Retractable leashes have caused thousands of injuries, to people and dogs. Mostly rope burns, cuts, and eye injuries, and even amputations. It’s easy to see the potential problems when an unpredictable dog circles the leash holder and takes off. If the two-legged is lucky enough not to get his legs pulled out from under him, he’s still got a nasty rope burn or cut leg. The leash wrapped around a finger, coupled with the 65-pound Lab’s lunge after a squirrel, can easily sever the finger. In spite of the fact that retractables are “use at your own peril” items, most people are totally unaware of the dangers.
And since so very many of my clients had a retractable, this is what I did over the years, when thousands of times I’ve been asked, “What do you think of retractable leashes?” I’d hand the dog owner the retractable and say, “I’m the dog” as I walk across the room extending the leash as far as it would go. Then I’d say, “OK, I’m Bowser, in the middle of the street and a car is bearing down on me, reel me in! Save me!” Ninety percent of the time I would have been smushed by the car as the dog owner was vainly trying to grab the cable and pull me in. Retractables are one-hand devices. Period. Then I’d say, “OK, let’s see if we can save your next dog from the same fate,” and practice using it effectively. Reach forward as far as your arm will go, press the lock button and pull Bowser toward you, extending your arm back as far as possible. Then release the lock button as the retractable is reeling itself in as you are reaching forward again, locking and pulling back. Repeat this two or three times depending on the length of the leash and Bowser is safely next to you in about three seconds. Retractables are not great devices to use on busy sidewalks or in crowds. Even if you lock it at the length of a 4-foot leash, the hand holding it is useless for anything else, as it is bulky and heavy, as opposed to a leash handle, which you can slip around your wrist. Retractables are great for the untrained dog (can’t be trusted off-leash) to get more exercise on walks in uncrowded areas. However, I’d suggest that you don’t attach one to a collar, to prevent a collapsed trachea if Bowser lunges the length of the leash after a squirrel, or whatever. Attach it to an “easy walk” harness, which will greatly reduce pulling and the likelihood of any injury.
Have a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Instagram at DogTrainer Diaries. Come hear Tom Shelby speak about writing a column on Monday, August 6, at “Islanders Write.”