The Pros and Cons of Retractable Leashes

A dog off for a run with its skateboarding companions

When it comes to pet care products, dog owners know there’s no end to the available products on the market, and leashes are no different. Dog owners can choose retractable leashes or traditional leather or nylon leashes that come in a wide variety of lengths, colors, and patterns.

Retractable leashes have been growing in popularity in recent years, but they can put pets and people at serious risk of injury, trauma, or worse. The team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital wants to shed some light on this controversial issue so our readers can make an informed decision when it comes to walking their four-legged best friends.

Retractable Leashes 101

Retractable leashes are essentially thin cords that retract into a large, plastic handle. The cord is attached to a spring-loaded mechanism inside the handle, and a button on the outside allows the walker to control how far the leash can extend at any given time.

Know the Risks

Before purchasing a retractable leash, make sure you’re aware of the considerable safety concerns:

  • Too long – Retractable leashes can extend up to 30 feet, which is much too long for most dogs. Being too far away can lead a dog into extremely dangerous situations, such as running into the street, running into a bicycle, encountering aggressive dogs or wildlife, or becoming tangled in the cord (or tangling you in the cord).
  • Unwieldy – The handles of most retractable leashes are large and awkward. Many owners don’t take the time to learn how to properly use them, which can cause problems when a fast reaction time is needed in an emergency situation.
  • A cause of injury for pets and people – Retractable leashes are known to cause back and neck injuries in people as a result of being pulled or jerked suddenly by their dog. Becoming tangled in the cord of the leash has resulted in burns from the cord, cuts and scrapes, broken bones, and even the amputation of a finger.
  • Not strong enough – A large or powerful dog can easily snap the thin cord of a retractable leash.

Using Retractable Leashes Safely

When used properly and with a well-trained dog who responds immediately to your commands, retractable leashes can provide a sense of freedom for both dog and owner. Always supervise your pet closely when on a retractable leash and make sure you’re comfortable with using the handle. Never use a retractable leash in a crowded public or urban area, as it’s very hard to control the many risks that your pet could encounter in this environment.

Some pet supply companies have responded to the criticism of retractable leashes by creating safer products. Do your research before purchasing.

If you’d like more information on this topic or have any questions or concerns about your pet, please don’t hesitate to contact our staff.