The Danger of Retractable Leashes

Mary Delaney, Billy G. Crutchfield, James Otis Umphries, and William Howard Brawner. Depending on who you ask, these are the people responsible for the retractable dog leash.

I’d like to give them all a stern talking to.

That’s hard with Mary Delaney, since her patent was filed in 1908 so I’m guessing she’s not around any more, but the rest of them have presented us with one of the single-most useless, problematic and highly dangerous contraptions in the world of dog care.

We don’t allow them at Hydrant Club. If that’s an owner’s leash of choice, they are free to use it on their own time, but when their dog comes to our facility for daycare or boarding or for a training class, all dogs must be restrained on a single, fixed-length lead. From a practical perspective think of it this way. We may have 25-30 dogs in daycare. Let’s say there’s some sort of emergency and we need to evacuate the dogs. Imagine having all those dogs on leashes … and then there’s one on a retractable leash … and the lock won’t work. So now you have a group of dogs, one of which is creating a hazard for the other dogs and the handler putting everyone at risk. So that’s our functional reason for not allowing them to be brought with a dog that is in our care.

That, frankly, is the least urgent of the reasons.

Try heading to your favorite web browser and doing an image or video search for “retractable leash injuries.” Warning – the images are pretty graphic and gory.

Beyond the fact that these horribly designed and dangerous products lead to physical harm to human and dog, the behavioral damage that they do can be even far greater. Allowing a dog free reign to walk where it wants, however far ahead it wants  – that’s just bad dog handling. There’s no reason that your dog should ever be more than a couple of feet away from you and if you’re in an urban environment, they should be immediately next to you. Period. Full stop.

Ideally your dog should be walked on a leash of no more than 4′ to 5′ in length using a traditional buckle type collar made of a non porous and non stretchable material so that it stays properly affixed, snugly (not too tight) around your dog’s neck.

For folks whose dogs suffer from cervical spine injuries or perhaps the potential for collapsed tracheas, a harness may be used, but at no time should that harness have a retractable leash attached to it.

Okay. Rant over. Thanks for listening.