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When Should You Use a Retractable Dog Leash?

When Should You Use a Retractable Dog Leash?

Retractable dog leashes are excellent options for walking your dog, virtually any time, when used properly.

But there are certainly times that a retractable makes more sense than others, and this post will explain when it's best to use a retractable dog leash, and when to leave it at home.

In many instances, a retractable dog leash can be convenient and make walks with your dog more enjoyable and more comfortable for both of you. With that being said, there are times when a retractable dog leash isn’t the ideal option.

To help you make the right decision on which leash to take, let's go through it in detail.

Times to Consider Using a Retractable Dog Leash

Some of the specific scenarios where a retractable dog leash makes the most sense include:

  • If your dog is relatively well-behaved, a retractable dog leash can work well for your needs. For example, if your dog is trained not to pull or chase, lunge, or run away from you while you’re walking him, then a retractable leash can be the right type for you.
  • If you’re walking in an open space, having the length available from a retractable leash can benefit your dog. An open space includes an area where there isn’t any traffic, and there are no other dogs, obstacles, or people too close by.
  • If your dog is walking with a harness, then it can pair well with a retractable leash. Not all harnesses can work with retractable leashes though. You should only use a retractable leash with a standard harness, having a clip on top of your dog’s shoulder area. Don’t use a harness with a leash attachment point in front of your dog. If you use a harness that has the front clip attachment, it’s uncomfortable for your dog.

Just remember that when you're using a retractable leash, it’s up to you to stay mindful of your environment, and you need to pay attention to your dog.

If you're going to pay attention to your dog, then you can use a retractable leash at any time, since you can simply shorten it, set the lock, and ensure that your dog remains safe.

If you socialize on your walks or you’re on your phone, ignoring your dog, then you might not want to use a retractable leash.

Why Should You Consider a Retractable Dog Leash?

When you choose a retractable dog leash, you’re giving yourself and your dog more flexibility and options as far as enjoying your walks. You can give your dog more roaming space if the situation allows.

However, you also have the option to quickly reduce the leashes length, or set it's length, all with the push of a button.

When you compare a fixed-length leash to a retractable leash, you have more options with the retractable, making it convenient, and flexible.

Are Retractable Dog Leashes Dangerous?

Despite their seemingly bad reputation, retractable leashes can be incredibly safe.

The difference between a safe and unsafe leash, no matter the type, depends on you behaving as a responsible pet owner.

When any leash is used by a dog walker who isn’t paying attention or being responsible, or on a dog that’s aggressive or has certain behavior issues, it can pose a risk.

One concern people have about these types of leashes is that they can be painful to a dog’s neck. Yes, a retractable leash can hurt a dog, but this only happens in avoidable scenarios that result from neglect and irresponsible behavior of the owner.

For example, if you’re holding a retractable leash and not paying attention to your dog, and you've let a ton of slack in the leash, then if your dog suddenly bolts and hits the maximum length of the leash, they could get hurt.

There’s also a concern over the level of control you have when walking your dog on a retractable. If you’re in an environment with a lot of obstacles, including people, then you shouldn’t allow your dog to have too much roaming length.

In these situations, you'll want to keep the leash shorter so you can keep your dog close to you to avoid having the leash wrap around you, your dog, or another person. Set the brake and give your dog the roaming space that’s safe in any given situation.

If you’re worried about the potential for a retractable leash to break, choosing a quality product is your best defense. You should avoid the leashes that use a single cord. Instead, choose one with a ribbon or tape-style leash. You also need to ensure you’re choosing the right leash based on your dog’s size and strength.

Pros and Cons of Retractable Dog Leashes

You want the best for your dog, and as such, weighing your options is important. Some of the benefits of a retractable dog leash include:

  • You can provide your dog more space to roam freely and explore with a retractable.
  • If you regularly walk in open areas or places without a lot of other cars, people, dogs, or obstacles, retractable leashes are great.
  • Using a retractable is ideal if your dog is well-behaved and follows commands.
  • If you lack significant manual dexterity, you may find a retractable helps you because it controls its own strength.
  • When a dog can be your scout and walk ahead of you at a comfortable pace, it helps build their confidence.

The potential downsides of a retractable dog leash include:

  • If you’re an owner who doesn’t pay attention to your dog on your walks, a retractable dog leash can mean you give too much roaming space, which could become dangerous in certain situations.
  • Your leash, since it has more moving parts than a leash that’s a fixed-length, could wear out faster.
  • A retractable leash may be a bit more expensive than other options.

How to Pick the Right Retractable Dog Leash

Your success using a retractable dog leash is going to come down to your ability to function as a responsible owner and dog walker, but you should also make sure to choose a high-quality leash.


When you’re selecting a dog leash with retractability, durability should be your top priority. You want to choose a leash from a reputable company, and one made with quality materials. If you have a bigger or stronger dog, you’re also going to want the most durable product available.

Weight Limit

Your dog’s weight will help guide your buying decision. You might even want to go a little above your dog’s actual weight when you’re choosing a leash. For example, if a leash is rated to 100 pounds, it may not actually be enough for your 100-pound dog. Instead, consider going with a slightly higher rated leash to give yourself some wiggle room. If you have a dog prone to jumping and pulling, you might want to go even more above their weight rating.

Leash Style

There are three primary leash style options with a retractable design. There are tape, ribbon and cord. We do not recommend using the cord-style leashes, even with small dogs.

Ribbon and tape-style leashes are more durable and will work better for dogs of all sizes, and for safety reasons, we highly recommend choosing one of these types of leashes.


Think about how you are realistically going to use a leash. What’s the amount of length you think you most often need? In some places, you aren’t even allowed to use leashes longer than six feet, so that can factor in as well.

Do you often let your dog roam and explore on their leash? Or, do you live somewhere with a lot of pedestrian and car traffic that prevents you from being able to do this?

You might want to get a long leash, such as one that’s 16-feet, and then you have the room if you want it, but you don’t have to use it.


Brake control quality is important as you choose a leash because that’s one reason you’re able to have the flexibility that comes with a retractable leash.

You can set up an upper limit on how far you want your dog to be able to walk. A leash that will auto-retract is also helpful, meaning that if your dog is staying closing, then you’re reducing the potential for tangles or someone getting wrapped up in the leash.

There’s also a feature some leashes are equipped with, which is a lock control. It lets you set the length exactly instead of setting a maximum limit. This increases the risk of tangles, so it’s not an ideal feature to have. Go with traditional brake control instead of lock controls.

Other Considerations

Along with what’s already been explained above, other buying considerations include:

  • Look for a product with a tangle-free design. There should be an ability for the ribbon, tape, or cord to avoid wrapping around itself or around the inner mechanisms located in the handle.
  • If you walk your dog at night, be aware that some leashes have reflective materials and lights.
  • The handle is what you’re going to use, so look for one that you like the feel, shape, size, and grip of. How do you hold your leash when you’re walking? Try a few out if you aren’t sure. Get a feel for what’s ideal for you because everyone has different preferences.

Which Retractable Leash Should I Buy?

To make your retractable leash shopping experience as simple as possible, choose a leash from Pet&Cuddle, where we design products to offer maximum support and comfortability for both dog owners and their pets.

Our top-rated retractable dog leashes are safe, comfortable and affordable, and designed to suit the needs of 99% dog owners. These leashes are strong enough to keep your little ball of fur safe and secure while providing them will plenty of room to roam so that they can explore, build confidence, and remain happy, healthy pups.

Shop for your next dog harness and retractable leash at Pet&Cuddle!

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