The Danger of Using a Retractable Leash to Walk Your Dog


I was just reading a post on the All Things Dog Blog about the importance of walking your dog. And it made me think about my experience with teaching my hyper yellow Labrador Retriever, Maya, how to walk on a leash.

I have never used a retractable leash with any of my dogs until my dog walker gave me one for my Labrador/Shepherd/Chow mix, Sephi. “Great!”, I thought, “This is much easier than a leash.” So I used it to take Sephi for a walk all the time. When I got Maya, I found the retractable leash much easier to use with her as well. Especially since she is so crazy. She likes to investigate everything with energetic exuberance. So the retractable leash was the best way to let her do that and not get blisters on my hands with all her pulling.
I regret coming to rely on the retractable leash with Maya. There are three situations which I would like to address when it comes to using a retractable leash. The three issues all revolve around one thing – control. You can’t control your dog as well when they are on a retractable leash.
Let me share a story with you which was told to my by a customer visiting our booth at the Kansas City Pet Expo. We were discussing our pets and other pet issues when she told me about how she accidentally hit and killed a dog who had run into the street while being walked on their retractable leash. The dog had run unexpectedly into the street to get at another dog who was walking on the other side of the street. It happened so quickly that the owner was unable to lock the mechanism on the retractable leash in time and the driver of the car was unable to stop. The dog died instantly. It was a traumatizing event for both the dog owner and the dog lover who killed him.

The second and third situations with using a retractable leash have to do with Maya. The second situation is not as tragic as the story above, but it could have been. As I said, Maya likes to investigate every little thing when she goes on a walk. While we were lucky enough that she never encountered an oncoming car in the street, she did encounter other dangerous things – things like garbage, dead animals, and glass. I tried to stop her with the locking mechanism, but I wasn’t always successful. Maya cut her tongue on broken glass one day. Luckily it wasn’t too badly cut and she was okay.

By always walking Maya with a retractable leash, she never learned to walk properly on a leash without pulling. Every walk was a struggle. Although I had less issues with the retractable leash than with a leash, I still didn’t have as much control as I would have if I had just trained her properly. Check out the story about Why My Dog Is Pink and see how a retractable leash caused Maya to get away from me and into trouble.

Last summer I stopped using the retractable leash and started training Maya to walk on a proper leash. It has been a long hard struggle because I didn’t teach her properly to begin with. But after several months, I am proud to say that Maya can now walk on a regular leash with out pulling at least 90% of the time. We still have issues like when she sees another dog or wants to investigate something, but she is much easier to control and our walks are now much safer.

Feel free to use a retractable leash on occasion, but don’t use it when walking along a street. And don’t rely on it for proper training. As indicating in the All Things Dog Blog, proper training and leash walking can go a long way.

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