Musings of a Veterinarian

A Case Against Retractable Leashes

September 21, 2013 By: Dr. K Category: Opinion

Retractable dog leashes land in my top three veterinary hospital pet peeves. I’m not alone as the hatred for these liabilities runs deep among those in the profession. Here I post the reasons to ditch that retractable leash and offer some safer alternatives.

1. Your dog doesn’t need 20 feet of lead

I think dog owners believe they are doing something great by letting their dog run a bus-length ahead of them. This habit oftentimes leads to poor leash skills and refusal to follow commands. Many dogs pull at the end of the lead and are not close enough to the owner to receive or care about correction.

If you are one of those clients who allows the dog to have 20 feet of lead in the 10 foot exam room because he needs his freedom, you probably don’t care about your dog rushing the veterinary staff, running circles around our legs, and tangling himself in the exam table. This is where my hatred of these leashes come from. It’s as much an issue with the leash as it is with its owner.

But Dr. K! I want Fido to exercise while on leash! I suggest a fenced in yard or a large open space free of other dogs. Dog parks and doggie day cares carry their own risks.

2. You have minimal control over dangerous encounters

It happens over and over again. Little dog goes to the dog park and, in the blink of an eye, scraps with another dog while at the end of his lead. The pet owner had no control or chance to avoid the situation because he was too far away. Consider, too, dogs who have too much lead while out on their walks and lunge into the street. I’ve seen the action far too many times and repercussions are severe. Keeping your dog close won’t prevent all accidents, but it can eliminate the most preventable.

3. The quality of the line is poor

The lines in retractable leashes are thin. In my practice, dog after dog comes in with a broken line that has been knotted at the end or is precariously frayed and waiting to snap. Dogs who love to chew on their leashes (You know who you are, crazy labradors!) can easily chew through these leads suddenly leaving them off leash. The mechanisms inside the leashes and the locks are also of poor quality when compared to the sturdiness of a traditional thick nylon leash.  There are better made retractable leashes than others, mind you, but all are inferior compared to the safer alternatives I will list below.


1. The traditional nylon leash. Nothing beats this original.

2. The Lead Rope. I’ve never seen one break.

3. The double handle leash. Even better control and a way to pull your dog closer in a jiffy. This is especially helpful for large dogs in tight quarters.

Leave a Reply