Why we Discontinued the Sale of Retractable Leashes

When I was a trainer teaching classes I quickly banned these leashes from class time, as dogs can suddenly dash into the space of another dog that might have social issues.

This has continued to plague us at the store, as many dogs are reactive on leash or simply overexcited by other dogs. Some dogs are painfully frightened of being in a store to begin with, and being in close space with other dogs nearby can exacerbate this. When another dog on a retractable leash can quickly rush into their space, fights can break out. Stopping a fight is very difficult and dangerous if you can’t pull them out of the situation with their leash, and reaching in to remove the dog on a retractable leash would put the human in danger of being bitten. This also creates an unfair disadvantage for other people that are carefully trying to train dogs with social issues, as their ability to manage their dog’s space to keep their dog comfortable is destroyed easily by a dog that is suddenly 16 feet away from their owner and in that dog’s space. (some retractable leashes even go to 26 feet). It can be a huge training setback for these people who are trying to provide positive experiences for their dog in a place that contains other dogs within sight range.
Another problem for us is that when people are distracted by shopping, they may not notice when their dog is getting into trouble, eating treats on counter displays or marking our antique furniture (old wood is so porous!)
I do think there are some times that a retractable can add to the fun of an outing while still being “on leash” for safety, such as on the beach, or on a hike in areas that are not busy with people and other dogs, but please be aware that dogs leaving a trail at all in some habitats can damage fragile vegetation, etc.

The safety concerns for dogs and people are many when you use a retractable leash in a populated area. Even if your dog is tiny and wouldn’t break a leash, wouldn’t it be terrible if an off leash dog attacked your little dog and it was 16 or more feet away from you when it happened? Please read these ten reasons below before deciding to use a retractable leash. Remember: if you use a retractable leash, keep it retracted and locked so it is as short as or shorter than a regular leash in places with other dogs and people. When you are in an open space, you can give them more room to explore. If you are looking to buy a retractable leash for trips to the beach, find one with a “belt” or “tape” instead of a cord. This can be safer for your skin.



10 Reasons Not to Use a Retractable Leash

1.  The length of retractable leashes, some of which can extend up to 26 feet, allows dogs to get far enough away from their humans that a situation can quickly turn dangerous. A dog on a retractable leash is often able to run into the middle of the street, for example, or make uninvited contact with other dogs or people.

2. In the above scenario, or one in which your pet is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It’s much easier to regain control of – or protect — a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he’s 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string.

These tape and string flexi leashes come with safety warnings. From their website:

  • If the cord runs across your skin, it can cause
    abrasions (like a rope burn) or severe cuts. Cuts and burns are more likely if the cord wraps around any part of the body”.
  • Avoid contact with the cord and never let it wrap around any part of your body.”
    • “Do not allow slack to build up in the cord – you might get tangled in the slack”.
    • “Do not touch the cord if the cord wraps around you. Turn around or pass the handle from one hand to the other to unwrap yourself. (See “Finger Amputation and Fractures”)
    • “If you want to further reduce the risk of cuts and burns, you can wear long sleeves and pants to protect your arms and legs”
  • If the leash or your dog’s collar breaks, or if the leash disconnects from your dog’s collar, the cord and hook can snap back with enough force to cause serious eye damage, broken teeth, cuts, and bruises. If the cord is under enough tension, this can happen even when the leash is locked”.

When the leash is fully extended, it can be very difficult to get your dog back to you safely, as pulling on the cord with your hands makes you vulnerable to injuries. See This link for a photo of the nasty injuries these cords can inflict on your legs/arms

The thin cord of a retractable leash can break – especially when a powerful dog is on the other end of it. This can endanger the dog, and can also result in an injury to the owner.

Dogs necks and spines can also be injured by the sudden jerk if they run all the way to the length of the leash, hitting the end. Owners should be aware that the bulky handles can be pulled out of your hand when this happens as well, especially if your dog is suddenly running. the sound of the plastic handle bouncing on the pavement can really frighten the dog who is running away, as if they are being chased by it).

Retractables can train a dog to pull on their leashes, as pulling is what extends the leash.

I had a customer who had gotten a nasty injury to her fingers by a cord, and then I was bitten by a small dog whose owner was leaning into her car to get things organized. I was jogging by and the dog dashed after me, the long flexi allowing her to reach me and bite my leg.
After that, I decided it might be time to write this blog post, and encourage the use of extendable leashes be restricted to large outdoor spaces. I would certainly use one on a big uncrowded beach that requires dogs to be leashed. We still will order these leashes for people who want them, but we did decide to take them off of our store shelves.


4 Responses to “Why we Discontinued the Sale of Retractable Leashes”

  1. Betty Marino

    I became convinced that retractable leashes are dangerous when I saw a small dog almost get choked to death on one. I was waiting for an elevator to go down but when it arrived it was heading up. A woman was in the back with a small dog on a retractable leash. The dog came out into the landing and the doors closed behind it. The poor dog was being lifted up by the elevator. Another bystander grabbed the dog to relieve the tension while I struggled to detach it. We got it off just in time. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

  2. Bob

    Every one of these reasons can be mitigated by using the leash responsibly and paying attention to your surroundings, something you should be doing by default when walking your dog.

  3. MYau

    My retractable leash goes very well with my dog. All arguments against the use of it is related to the misuse of the leash and poor training, not the leash itself. It’s like telling everyone that you’re not going to sell a knife because it can kill.

    Dog training 101 will tell you not to allow a dog to pull a leash, but some owners even assume that pulling is just natural. That’s what breaks the leash.

    On the sideway, I’d also never unlock the leash. Hey, they do have a lock, which is designed to lock up the leash for safety. (Could anything be more obvious?)

    I only use the retractable leash in a safe place, such as a park, so the dog enjoys more freedom while I, as her owner, can make sure she wouldn’t run away and become a stray dog.

  4. greendog

    While we agree with you, the number of incidences of injury re received weighed heavy on our conscience – we gladly special order them for people if they want them – as I said in the article they’re great at places like the beach! We just decided to take them off of the shelf in our store, and wanted to put the word out about the risks of using them, especially in tight places like the store, and on city streets/in traffic, etc. Not everyone is as sensible as you are about how to use it. In fact, a dog bit me recently – he hopped out of the car on that leash and ran 16 feet towards me while I was jogging by while his owner’s head was still in the car gathering stuff up. We encourage training and good sense when people buy them from us, but I felt it was a little extra something I could do to write a blog post to bring awareness to the issues they have, so incidences like the bite I received, or the many problems of people using them in the store that I described at the beginning of the article might be lessened.

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