If you walk your dog on a regular basis around other dog walkers chances are you have seen someone walking their dog with a retractable dog leash or lead or even worse, been caught up in one from someone walking the other way. I love an innovative idea as much as the next person, but I have to say that these are just plain dangerous. Not only dangerous to use, they lure people into the false sense of security that they have control over their dog when out on their daily walk. The truth is, the dog has more control than you do.
A walk is a time of bonding with your dogs, a time where you can go migrate together as a family (or pack if you prefer). A walk is not really supposed to be your dogs time to go out and enjoy some space (with you far behind being pulled by some plastic), it is a time for you both to enjoy. And a retractable leash is a barrier from this experience. It disconnects you from your dog and promotes behaviour that you wouldn’t want, like pulling on the lead.
If you have bought one of these leads you are buying into the idea that you can walk your dog and give him or her the freedom to roam and be one with nature (or whatever line they’re selling you). So people buy the dream of a happy dog and a blissful walk. But once you open the packet and strap one on, you get is a dog that is rewarded for pulling, has 100% control over the direction of travel, can get tangled around trees, poles, other people and other dogs, and can take off without notice only to hit the end of the reel and either snap back violently or break the rope altogether and continue running away from you.
My biggest complaint is that they reward pulling, and I haven’t yet met an owner that uses these on a walk to ever apologise for my or my dogs being caught up in them. For my dogs it is a stressful situation that could lead to biting, so I prefer to avoid situations like that, and honestly other dogs that are attached to these leads, unfortunately this limits the socialization of my dogs, and that is a shame.
In the U.S. there were 16,564 leash related injuries reported in 2007. (source). The website is quoted as saying “Of those (injuries), about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC’s (Consumer Product Safety Commission) data does not parse the leashes into types but it’s likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.” I would be very interested to find the figures that report on the number of injuries or deaths in dogs from these as these figures are only human injuries.
I hate complaining about stuff, really I do. But I have heard and seen too many examples of how these “tools” cause injury and in some cases death. I have used regular leashes all my life, and there are two things that I can say; I have never seen a safely warning pamphlet sold with a regular leash, and apart from minor rope burn from walking a large dog that pulls, I have never been badly injured, tripped, strangled, or had limbs amputated, and wouldn’t want to buy a product that is known to cause any of those.
So, to the people who use them to walk your dog on the street… stop it! Not only for your safety, but your dogs safety, and the people around you, and if you use your walk time as a way to bond with your dog, and teach them the correct way to walk with you, you will find that you BOTH start to enjoy the experience more. You don’t need a retractable dog leash for both of you to enjoy a walk. In fact, you shouldn’t use a retractable lead at all if that is what you’re seeking.