Retractable Leashes Are Dangerous to Pets and People

A dog outside on a leash

Retractable leashes seem like a convenient choice for pet owners. They allow a pet to explore by being able to control the extension of the leash, and they come in a handy plastic case handle that is useful for the owner. Sounds perfect, right? Some of these factors can be tempting, but did you know that retractable leashes pose some serious problems for your pet and even you?

Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital wants to explain the risks in using these leashes and some options for safer alternatives for your fur friend.

The Controversy of Retractable Leashes

Most people hold fast to whatever brand or product they believe in, and this is true of pet owners and their choice in leashes. We understand that some have had no problems at all with a retractable leash, and that’s great. Unfortunately, even Consumer Reports put out a warning to pet owners on the dangers of these leashes. Veterinarians and agencies like the American Veterinary Medical Association have had concerns, too. 

Why Are Retractable Leashes Dangerous?

Here are some of the reasons for concern and why they should be used with great caution.

  1. They teach a pet to pull. Remember when you spent weeks training your pet to do the exact opposite, to not pull on the leash? Well, this leash encourages your pet to do that. What’s the trouble? If your pet gets used to pulling and disregarding your cues, it’s much easier for them to get off leash, or to run out in front of a car, because they have the power of how much the leash extends.

  2. They get tangled in the cord. The design of these cords allow them to be firm yet flexible as they stretch to meet the length of the leash. Since they are smaller and thinner than a normal nylon leash, they are prone to wrap around wrists, ankles, tails, and fingers. If the cord is accidentally wrapped around you or your pet, and they decide to pull hard or jump forward, this can cause deep lacerations. Several pet owners have come forward with reports of these accidents and even amputations. They can also get tangled in a passerby’s bike or pet, creating a risk for others.

  3. They can snap back and break.  When a cord breaks or you accidentally drop the leash, the force of the retraction can cause eye injuries, broken teeth, and lacerations to your pet, you, or a passerby. This may seem like an anomaly, but there have been several reports to manufacturers, the veterinary community, and Consumer Reports.

Their basic design can be more freeing, but given the risks, we usually discourage pet owners from purchasing retractable leashes. If you choose to continue using them, now you are better equipped to watch for these problems.

Other Leash Options

A regular, sturdy nylon leash, while traditional, has our vote. You can choose the right size and width for your furry friend, as well as the material they are made of. Many pet owners have more than one leash, so they can use a shorter leash for city walks and a longer one when out on the trail or in a natural area without too many people and cars.

If your dog is a puller, a harness that fits over the torso can be a wonderful option. This is especially good for those energetic types who love to run, hike, and jog with their pets and want to avoid an esophageal or neck injury from pulling. They can also be designed to hold your pet’s food and water, like a backpack, for a day out.

A head collar can be used when training a young puppy. The straps are made of powerful nylon to ensure durability and longevity. It can be used with dogs as young as eight weeks old and can be worn for up to eighteen hours a day making it ideal for use on longer outings.

We know choosing the right leash for your companion can be a challenge, because they are so many options out there. Give us a call for recommendations. We are here to help! Have a safe and happy walk!