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Why Do Some Dog Trainers Hate Retractable Leashes?

Retractable dog leashes get a lot of bad press online, especially from self-professed “expert” dog trainers, as well as from influencers and other media personalities, who claim that retractable are dangerous for dogs and people, but is there any merit to these claims?

Oftentimes, the naysayers claiming retractables are dangerous have obviously never used one, and this can clearly be seen simply by reading through their content and realizing that they don’t even understand how retractables work.

This is a relatively common practice that happens to products and services online, where people who have an idea about something give it a bad rep before even giving it an actual try, and we’ve found that many of the negative comments about retractable leashes have been made by people who haven’t even used them before.

To set the record straight, let’s review all the major concerns these so-called experts have lodged about retractable leashes, and let’s look at the truth behind the claims.  

Safety Concerns

One of the biggest concerns we hear about retractable leashes is that they are unsafe, and while there are several facets to this claim, we simply disagree that it’s a legitimate concern, especially when a retractable is used properly.

First, many of the safety concerns are simply blown out of proportion, as the issues retractable naysayers bring up would only become a problem at all when the retractable leash user is being negligent, ignoring their dog, ignoring their environment, ignoring the proper operating procedures of using a retractable leash itself, and basically just not being a responsible dog owner or dog walker.

Below we’ll detail each of the safety concerns commonly brought up regarding the use of retractables, and we’ll address each issue, but to be completely honest, we want to state that you can easily prevent any of these safety concerns by simply using good judgment and following the instructions on how to use a retractable leash correctly.

Safety Concern #1 - Retractable Leashes Could Injure Your Dogs Neck

If your dog is running full speed and reaches the end of the leash all of the sudden, then yes, they will experience a sudden jerk that could hurt their neck, but why would you allow your dog to get into this situation in the first place?

No responsible retractable leash owner would allow their dog to run full speed at full extension with the leash, as that’s obviously an incredibly dangerous situation. Furthermore, it can be easily avoided with a retractable leash, simply by limiting the length of the leash.

The entire point of a retractable leash is that you can give your dog very little room to roam, or tons of space and freedom, which means you’re able to provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of the length of the leash, but it’s on you, the dog owner, to decide when and how to provide that additional freedom.

Furthermore, if we’re thinking about the safety concern related to fully-extended leashes, then we would argue that the retractable is obviously going to be far easier to operate and thus much safer than a long, static lead line.

Safety Concern #2 – Retractable Leashes Don’t Offer as Much Control

When it comes to controlling your dog on a leash, it really boils down to how you have trained your dog to walk and obey your commands.

Whether your leash is 3 feet, 6 feet, 10 feet, 15 feet or longer, you’ll only have control over your dog if you’ve trained them to walk and behave properly.

Sure, it’s easier to keep tighter control over a misbehaving dog by using a shorter leash, but that’s exactly why a retractable is so convenient – if you need additional control, then you can simply set the brake and prevent the leash from extending!

In fact, a retractable leash offers no less control than any other leash, and if anything, it provides you with additional control since you get more flexibility in determining just how far your dog is allowed to roam.

The benefit of retractable leashes is that they provide at least as much control as traditional leashes.

Safety Concern #3 – Retractable Leashes Could Lead to Dog Fights

Some people claim that retractable leashes can lead to more fights because they give dogs too much freedom, but again, this is only a problem for misbehaving dogs, or for owners who aren’t using their retractables responsibly!

If there were any chance at all of your dog getting in a fight or some kind of altercation with another dog, why would you extend their leash at all? Why not retract it entirely, keeping your dog immediately at your side, until conditions permit providing them with additional room to roam?

When you walk your dog, you should determine how much space to give them by paying attention to your surroundings, as this is critical to ensuring the dog’s safety, and your own safety, whether or not you’re using a retractable leash..

If you’re approaching another dog or walking in a busy area, you need to keep your retractable leash as short as possible, with the dog anchored to your heel so that you have complete control over the situation.

All responsible dog owners should be capable of understanding this simple fact, and it’s pretty obvious once you review details like this that the negative reputation retractable leashes get is based on hyperbole and irresponsible behavior.

Dog fights and other similar safety issues can easily be prevented simply by walking responsibly, paying attention to your surroundings, and reacting appropriately.  

Safety Concern #4 – Retractable Leads are More Likely to Break

 

Some “expert” dog trainers complain that retractable leashes break more often than standard leashes, but there’s simply no evidence for this claim.

Sure, a retractable leash can snap or break, and that does happen from time to time, but the same problem applies to standard, fixed-length leashes too.

There is no evidence of any sort that retractable leashes break more often than other traditional leashes, and especially that the better designed retractable leads, which don’t use a single string or line, but a tape or ribbon-style leash, are likely to break.

If you’re at all concerned about having a leash snap or break on you, then make sure to get a retractable leash that uses the ribbon or tape-style design for the leash part, get one that’s properly rated for your dog’s weight, and be a responsible dog owner: train your dog not to pull, chase, or other misbehave!

Safety Concern #5 - Retractable Leashes Could Hurt Puppies

We agree that a puppy who hasn’t been trained to walk properly on a leash should not be using a retractable leash at full extension, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use a fully-retracted retractable leash for a puppy while you’re working on training them to walk.

We certainly do agree that the last thing you want to give a puppy is lots of flexibility and freedom, as this would be counter-productive to training them to be a good, obedient walker.

But remember, a retractable leash doesn’t have to be used at full length, or even at mid-length, ever, if you don’t want to offer extra length to your dog.

The entire purpose of the retractable is that you can choose exactly how much space you want to offer, at any given time, depending on circumstances and the situation at hand, and that you can simply lock your retractable to provide whatever distance you want to offer.

Safety Concern #6 – Retractable Leashes Could Hurt YOU

Just like any other leash, retractable leashes could certainly hurt you, again, if you’re using them irresponsibly.

As we’ve seen with ALL of these safety concerns, the critical element at play is that properly using your retractable leash virtually guarantees that you won’t experience any of these issues!

If you are not being responsible while walking your dog and you are not paying attention to them, to your environment, and to your surroundings, then yes, you can and may experience some type of mishap.

Remember, the retractable leash is no more dangerous than a fixed length leash of the same length, and that in many cases, the retractable is safer since it allows you to much more easily control the amount of length you provide to your dog, especially at the longer end.

Of course, there is always the chance for injuries when walking your dog with any length of leash, retractable or not, but you can reduce your risks tremendously by being responsible and aware of what is happening around you.

If you want to look at your phone or something else has grabbed your attention during your walk, then remember that this would be a good time to sit on a bench or just step to the side and teach your companion to sit quietly by your side for a few minutes.

Training Concerns

The number one complaint we hear from trainers about using a retractable leash to train your dog is that retractable leashes teach bad habits.

We understand and appreciate this concern, because again, using a retractable leash in an irresponsible manner definitely can lead to behavioral problems, but as we’ve been saying throughout this article, it’s easy to prevent these issues by locking your retractable leash and using it as a fixed-length, traditional leash.

Locking your retractable leash while training your dog is the perfect solution – it provides you the same level of control, and gives your dog the same experience they would have using a fixed-length leash, but you can use the retractable to offer them different amounts of length and freedom at different times, and for different reasons.

Getting the same level of flexibility and control using a traditional, fixed-length leash would require buying leashes at all different lengths, which is a pointless and expensive exercise you can avoid by choosing a retractable instead.

Then, once your dog is fully trained, you can utilize your retractable leash again as a retractable, and enjoy all the benefits of the retractable option!

Training Concern #1 – Retractable Leashes May Teach Your Dog to Pull

Just like the old saying goes ‘give them an inch, they’ll take a foot’ or something like that!

Some people complain that a retractable leash offers too much freedom and allows the dog to keep pushing for more length as they walk. They believe that this teaches a dog to pull even more, which is the exact opposite of what we want our well-trained friends doing.

But we don’t necessarily agree with that because we feel that the dog owner should be monitoring the leash length and activity of their dog, and providing queues and feedback that teach their dog when it’s acceptable to pull (basically never) and when it isn’t (basically always).

The best thing about a retractable dog leash is that it works perfectly with a well-mannered dog, and that with a poorly-mannered dog, the retractable’s brake can be enabled so that it can be used as a fixed-length leash!

Training Concern #2 – Improper Equipment Pairing

Dog trainers will argue that retractable leashes hinder their training abilities, and this is true when using other improper equipment with the retractable leash.

For instance, pairing improper equipment like a training collar (the kind that pinches, squeezing a dog’s neck as they pull), with a retractable leash is a recipe for disaster!

These different training tools are simply incompatible, as the pinching collar is supposed to remind the dog not to put any pressure on their leash (don’t pull!), but the constant tension of the retractable may stimulate that collar to pinch, so the dog won’t even be able to tell when they are, or aren’t pulling.

However, just remember that even this situation can be avoided by using the retractable’s brake, and using it like a traditional, fixed-length leash. This releases the tension, prevents it from activating the pinch collar’s pinching activity.

When training your dog to do anything, but especially to walk properly, it’s important to understand what tools you’re using, why you’re using them, and to make sure that they’re all compatible with each other.

Again, this boils down to the responsibility of the dog owner, and it’s just another example of why retractables end up getting a bad name even though they don’t deserve it!

Training Concern #3 – Encouraging “Wandering” Behavior

One of the top concerns about using a retractable leash is the argument that it encourages ‘wandering’ behavior. This concern mostly stems from seeing people using a retractable leash irresponsibly.

It’s sad, but true, that some people just let their dog wander wherever they want when on a retractable leash, failing to utilize the brake to set a safe and responsible distance for the leash’s length.

But you can’t blame the retractable leash for those bad behaviors, or the issues that arise as a result of using the tool improperly.

The most important way to secure your pet’s safety is to use the retractable leash properly, providing length to the lead when and where it’s safe to do so, and retracting it under every other condition.

When to Use a Retractable Leash

Retractable leashes can be used under virtually any conditions, but they’re ideal for walks in uncrowded environments, like open fields, grassy areas, or other space without obstacles, people and other dogs in the immediate vicinity.

Using a retractable leash gives your dog more freedom, encouraging them to build confidence and helping them to become better-mannered walkers by allowing them to play an active role in determining where and how they’re going to walk.

When your dog enjoys his or her walks and adventures, it’s more likely that he or she will want to go more often, and walking your dog regularly encourages healthy habits that could improve their health and happiness, and yours too!

When NOT to Use a Retractable Leash

Knowing your surroundings makes all the difference in the world, and paying attention to your environment is vital to ensuring that you aren’t using a retractable improperly!

Never attempt to use a retractable leash on a busy street or around a lot of people or other dogs, or in any sort of crowded conditions with lots of obstacles, as this is an invitation for disaster.

We do not recommend using a retractable dog leash if your dog misbehaves, especially if they have significant behavioral problems, like if they’re prone to chasing, fighting, or even just lunging at other animals or people.

How to Shop for the Right Retractable Leash

When shopping for the right retractable dog leash, you’ll want to consider several important factors, including:.

Durability – The strength of the cord and the handle should be taken into consideration when thinking about how you will use it. Are you a city walker on flat ground, or do you go hiking through the mountains in the snow?

The Handle – Comfort matters, especially when choosing a handle for your retractable leash. They will range from hard plastic or easy grip and offer weather protection based on a variety of temperatures and conditions.

Clip Type – Make sure you choose a swivel so that you don’t end up getting knots or twisting yourself up. Plus, size matters, so you’ll want a clip that’s big if you’ve got a big dog, or smaller if your dog is little. Finally, make sure the clip is easy to open, but also stays securely closed while in operation.

Leash Style – There are two types of leash styles to choose from: ribbon/tape-style, or cord. The ribbon or tape-style is more reliable, much stronger, and will last longer, so make sure you get a leash built this way instead of using the cord option, which is far more likely to lead to problems.

Leash Length – If this is your first retractable leash, consider a shorter length until you are familiar with how it works, but the general idea is to pick a length that will be both useful and appropriate for the walking conditions you’ll encounter. Note: Some cities have length restrictions, so be sure to check yours!

Weight Limit – Make sure you buy a leash that can accommodate your pet’s size. Using a leash that isn’t rated for your dog’s size and power is an extremely dangerous proposition, and could end up with the worst possible results! Always pick one that gives you some leeway, like 10 to 20 lbs over your dog’s actual weight.

Which Retractable Leash Should You Get?

Make it simple, let Pet & Cuddle help you decide and pick out the perfect leash!

We offer affordably priced, top-rated retractable dog leashes and that are safe, comfortable and reliable.

You can count on our leashes for handling rough weather conditions with strength and rugged stability – all while keeping your furry best friend safely secured! Our leashes provide the perfect choice for a comfortable walking experience each and every time you leave the front door.

Check out Pet & Cuddle’s retractable dog leashes, harnesses, and collars here.