Retractable Leashes: Freedom vs. Risk

For years I’ve complained about dog retractable leashes. Not only do I always get confused whenever I have to use one (there are no buttons on a 6 foot leather lead), but I always thought that while I spent time training my dog not to pull on the leash – the dog on a retractable leash sometimes gets rewarded for pulling (in terms of more leash) and sometimes gets pulled back.  How confusing!

Well I’ve recently gotten some high powered support from the folks at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in their Your Dog Newsletter! Interestingly enough while I had focused exclusively on the impact on the dog, according to a cited Consumer Reports article there were 16,000 hospital-treated injuries in 2007 related to flexi-leads. Some of these injuries were to the person using the flexi-lead, which caused the equivalent of rope burns on hands and cut fingers, but some of the injuries were to walkers, joggers and even bicyclists who were tripped up by unseen flexi-leads held by a person attached to a dog some 20 feet away.

Dr. Dodman from Tufts explains that many pet parents use flexi-leads instead of training their dog. For example, rather than training their dog to “come” or “wait” so that their dog can be successful at an off-leash dog park, these pet parents re-create the off- leash experience for their dog by using a 20 foot leash. Of course when an untrained dog is 20 feet away from its pet parents there are a host of other behavioral issues that can occur all with the pet parent unable to respond in a timely manner. This is not to say that there are no times when a retractable leash is a useful tool. If you’re at an on-leash hiking trail with limited other users around, a retractable leash might create freedom for both you and your dog without endangering anyone, but its use in most other circumstances doesn’t seem appropriate.

So, what do you think? Are you part of the Dodman/Klaiman group who think that retractable dog leashes have pretty limited usefulness or are you a fan of the retractable leash? Let us know your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks for reading!