Dogcharmer: Retractable leash revisited

When and how best to use them.

The Dogcharmer, Tom Shelby, demonstrates a retractable leash. Courtesy Tom Shelby

Dear Dogcharmer,

What do you think about using retractable leashes?

RB (Rope Burned)

Dear RB,

You’re not alone! I’ve been asked this question three times in the past two days. It needs to be addressed. First of all, it’s not just rope burns. I’ve heard about eye injuries, and even severed fingers. However, I use them from time to time, and am not at all averse to them, as long the user knows and adheres to three basic guidelines: where, where, how. WHERE does it attach to the dog? Not the neck. Period. I know of a Yorkie that took off after a squirrel and collapsed his trachea at the end of the 16-foot retractable. Didn’t end well. Attach to a harness, chest, or back, but never the neck. The second WHERE pertains to environment. Using a retractable on Circuit Avenue is about as pragmatic as roller skating in August on those narrow, crowded sidewalks. Country roads, empty sidewalks, open spaces, where the leash is least likely to get entangled or trip someone is WHERE. Most important: HOW to use the retractable. A retractable is a one-handed device. Period. Every time I saw a retractable in someone’s home, I picked it up and handed it to the owner. “I’m the dog,” I would say as I started walking away holding the clip end of the leash. Then, when it was fully extended I would say, “I’m standing in the middle of the street and a car is bearing down on me, reel me in as fast as you can and save me from the car!” Over the years I would have died 1,000 deaths — smushed under the car as the hapless owner was vainly trying to reel me in like pulling the bow line of a rowboat hand over hand. ONE HAND ONLY. Holding the retractable, extend your arm straight out as far as possible and push the button to lock it. Holding the button down, now bring your arm down and straight back, pulling the dog toward you. The moment your arm is behind you as far as it will go, release the lock button and whip your arm forward again as far as it will go. The retractable will retract itself the moment you let go of the button. Repeat the reach forward-lock-pull back- release, reach forward, three times, and you can have an unruly dog on a 26 ft retractable at your feet in literally 2 to 3 seconds.

I’d suggest you practice the “quick pull in” with a two-legged if necessary, and “have it down” before you hit the real world with Bowser on his retractable. The pictures should be self-explanatory and helpful.


Good luck, and keep walking,

The Dogcharmer


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