Tag Archives: retractable leash

Retractable Dog Leashes: Are They Dangerous?


Once you have bought the items that’ll make your furry new family member feel welcome in your home—like beds, treats, and toys—it’s time to make decisions about practical things—like which leash you will use for walking with your canine companion.

There are the traditional leather or nylon leashes, which come in enough colors and lengths to suit any pet owner’s style, and there are retractable leashes, which also come in a host of different styles to suit individual preferences. The main goal, however, should be to choose the safest leash for your dog.

While it can be said that there are pet owners who are happy with their retractable leashes, before you make that final decision, consider the pros and cons of these devices.

The Pros of Retractable Leashes

Some dog owners prefer using a retractable leash over a standard leash when walking their pup. For Josh Manheimer, a direct mail copywriter for J.C. Manheimer & Company in Vermont, using a retractable with his 2-year-old basset hound Stella makes sense so she can still explore all the smells she wants.

“The benefits of extending leads are clearly that dogs can have more interesting walks and poorly trained dogs can still be prevented from running off and into danger,” says Dr. Roger Mugford, animal psychologist and CEO and founder of the Company of Animals.

There are benefits for both the dog and the human walking them, says Phil Blizzard, CEO and founder of ThunderWorks, which makes a retractable ThunderLeash. In addition to exercise, Blizzard says a retractable leash allows the human to keep a steady pace while the dog can freely sniff things that interest them.

The Cons of Retractable Leashes

The main drawbacks of retractable leashes revolve around training and safety.

Blizzard realizes that retractable leashes can be a safety concern. To help this, the ThunderLeash comes with a booklet to help dog owners use it more safely. The ThunderLeash can also be arranged to be a “no-pull” leash, wrapping around the dog’s torso to discourage pulling, says Blizzard.

“You need to be paying attention if you have the retractable on the open setting where it can go to the full length,” he says. “If you’re in the city you need to make sure you’re keeping your dog on the sidewalk, out of danger, and not running up to somebody. It’s not a good multi-tasking device as they’re currently designed.”

Manheimer says he hasn’t had any issues while walking Stella, but he’s still cautious. “My biggest concern is if Stella absentmindedly wanders after an attractive scent, or worse, lunges for a squirrel.” Cars are another issue, he says. “Neither of us is aware of the stealthy Prius in electric-mode.”

Safety Factors to Consider with Retractable Leashes

Not all pets, or pet owners, are good candidates for retractable leashes. Veterinarians say they see a lot of injuries related to retractable leashes.

“The most common are neck injuries, since a pet might start to run before the owner can lock the leash,” says Dr. Duffy Jones, DVM, of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Georgia. “Many times the dogs have a full head of steam before the owner locks the leash, so it creates a good deal of force on their collar when the leash finally locks.” Reports of lacerated tracheas (windpipes) and spinal injuries are relatively common.

Other injuries include dog fight injuries due to a dog being too far away for the owner to bring it back quickly enough, and although Jones says never treated a dog that’s been hit by car due to a retractable leash, he says it’s easy to see how such things can happen.

“A few years ago I was driving home in my neighborhood after dark and I saw a man walking on one side of the street,” he says. “As I got closer, I realized his dog was on the other side of the street with a retractable leash.  Luckily, I was able to stop to allow him to retract the leash and get his dog back on the same side of the road as himself.”

And it’s not only pets that can be injured by a retractable leash, humans can be injured by getting wrapped up in a long leash and falling, Jones says.

Mugford says that some of the safety issues with retractable leashes come because people don’t know how to use them properly.

“Too often, people don’t get the hang of thumb controls, and they panic and lose control of the dog,” he says. “Owners reach forward to grab the line of the extending lead with their free hand and can then sustain nasty rope burns.” In one case that received attention a few years back, a woman had her index finger cut off by a retractable dog leash.

It’s clear that leash manufacturers understand that retractable leashes come with safety concerns.

Mugford’s company makes the HALTI Walking retractable lead, which he says alleviates the rope burn problem with soft tape. The company also takes safety into consideration with reflective thread in the leash and an ergonomic handle.

Another retractable leash manufacturer, flexi, offers written directions and a video on their website so owners will better understand how to use retractable leashes. The directions cover possible safety issues like falls, face injuries, and finger amputations, and tells people how to avoid these dangers.

How Retractable Leashes Affect Training

Even if you’re committed to using a retractable leash while walking, you may want to reconsider it if you’re looking to train your dog, trainers say.

“As a trainer, one of the biggest things I see people coming in for is loose-leash walking,” says Merritt Milam, founder and head trainer at Wags ‘n Whiskers in Alabama. “It’s what everyone’s worried about, but a retractable leash literally teaches a dog to pull.”

If you want to train your dog for loose-leash walking but have been using a retractable leash with your dog, Milam says it’s harder to reverse the behavior. It’s also difficult to train other behaviors while using a retractable leash because the dog is so far away.

“If they’re four to six feet away, they’re still in your vicinity and you can talk to them and give them cues as you need to,” she says. “[Retractable leashes] might not teach them to ignore, but it gives them the opportunity to ignore as much as they want.”

Instead of retractable leashes, Milam recommends a four-to-six foot flat leash. “Just a regular leash that’s not going to let them drag their owner 15 feet, that’s my favorite.”

She uses longer leashes for training sometimes, such as a 20-foot leash, but notes that she can make them shorter if necessary and isn’t relying on a button to do so, like on a retractable leash.

Even dogs who are used to walking with a retractable leash can learn loose-leash walking, Milam says. “It just takes more time and patience.”

Overall, there are clearly concerns about retractable leashes when it comes to both training and safety. If you have specific questions, talk to your veterinarian or trainer to see which option will work best for your dog.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372

Is a Retractable Leash Safe for Dogs?

Flexi leads or freedom leashes, might seem like more fun for Fido, but at what cost?

Once touted as the best thing since sliced bread because a retractable leash allow your dog extra freedom while still being on-leash, these flexible leashes are now being banned by many doggy daycare, pet retail, and grooming facilities.

Find Out Why:


As a dog trainer, I cringe when I see a client come in on a flexi-lead. Usually the first thing out of their mouth is then, “my dog pulls constantly!” I usually have to hold my tongue at this point because I really want to say something like this:

Instead, I say something along the lines of “well, you are using an extendable leash that rewards your dog with freedom when he pulls.”

These leashes are a great way to teach your dog to pull. They are the worst way to try and teach your dog loose leash walking or heel. Not only do they reward your dog when they pull, but when they come back to you, or try to give  you “loose leash” they are “corrected” by losing their freedom (leash retracts). So why on Earth would your dog ever come back to you?

Teach Your Dog to Stop Pulling on the Leash>> 


Probably the most dangerous thing about these leads is the lack of control. In order for an owner to get their dog back, the dog has to come toward the dog. So, if your dog is 20 feet away from you and something happens:

  • An aggressive dog appears
  • A car comes whizzing out of nowhere
  • Your extended leash is over a sidewalk where a biker, skateboarder, etc. is fast approaching
  • Your dog is aggressively reacting to someone or something
  • Your dog is chasing a bike, car, cat, etc.
  • Your leash gets wrapped around another person, dog, etc.

What can you do?

Well, you can lock the leash, so your dog cannot get any more lead, but you can’t bring him back. You are left trying to grab a thin piece of line, and drag your dog back to you, or you have to run the 20 feet to him. And, if you do grab that cord and your dog pulls, you can be severely burned.

This is all assuming you can even see that your dog is in or is causing trouble. If there is a hill or a corner, you may not even be aware.

By the time you have pulled your dog to you or ran to the scene, something tragic could have already happened. It’s just not safe.

It’s for this reason that Keith Miller, owner of Pampered Pooch Playground and Bubbly Paws Dog Wash in Minneapolis, Minn., does not sell them.

“We refuse to sell flex leashes in our stores because of the dangers associated with them,” Miller explains. “I have a huge scab on my leg right now from an irresponsible customer that let her dog run in our door and pull. The leash burned the front of my leg.”

Safer Alternatives

So you want your dog to have a bit of freedom without causing an accident or ruining your training.

Miller suggests the following two leashes, both of which he sells in his stores:

  • Stunt Puppy – Stunt Runner Leashes. They are a hands-free leash that gives your dog 3’ of freedom without teaching them that pulling is a good thing. www.stuntpuppy.com
  • Ruff Wear – they have several options available, including leashes with the “traffic handle” which are great for when you need to get quick control of your dog. www.ruffwear.com
  • 3rd Hand Leash – this is a unique design that has some great features including a quick grab handles and place for your phone or iPodwww.otgpaws.com

A solid leather leash is also always a safe and sturdy choice.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

310 919 9372