pups is paramount for everyone’s safety, not to mention my shoulder sockets.

    Which brings me to what people call torturous pinch collars. I use them, they feel like momma dog’s teeth around their neck, and will not sever an airway like chain collars. If in doubt, put a pinch collar around your thigh and give a yank. Do the same with a chain collar. You will feel the difference. Okay, rant over.

    Great post. Um, does Steve read your blog? 🙂

    1. I’ve used a pinch collar in the past as well and definitely find them less ‘tortuous’ to chain collars. You’re right they don’t press down on the airway, save aging shoulders and keep otherwise rambunctious pups in check. I’m always comforted when people use devices intelligently and responsibly. Kudos for being both!

      P.S. Luckily, I don’t think Steve is a blog reader. Otherwise, the details might have been a bit sanitized for public ‘Net consumption. 😉

  7. we had a bad accident with this leashes from hell, my husband got a deep cut in his hand as he tried to stop our husky who discovered a cat…. and although I should know it better, I used a retractable leash for Easy as he was a puppy… and the same what happened to your son happened to me too…. so this leashes are banned here. the highlight on the list of victims of this leashes is the hubby of a friend . he placed his butt on the handle, to put his shirt off while his Boxer Ironman (the name says all) discovered another pup on the beach. while the dog tried to get the other pup the leash dashed forward between his legs and it nearly neutered this guy …. no surprise that he was the attraction at the hospital he had to visit immediately :o(
    MANY MANY thanks for your nice card, it made my day!!!! I will use it for my next post, it’s great to know you are not alone and there are so much wonderful peeps and pets who feel with you :o)

    1. OMG, the hospital must have been delirious about that accident. Yes, I think the leashes are very dangerous, to dogs and their bipeds. So glad the card arrived and hopefully made you smile. Still sending healing energy your way! Be well. <3

  8. My boys are never on a ‘let em rip leash’ as i call them..i need to know if a snake is coming i can get them by my side pronto..or a roo..i have never trusted them and never will..seems her most dogs on these leashes tend to do what they like and the owner is along for the opinion only though..poor Sam 🙁 give him a big huggies from me …loves Bev xx

Feel free to bark your thoughts...but no growling please.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.