When you’re teaching your dog to walk or just looking for a new leash to replace an old one, you’ll have to choose between a traditional and retractable leash. Although retractable leashes may seem in vogue at the moment, they’re not usually a good idea. In fact, retractable leashes are bad because they introduce several possible dangers or hazards to you and your dog.
Let’s break down seven of those dangers so you know why you should avoid retractable leashes at all costs.
Why Do People Use Retractable Leashes?
At first glance, there’s nothing that revolutionary or different between a regular leash and a retractable leash. After all, a retractable leash is just a thin cord wrapped around a spring-loaded device. Most retractable leashes use plastic handles and a single button to get the spring-loaded device to work.
But retractable leashes are often thought of as extra convenient or comfortable. You don’t have to wrap a leash around your hand, for example, and you don’t have to pull as hard to bring your dog back into position when you are training them to walk nicely at your side.
Yet retractable leashes are not as good as marketers might have you believe.
Are Retractable Leashes Always Bad?
Yes. If you have a small and very well-behaved dog, you might think that a retractable leash would be a comfortable and convenient walking tool. But even then, a traditional leash will likely be a better choice because of the potential dangers that retractable leashes present.
No Real Length Control
For starters, retractable leashes have a big problem: they don’t provide you with the same length control that a traditional leash does. Once you’ve extended a retractable leash, it takes time to retract that leash back into the handle.
Even worse, if your dog is constantly pulling on the leash because they are trying to go after a squirrel, the retractable spring mechanism inside the leash won’t be strong enough to do the job. You’ll still have to physically pull the leash back and get your dog back under control.
It’s easy to imagine how this could be a problem, especially if you are still teaching your dog how to walk politely or if there are a lot of distracting things along your normal walking route. With a traditional leash, the length is completely controlled by how much of the leash you’re holding. When you need to retract the leash, it’s very easy.
With a retractable leash, your dog could be in danger if they extend too far, and you have to pull them back from a threat quickly.
Danger if Your Dog Bolts
A retractable leash also introduces danger if your dog dashes after a target, like the above-mentioned squirrel. If your dog is still being trained, this is much more likely. But even adult dogs are not completely impervious to the temptation to chase after a squirrel, another dog, or something else that catches their attention.
If your dog bolts quickly, the retractable leash will unspool. Suddenly, you’ll have a much longer leash to wrangle back into control. Again, this can be very dangerous if there are hazards in your area, like cars driving on the road or another aggressive dog nearby.
Retractable Leash Cords Aren’t as Tough as Regular Leashes
On top of that, the cords with retractable leashes simply aren’t as tough as normal leashes on a pound by pound basis. This means that larger dogs, especially, can’t be walked with retractable leashes; you can never really count on these leashes to stay tough or durable.
In contrast, regular leashes are pretty sturdy, especially if you replace them regularly and you don’t let your dog chew on them when they aren’t in use. Of course, the handle of a retractable leash is also a potential mechanical failure point. Since most handles are made of cheap plastic, if the spring mechanism breaks or pops out, it could also cause the leash handle to break or crack.
Potential for Injuries to You and Your Pup
This possibility contributes to the next possible danger: injuries to yourself or your dog. For example, imagine that your retractable leash handle cracks. You can all too easily cut your hand on the broken handle or get your fingers caught on the retractable leash mechanism.
That’s not even counting the possibility for injuries if the leash extends farther than you intend. Once this happens, you could accidentally get skin rashes or burns from the leash as you try to get it under control. The leash can also wrap around your finger too tightly, cutting off circulation and injuring the muscles and bones.
Your dog can also be injured with a retractable leash. Since retractable leashes extend but snap back without warning, your dog might bolt after a squirrel or a tasty treat, then suddenly have their pursuit arrested by the retractable leash.
If your dog is only wearing a collar, this could put too much pressure on their neck and cause a serious injury.
Potential for a “Runaway Dog”
Since retractable leashes aren’t as durable as regular leashes, walking your dog with one also introduces the potential for your dog to run away suddenly. Imagine a scenario where your dog sees a squirrel and bolts after it. But instead of the retractable leash stopping your dog, the mechanism breaks, and your dog takes off after its target.
When this happens, you’ll have to chase after your dog and hope that they don’t get injured or run in front of a car. With a traditional leash, there’s much less possibility for this scenario. You always have control over the leash, and your dog can’t pull you hard enough to make you actually drop the tether.
Possibility of Malfunction
As noted above, many retractable leashes aren’t made with durability or longevity in mind. This introduces a much higher possibility for malfunction.
The spring mechanism at the heart of each retractable leash could potentially break or become snagged. When this happens, the entire system could fail. Then, you might end up with a busted leash that isn’t as tough as a traditional leash… but that also doesn’t retract as advertised.
At this point, now you’ve just wasted money and have to go back to the store to buy a traditional leash anyway. Especially compared to something durable and waterproof like Wild One’s Leash, a retractable leash is clearly a subpar choice.
It’s Hard To Train a Dog With a Retractable Leash
Lastly, a retractable leash is much harder to use when you are training your dog to behave properly, especially when teaching them to walk in a crowded or stimulating environment.
With a traditional leash and a harness set up, you have complete control over where your dog goes and can gently tug them back into place while they are still learning their place as a puppy. This is even easier if you hook your traditional leash to the front of your puppy’s harness near the chest.
But a retractable leash teaches your puppy the opposite — it lets them run much more freely than a traditional leash and could get them into trouble. This makes it harder for you to inspire your dog to stay by your side, even if you have treats. A firm hand and good guidance are both necessary if you want your dog to walk nicely with you.
A High-Quality Solution
At the end of the day, retractable leashes don’t do anything extra compared to a traditional leash aside from retracting automatically. But their cheapness and the dangers mentioned above make traditional leashes the superior choices every time, especially if you are training your dog to go on walks or walk near a street with cars.
Fortunately, you can find high-quality leashes, harnesses, and other pet parent products on Wild One. We create each of our dog products with quality and care in mind from the get-go, so you never need to worry about cheap materials, wasted cash, or a lack of safety for your dog.