The Effects of Retractable Leashes for Dogs - FAF

The Effects of Retractable Leashes for Dogs

Retractable leashes for dogs seemed like such a great idea when they first hit the market. They were presented as a fun accessory that gave Fido more freedom. But there’s a dark side to retractables. These trendy leashes can pose a danger to both dogs and humans. There are numerous reports of injuries to people, while dogs have died after running into the street and being hit by a car while on a lead that’s way too long. 

Some pet parents mistakenly believe retractables are akin to “fishing poles” and will attempt to “reel” their dog in should he venture too far. But these leashes will only recoil with a loose lead. Even small dogs can create enough tension to prevent a retractable from working. 

A dog walker may attempt to create slack by running up to her dog, then quickly shortening the leash’s length by pushing a button on the handle. This process is often repeated several times until the walker eventually gains control.

Problems with retractable leashes have become so common that some shelters, veterinary clinics, dog parks, and even cities, are banning or restricting their use. In Madison, Wisconsin, the city proposed regulations that prohibit retractable leashes in their dog parks. Lakewood, Ohio also instituted a city-wide ordinance mandating that dogs could only be walked on a standard six-foot leash. Many Florida counties require that a dog be “under direct control” of his or her guardian. Anyone whose dog causes an incident while attached to an extended retractable may very well be in violation of local ordinances.  

Instead of purchasing a retractable leash, consider putting your money into dog training lessons where traditional flat nylon or rope leashes are used. The result will be a better-trained dog and a safer, more enjoyable walk.


Here are five reasons why retractable leashes are a bad idea. 

Retractable Leashes Can Injure Your Dog 

If a retractable leash is constantly being extended and recoiled, a dog can’t properly gauge when he’s hit “the end of the line” and can hurt himself. Dogs who sprint may unexpectedly run out of lead and wind up with spine and trachea injuries. There are also reports of dogs accidentally strangling themselves after getting tangled in the thin cable. 


Retractable Leashes Can Injure You 

In 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 16, 564 injuries to humans specifically from leashes. While statistics now only record injuries to people from pet supplies (55,000 people wound up in the ER in 2013), it’s suspected a good chunk of these are from retractable leashes.

Human medical emergencies resulting from retractable leashes include slip and falls from dog pulling, rope burns, and cuts from the thin cord-like leash if it comes into contact with skin after being extended too quickly. In January 2015, Heather Oberdorf was blinded in her left eye when her dog’s collar broke and caused the retractable leash to snap back and hit her in the face.  

In an interview with Consumer Reports, dog owner Heather Todd revealed that a portion of her index finger was sliced off by a retractable in 2005. The leash accidentally twisted around her finger when her 90-pound Labrador retriever suddenly bolted. “It just cut it off like a sharp knife,” Todd said, revealing that she fell and was dragged four or five feet during the incident.

Some retractable leash manufacturers now list possible product injuries. One company cautions purchasers they may succumb to falls, cuts, and burns if the leash rubs on their skin, then goes on to warn of possible fractures, amputations, eye and face wounds, and injuries to bystanders.


You Might Lose Control Over Your Dog 

Retractable leashes come in several different lengths, with some leads extending up to 26 feet. But every extra foot results in a greater loss of control for the dog’s walker. A dog can run into the road or may approach a person or another animal without invitation.

Your Dog is Rewarded for Pulling 

Nobody likes going for a walk with a dog who pulls. But when pulling dogs are hooked up to a retractable leash, the pet parent will typically push the button to extend the cable and let the dog fly. This routine teaches the dog that the more she pulls the greater the amount of freedom she’ll receive. Excessive pulling can result in gagging and coughing, and even injure a dog’s trachea. 


You May Experience Technical Difficulties

Like any other gadget, retractable leashes don’t last forever. The thin cable lead can break, especially as it wears down with time and use. The locking and retracting mechanism can also fail. 

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