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Why I hate retractable leashes

Posted Friday, December 11, 2015, at 2:23 PM

This week, I want to talk about the hazards of retractable leashes. If you think that you are doing your dog a favor by walking them with a retractable leash, you are not helping your dog. I have heard lots of horror stories from my clients and other veterinarians about retractable leashes. So I have created a list of seven reasons why you should not use retractable leashes.

A retractable leash can put your dogs at risk. One of my clients wasn't paying close attention to her dogs and didn't notice them walking into an elevator. The door closed and the dogs went up. By the time the elevator reached the fifth floor, the leashes broke. When the dogs finally got down to ground level again, they were fine, but the owner wasn't. She was crying hysterically. She vows to never put her dogs in danger again by using a retractable leash close to a dangerous area such as an elevator or a busy street. Not all dogs caught in an elevator are so lucky.

They give you a clear lack of control. As a veterinarian, I will tell you that retractable leashes provide no control of your pet. Owners of badly behaved or over-stimulated dogs can leap far away from their owners and attack people or other dogs. This has happened in my office when other animals were present and while owners were walking their dog.

They are a training hazard. Retractable leashes also allow your dog to walk ahead of you, making your dog in control. With a retractable leash, you have no way to correct your dog's bad behavior. Dogs attack other dogs, run in front of cars, and create all types of havoc on a retractable leash.

They are a danger to others. More than one person has tripped over the long retractable leash while walking a dog, or while passing someone else who is walking a dog. If you wrap the leash around your hand it can cause a rope burn when the pet lunges.

They are a danger to dogs. Coyotes love dogs on retractable leashes. It keeps the dogs close to them, not the owners, and it only takes one second for tragedy to strike. Also, if your pet should lunge very hard, it can cause damage to the dog's neck.

You can't use a coupler with a retractable leash. If you try to use a coupler, you have no control of two dogs. More importantly, these leashes have weight limits and the second dog could take it over that limit and snap.

They are not safe for children. The scariest is to see a little kid walking a dog on a retractable leash. They don't have the life experience to understand all that can happen when a dog is that far away from them with all of the obstacles that can occur.

The leashes are unreliable. On the rare occasion that I have tried to use a retractable leash with my pets, the leash didn't click, and it stuck or it unspooled suddenly at the exact wrong time (like when a stray cat crossed my path or an oncoming car has to slam on the brakes to spare your dog's life). Sticky situations like this serve to illustrate how the "canine lunge line" can serve to thoroughly foul up your control over the animal.

What to do?

You should use a 4-6 foot leash. Do not wrap the leash around your hand. Take your dog to obedience school and learn how to control your pet.

If you have questions about how to safely walk your pet contact Dr. Norette L. Underwood of the Trumann Animal Clinic or Best Friends Vet Mobile Service at catdoc56@gmail.com or call 870-483-6275.

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