Dogcharmer: Learn to use your retractable leash

We can start here: It's to be attached to a harness, not a collar.

It's best to attach a retractable leash to a harness instead of a collar. —Dzmitry Dudov

Dear Dogcharmer,

What are your thoughts about retractable leashes? I keep getting rope burns!

Scalded Hand

Dear Scalded Hand,

I’ve been asked your question many times. First things first — a retractable leash is a one-hand device. Period. And rope burns may be the least of it. How about eye injuries and severed fingers? Picture your other hand grabbing the cord and wrapping it around your finger to pull in your German Shepherd just as he takes off after a rabbit. Or he takes off after the rabbit, and his collar breaks when he hits the end of the cord, and it comes flying back at your face. Nonetheless, I’m not averse to them, under the following circumstances.

It’s to be attached to a harness, not a collar. I’ll never forget the adorable, sweet Yorkie that died from a collapsed trachea after hitting the end of the retractable going after a squirrel. Next is where to use a retractable. If you’re on Circuit Ave. in Martha’s Vineyard or on Fifth Ave. in NYC, it should be locked at four or six feet, like a leash. Common sense dictates length on empty sidewalks and open spaces, where it’s least likely to get entangled or trip someone.

Every lesson where I saw a retractable, I would hand it to the client, take the clip end, and walk away the full length of the lead. Then I would say, “I’m your dog, in the middle of the street with a car bearing down on me. Save me!” Almost every time I would have been squashed by the car as the owner was trying to reel me in using two hands. IT’S A ONE-HANDED DEVICE!

Holding the retractable, extend your arm straight out as far as possible and then hold down the button to lock it, bringing 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 button and whip your arm forward again as far as it will go. The leash will retract itself the moment you release the button. Repeat this three times, and your dog will be next to you in 3 seconds on a 26-foot retractable. I’d suggest you practice this with a two-legged before you put it on your four-legged significant other.

Used properly, retractables are great for giving your dog the joy of all that extra space for sniffing.

Dogcharmer Tom

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