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Are Retractable Leashes Bad for Dogs?

Contrary to some of the articles you might find online, no, retractable dog leashes are NOT bad for dogs, especially when they’re used properly.

In fact, for most people and their dogs, under most walking conditions, retractable dog leashes are BETTER than traditional leashes, since they offer much more flexibility, freedom and opportunity for dogs, giving dogs a far superior walking experience compared to fixed-length leashes.

Still, when shopping for a retractable dog leash, you’re likely to come across a whole series of articles claiming that they bad, dangerous, or even illegal, but the truth is that retractable leashes can be just as safe, and much more convenient than a traditional fixed-length leash.

From the dog’s perspective, a retractable leash is almost always going to be the better, more preferred option, since it offers a whole series of benefits compared to static leashes.

Are Retractable Leashes Dangerous?

Retractable dog leashes can be dangerous, but they are typically every bit as safe as fixed-length leashes; the leash itself isn’t dangerous, it’s how the leash is used that determines whether or not it’s actually safe.

Let’s address each of the common complaints about retractable leashes so we can determine just how safe they actually are, and whether or not you should use a retractable dog leash.

Complaint 1: Retractable Leashes Don’t Offer Enough Control

One of the common complaints about retractable dog leashes is that they don’t offer the user enough control, so they can’t be used to keep dogs as safe as a traditional leash.

This may be true, under certain circumstances, like if you were to use a retractable leash and simply allow the dog to roam at full length at all times.

But most of the time, just because you CAN let the dog roam, doesn’t mean you SHOULD, or WOULD, and as long as you operate the leash responsibly, you can keep the dog under control and every bit as safe with a retractable.

Complaint 2: Retractable Leashes Are More Likely to Snap

This is another common safety concern about retractable dog leashes, but another one that’s more myth or legend than reality.

Sure, a retractable dog leash COULD snap if a strong dog on the end of it gave it a sharp tug, especially if you were to use a cheap, broken or worn-out retractable, and especially if you picked one of the cord types, rather than those with a tape or ribbon style leash.

The odds of snapping a ribbon or tape-style leash, which can easily be every bit as strong as a traditional fixed-length leash, are quite low, especially if you choose to use a leash that’s properly rated for your dog’s size and strength.

Just like anything else, you need to make sure that you pick the right tool for the job, so make sure that you’re choosing a retractable leash that suits your dog’s needs and you should be fine.

Complaint 3: Retractable Leashes Teach Dogs to Pull

Some people argue that retractable dog leashes teach dogs to pull, as the constant tension could teach them to ignore any sort of pressure, while encouraging them to pull since the retractable extends as they pull harder.

This may be true for those dog owners who totally ignore what their dog is doing, and aren’t managing the leash length actively, but for most people who are going to actively manage the length of the leash, who will utilize the lock and brake features, it shouldn’t be an issue.

The trick here is that it would be a bad idea to use a retractable with a dog who pulls in the first place, since that’s not really the purpose of a retractable.

Retractable leashes are more advanced options, allowing for more flexibility and freedom, but they should really only be used for dogs that already know how to walk properly, and who have been taught NOT to pull in the first place.

Complaint 4: Retractable Leashes Can Injure Dogs & People

Retractable dog leashes CAN and DO injure dogs and people, but so do traditional leashes.

The thing about retractable leashes is that they could hurt someone who doesn’t use them responsibly, but that’s true of virtually any product.

As long as you’re paying attention to your dog, making sure to use the retractable leash only under proper conditions, and avoiding things like high-traffic areas or environments with tons of obstacles, you shouldn’t have any trouble with potential injuries.

It’s important to pay attention to what you’re doing with a retractable though, because if you’re looking for a totally hands-off tool that allows you to ignore your dog and focus on your phone (or whatever else you choose to pay attention to), then you really are much more likely to cause or receive an injury.

Complaint 5: Retractable Leashes Aren’t Safe for Puppies

This is the only complaint about retractable leashes that we think is a valid concern.

We do not recommend using retractable leashes with dogs that haven’t already learned how to walk properly, meaning that they understand they shouldn’t pull, and they listen to verbal commands.

It would be irresponsible to hook up a dog that doesn’t even know how to walk to a retractable leash, unless you’re planning on using the leash as a fixed-length leash in the first place.

The problem here is that retractable leashes are specifically designed to give dogs additional freedom and flexibility, but that’s likely to lead to a confusing experience for a puppy that hasn’t already learned how to walk properly.

If you do choose to use a retractable leash with your puppy, then again, we suggest treating it as a fixed-length leash until the puppy is trained on proper walking.

Still on the frence about whether or not a retracable is right for you and your dog? View our Guide to the Pros and Cons of Retractable Leashes for additional details on determining which type of leash bet fits your specific needs.

What is the Best Retractable Dog Leash?

It’s relatively easy to find the right retractable dog leash, as the technology is straightforward and simple, and the most important feature of any leash is that it will be reliable.

The best retractable dog leash is the one that works for you, under the conditions you plan on using it, rated for the weight of your dog, and containing the features you need for your typical walking experience. That’s it!

As a basic guide on what to look out for, here are the things we think you’ll want to consider when shopping for your own retractable leash:

  • Durability – Make sure to buy your leash from a reputable source, as the biggest danger to any leash is the possibility it could break
  • Clip Type – Strength, size, and swiveling are what you’ll want to pay attention to here, as you need to make sure the clip is up for handling your dog, and that it can swivel so it won’t tangle
  • Leash Type – Do not get a retractable with a cord-style leash; you need a ribbon or tape-style leash, which means it isn’t a single thread, but more like a measuring tape (this is stronger, thus safer)
  • Weight Limit – This is the most important part of shopping for the right leash, as the best retractable dog leash for you will certainly be one that’s rated to handle the size of your dog

Our suggestion is to purchase your leash from Pet & Cuddle, as we offer an assortment of reliable, safe, comfortable and affordable retractable dog leashes.