Six Reasons to Re-Think Retractable Leashes

Category_Dog Training Category_Dogs Category_Dog_Walking Writer_MaryBeth_Bittel

Sparky Steps - Six Reasons to Re-Think Retractable Leashes

Six Reasons to Re-Think Retractable Leashes

Here at Sparky Steps, pet safety is always our primary concern. When we walk dogs, we use standard leashes for the dependable control they provide. Pet owners sometimes ask us how we feel about retractable leashes. Actually, we don’t use them – for some very specific reasons. Do you use a retractable leash with your own pooch at home? We definitely understand their appeal! You probably know the type of leash we’re talking about: They’re typically designed with a hard plastic case that houses a thin, flexible cord. This cord unspools so roving canines can wander 10, 20, even 25 feet in any direction. The cord length can be locked or withdrawn with a quick flick of the wrist. Your dog is attached to the lead, but in a way that seems less confining. Overall, it actually sounds like a pretty ingenious approach. But in 2009, Consumer Reports set off some troubling alarm bells with an article entitled, “Retractable Leashes Pose Problems for People and Their Pets.” The ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States also chimed in, listing a few related cautions on their web sites. Why all the fuss? When it comes to these particular dog walking devices, our Sparky Steps team invites you to consider six potential drawbacks.


  1. Entanglements

    Under the right circumstances, that super-thin retractable cord could wrap around you, your canine, a bystander, or another animal. It could also zip rapidly across skin or fur while your dog darts around – and instinctively trying to grab it could cause burns, cuts, deep lacerations, or worse. Consider the distressing example of Heather Todd, whose story was shared by Consumer Reports. Todd’s index finger was accidentally severed when her pup suddenly bolted, and the retractable cord tightened unexpectedly. A canine’s leg or tail could suffer a similar fate.


  1. Malfunction

Remember that if an excited animal pulls hard enough, that narrow cable could abruptly snap and whiplash back into your face or eyes. Alternatively, the lock mechanism could jam or break while the leash is extended. This actually happened back in 2008, when 223,000 “Slydog” brand retractable leashes were recalled. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), several complaints were received about a metal clip breaking and flying off. The agency cited injuries including “facial cuts, a broken tooth, a displaced eye lens, and a bruised collar bone.” This leash was subsequently redesigned.


  1. Exposure

    What if a hostile, aggressive, or wild animal suddenly darted toward your pet while the retractable leash was fully extended? You might not have time to pull your pup to safety. While roaming freely, your canine might also come into contact with another leashed pet who’s under the weather. This illness could be transmitted via direct contact -- before you were able to guide your dog away.


  1. Panic

    Ever think about what might occur if you accidentally dropped that plastic handle? It would make a loud clattering noise. Dogs who startle easily could bolt. But even relatively calm canines may feel like the handle was “chasing” them as it bounced along the pavement. Your frightened pet might be alarmed enough to race directly into traffic.


  1. Force Trauma

    Fast-moving dogs who unexpectedly reach the end of an extended retractable cord may experience an abrupt yank to the neck. Dr. Garret Pachtinger, a critical care specialist at the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Levittown, PA, has noted that this type of sudden jolt could lead to a severe spinal injury or trachea laceration.


  1. Pulling

    Our skilled Sparky Steps team has also noticed that retractable leashes often teach pups some undesirable outdoor behaviors. Over time, your dog basically learns that pulling frees up additional length on the lead. Once a pet has made this association, it can be very tricky to re-shape this pulling tendency.


So before going the retractable route, Sparky Steps suggests considering a super-sturdy “hands-free” or “roamer” leash instead. These proven products are made by trusted brands like Ruffwear and Iron Doggy. A leash like this normally features elastic webbing and/or highly durable fasteners. Your dog gets to explore -- but you’re firmly in control at all times. That’s a win-win if we ever heard one!


Written by Marybeth Bittel


Additional Sources: – spinal injuries, trachea lacerations

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