Used in the wrong way in the wrong setting, a retractable dog leash can injure or potentially kill a dog. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The bad side of retractable dog leashes
Foes of these leashes argue that they:
- Don’t keep a dog under control. With a 26-foot extension on some, a dog can easily chase a squirrel into the street or get into a confrontation with another dog before the owner realizes what’s happening.
- Can wrap around a dog’s legs, tail or neck and injure them. Unlike walking leashes that are flat leather or webbing strips half an inch or more wide, most retractable leases are like wires.
- Are hard to see and can tangle up joggers or cyclists using the same path.
The good side of retractable dog leashes
Fans of this kind of leash say it gives the dog the chance to roam, sniff and — well, just be a dog. They like them because they:
- Let a dog get more exercise because he or she can roam back and forth trailing smells without you having to follow their path.
- Give an off-leash experience without the risk of losing your dog.
- Tend to keep the leash above the dog instead of tangling around his feet the way a standard, fixed-length leash can.
Making a retractable dog leash safe
At the end of a day, a retractable leash is just a tool. It’s how, when and where it’s used that makes the difference. Here are five tips for a safe walk with a retractable dog leash:
- Use it in open areas such as parks where you have a clear view around your dog and there aren’t a lot of runners or cyclists. These leashes are bad choices for walking the Venice boardwalk where crowds are thick and cyclists fast or hiking the Santa Monica Mountains where rattlesnakes are a year-round threat. Don’t use these leashes when going to the vet’s office or shopping in a pet or other store.
- Pick the right retractable leash. If you want to use a retractable leash for daily walking in the neighborhood, you might want to consider a shorter leash — six- to 10-feet is a good length for walking. The longer the leash, the more likely problems are. At 26-feet, a dog can get into trouble with other dogs or people before you can do anything about it. Be sure that it is sturdy, high quality and suitable for the size of your dog.
- Practice using the leash. This means being able to quickly and confidently move the leash handle from hand-to-hand in front and behind your body; using the controls — free run, pause and a hard stop; and knowing how to reel your dog back from an extension. These maneuvers need to be second nature when you need them.
- Make sure your dog has a solid foundation of obedience training. There are always times when a good recall trumps reeling a dog back 26-feet. Commands like “leave it,” “sit” or “stay” are invaluable to avoid confrontations with unwelcoming people or dogs.
- Be watchful. Walking a dog on a retractable leash is the wrong time for having a day dream, replaying an argument in your head or having an engrossing conversation with a friend. Your attention is all that stands between your dog and any dangers that may be heading his way. With a standard leash short leash, you might hang on to at least peripheral awareness, but not with a 26-foot retractable.
There are good points and bad points to any kind of leash. Which is best for you and your dog depends on your dog’s size and personality, where you walk, who you walk with and how much basic training your dog has, among other things.
The two elements that divide safety and hazardous with a retractable dog leash are whether your vigilance and ability to control of your dog.