Retractable leashes have come under great scrutiny over the last few years and many trainers and dog owners have deemed them unsafe and injurious, while others love them so much they will never go back to a static leash. However, any pet accessory or tool can be unsafe when not used correctly or in the appropriate situation, so we thought it would give you some peace of mind to share the pros and cons of retractable dog leashes, as well as give you some tips on how to use them properly.
- Dog walks are meant to give your pup some freedom to sniff and explore in new environments while you maintain control over his movements. Flexi retractable leads come in 3m, 5m and 8m varieties, which means your dog has quite a bit more freedom than if he were on a static leash.
- Your dog is not given total freedom: the fact that he is leashed means he can’t run off and cause a nuisance if something grabs his attention.
- As most dog walkers know, you’re unlikely to maintain a steady walking pace and allow your dog to explore. Very often, you have to stop and wait for him, or he tries to dash ahead while following an interesting scent. The retractable nature of the lead means you still get to walk at a steady pace while your dog can sniff and stop and start at will – the lead will absorb his erratic movements.
- Retractable leads come with a lock button or a ‘brake’, which allows you to proactively control the length of the lead. If you see a dangerous situation coming up, like an intersection or another dog approaching, you can adjust the length of the lead using the brake and steer your dog in another direction or command him to halt or stop.
- Retractable leads are not meant for inexperienced dog owners, or dogs who pull on static leashes. Just because your dog pulls on a static leash doesn’t mean he’s going to behave any differently on a retractable lead. On the contrary – he will have more freedom to pull and can put you and him in very dangerous situations.
- When not used correctly, retractable leads injure you or your dog. For instance: if your dog – with more freedom on his retractable lead – approaches another dog and a scuffle ensues, the extra length of the lead can end up wound around your legs, your dog’s legs or even his neck.
- If your dog is enjoying his freedom and bounds away, the sudden jolt when he reaches the end of the longer lead can injure his neck or back, as well as your hand, wrist or shoulder.
- If your dog’s pulling behaviour causes the brake to malfunction, you will have less control over him, which can be dangerous to you and others in public.
1. Make sure your dog is properly trained and understands basic commands and recall
A retractable lead doesn’t exempt your dog from proper obedience. In fact, using a retractable lead requires it. Since you are giving him more freedom while on walkies, he needs to earn that freedom by being obedient when you call him.
2. Train your dog to respond positively to the retractable lead for a better walking experience
Many dogs will feel tension on a leash and know this is the cue that something exciting/dangerous is coming up and they become more excited and vigilant. But you can use treats to condition your dog to make eye contact with you when you apply the lock/brake, instead of seeking out the ‘threat’. It takes some time and patience (and many treats!), but it’s safer for you, your dog and everyone about if you have control over him while you’re on your walk.
3. Retractable leads are great for open spaces like beaches and parks
Stricter rules around dog walking are being applied to public spaces, with most parks and beaches requiring dogs to be leashed without exception. Few dog owners train their dogs to the extent where they can control their dogs completely when they are off the leash, so this makes sense from a public safety perspective. Retractable leads give dogs more freedom in these open spaces, but with this freedom comes responsibility…
4. Always be aware of the environment around you
Some dog owners take their dogs for walkies, but are oblivious to what’s going on around them while they have one hand on the leash. If they were to stop and chat to a neighbour or browse social media while their dog was on a retractable lead, the dog would be at risk of running into the road and being hit by a car, or chasing after another dog. ALWAYS know what your dog is doing and be one step ahead of his behaviour. Maintain control over him and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.