From the perspective of a certified animal behavior consultant, if I had the power to do so, I would ban retractable leashes.
Of course, some veterinary clinics offer dog training classes, and veterinarians and certified veterinary technicians should always encourage puppy training and suggest appropriate equipment. But when a client walks into the exam room with a dog on a retractable leash, it’s an opportunity to have a conversation.
Here are some talking points:
1. The very concept of giving dogs room to roam can be a problem. Some retractable leashes can extend up to 26 feet. True enough, giving the dog some independence, but the dog is so far out ahead, there’s no way to control or sometimes even to see what’s happening ahead.
2. Retractable leashes effectively teach dogs to pull ahead of their people, which is exactly what you don’t want.
3. That expression about a handler’s emotions traveling from one end of the leash to the other are true with a six-foot leash, but not a retractable leash (unless the dog is very nearby). Not only can the dog see the handler, the dog can presumably “smell” what the handler is feeling—perhaps picking up on pheromones. If the handler feels threatened by anything from another person to a coyote, best for all involved for the dog to be able to pick up on that—and for the handler to more easily be able to control the dog.
4. Retractable leashes are thinner than standard leather or nylon leashes. If the handler drops the heavy handle and picks up the leash, rope burn can occur. And the thin cord of a retractable leash can break—especially when a powerful dog is on the other end. If a strong, good-sized dog takes off at full speed, the cord can snap. Not only can that put the dog and whatever he may be chasing in danger, but also the cord can snap back and injure the human at the other end.
5. Dogs have suffered serious injuries as a result of the sudden jerk on their neck that occurs when they run out of leash; they may also suffer lacerated tracheas or back injuries.
6. The handles of retractable leashes are bulky and can be easily pulled out of the hand of the person holding it, resulting in a runaway dog, dragging the retractable leash behind.
7. A simple six-foot (or shorter) leather or nylon leash can’t malfunction—there’s nothing to malfunction. Retractable leashes can break, fail to extend or retract, or unspool. While this may not be dangerous, it is annoying to have a “broken leash.” +