The Dangers of Retractable Dog Leashes

By Gina Castagnozzi (Los Angeles, CA)

In the world of dog walking accessories, retractable leashes have gained popularity for their convenience and flexibility. In fact, they happen to be the #1 sellers in pet stores and online retailers. These seemingly handy devices are super popular and allow our furry friends to explore their surroundings with freedom. Sounds great right? However, beneath their alluring convenience lies a range of potential dangers that pet owners should be aware of. In this blog post, we will delve into the hidden risks associated with retractable leashes, highlighting the importance of prioritizing safety over popularity to protect our beloved pets.

  1. Lack of control - One of the most significant dangers posed by retractable leashes is the lack of control they afford the dog owner. While traditional fixed-length leashes provide direct control and keep dogs close to their owners, retractable leashes offer a considerably longer range, up to 26 ft! This extended range makes it challenging to respond quickly to sudden dangers or navigate crowded areas. Dogs on retractable leashes can dart into traffic, run up to strangers or other animals, or get entangled with objects such as trees or utility poles, putting them at risk of injury. Moreover, this lack of control not only jeopardizes the safety of the dog but also poses a threat to other pedestrians and their pets who may encounter an unpredictable dog on a retractable leash. If you are in a city, most likely there are leash laws in place which state that your leash should not extend past 6ft, and retractable leashes most certainly do not conform to that standard.


  1. Safety of People and Pets Around You - Retractable leashes often feature a thin, cord-like design that can be easily tripped over. In crowded areas, unsuspecting passersby may find themselves caught in the retractable leash, resulting in falls, injuries, or even fractures. The thin cord may also go unnoticed by individuals on bicycles or joggers until it's too late, leading to collisions or falls. Furthermore, the automatic locking mechanism of retractable leashes can malfunction, causing the leash to suddenly extend or retract, potentially startling the dog and causing them to react instinctively, increasing the risk of accidents. Such incidents not only pose physical dangers but can also create liability issues for the pet owner if they are found negligent in maintaining control over their dog.


  1. Potential for injuries – The mechanics of retractable leashes, with their spring-loaded reels, can pose significant risks to both dogs and their owners. When a dog reaches the end of the extended leash with force, which happens when they run or dart for example, it can lead to injuries such as whiplash, sprains, pulled muscles, or even more serious ailments. A larger, heavier dog that abruptly reaches the full extension of the leash can cause the owner to lose control, fall, or even drop the large, plastic handle sending the dog running and the leash dragging behind them. Additionally, the thin cord of a retractable leash can cause severe burns or cuts if it wraps around a person or dog at high speed. These injuries not only cause physical harm but can also have long-lasting effects on a dog's behavior and temperament. Dogs that have experienced pain or fear due to leash-related injuries may develop anxiety or aggression towards leashes, making future walks a stressful and challenging experience.


  1. Reinforcement of poor behavior – Retractable leashes inadvertently reinforce poor behavior in dogs. The extended range provided by these leashes allows dogs to pull, lunge, or jump on people or other animals, further reinforcing negative behaviors. Dogs quickly learn that by pulling on the leash, they can gain more freedom or reach their desired destination faster. This constant tugging on the leash can make it difficult to correct their behavior and exacerbates problems with obedience and leash manners. It can also strain the bond between the dog and its owner, as the owner may become frustrated or stressed from constantly battling against the dog's pulling. This can create challenges in maintaining control and discipline during walks, potentially leading to more stressful experiences for both the dog and its owner.

Best Leash to Purchase

You’re probably wondering what type of leash you should be using to keep your dog, yourself, and others safe. The material is not as important as the fact that you should have total control of your dog while using the leash. It is recommended to use a leash between 4 and 6 feet to be able to do this properly. Choosing which exact length depends on your personal preference and what works best for you, your dog, and the situation. Our personal favorite length is 5 ft. It gives your dog plenty of freedom to roam without getting too far away from their owner and without the leash dragging on the ground. There are many awesome, non-retracting leash options out there now with features that range from traffic handles to waste bag holders to adjustable or interchangeable lengths.

We don’t want to give the impression that retractable leashes are all bad. In the right situation, they can be a great tool! An example of a circumstance where they are quite handy is when you are trying to practice recall with your dog. If you are in an open, uncrowded space, the long extension that this leash provides allows you to work on recall techniques with your pup. The problem that has developed is that people use them for everyday walks, in crowded environments, which is not what they were intended for. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to prioritize safety and opt for alternative leash options that provide better control and minimize risks. Just because so many people use retractable leashes does not mean they are the best choice. By using traditional fixed-length leashes, we can ensure safer walks for our furry companions and promote a more enjoyable and stress-free bonding experience between pets and their owners.

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