Last week I was sitting at my favorite food truck pod with my sweet Pup Link. People came and went with their dogs, sometimes coming over to say hello to my Pup. Each dog calmly came over to get and give a brief sniff and then they trotted away with their human. After about five dogs stopping to say hello, in walks a beefy pitbull. He was large and had a big smile on his face, scanning the area for dogs. He saw Link and immediately began walking toward us. Behind him was a small woman, gripping his retractable leash with both hands and being dragged across the gravel as if she was wearing roller skates. She grasped the handle of the leash and held her thumb tight against the leash lock, her other hand was wrapped up in the thin cord, turning white from the lack of blood flowing to it. She kept shouting, “Stop! Heel! Stop!” but the dog continued to drag her toward me. I stood up and asked, “Does he want to say hi?” The woman’s face filled with relief and she allowed her hands a break and let her dog have some extra leash to say hello. The dog calmed and they began to walk away, but then another dog popped into view and the woman was being dragged off again, this time she dropped the large plastic handle and it hit the ground, shattering into pieces and retracting itself all the way back to the dog, who began fleeing in terror into the parking lot, the broken plastic handle clattering behind him.
This is honestly not the first time I have seen this happen. Retractable leashes were invented in order to provide control over the dog while allowing it more room to roam, but instead they tend to provide little control and absolutely no guidance. Your dog is able to walk about 20ft ahead of you, sniffing and eating whatever they find, wrapping around trees or poles, and hopping into the street in front of an oncoming bicyclist if they so desire. The inventor of the retractable leash has said, “It is usually desirable that the dog should have a certain freedom in running about, but it is difficult to prevent the animal from running on the wrong side of lamp posts or pedestrians, thus causing much annoyance to the owner, who is constantly required to adjust the length of the leash in her hand, and frequently the leash is dropped and the dog permitted to run away. The objects of the present invention are to obviate and overcome all these difficulties and annoyances due to the usual form of leash, and prevent the leash from becoming tangled as the dog runs about.” This directly translates to: “I hate dealing with my dog and just want to zone out while I walk him.” Her description is odd, considering the retractable leash allows more room to run about and go on the wrong side of posts and people, and you are CONSTANTLY adjusting the length of the leash. It is also very easy to drop, and even easier to break!
The truth is, people only use these leashes because it is comfortable for them to hold. If you remove the large plastic handle you would be left with a thin cord that would slice into your hands, similar to walking a dog on a fishing line, and nobody wants that.
I always recommend a 6ft nylon leash. You can shorten it as much as you’d like, and no dog needs to be more than 6ft from you while on a leashed walk. You can drop it without the fear of it breaking or retracting after your dog. You can adjust your grip and hold the leash in a variety of ways depending on how you and your dog walk together. And the best part is, you are in control. Even if your dog is a puller, a flat leash provides the most control and support. I prefer the simple slip lead that tightens when the dog pulls, which usually prevents the dog from doing so. But every dog is an individual and needs what’s best for them AND you. Try out a few options to see what’s best for both of you, but leave that retractable leash on the shelf!
*When researching retractable leashes I discovered that there are A LOT of injuries to both humans and animals when using one of these leashes. I know when the handle is dropped it could retract and injure the dog, but I had no idea how many issues this leash actually had with injuries. They’re even illegal in some areas because of the amount of injuries! Here is a link to the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, if you’d like to read about the potential injuries causes by retractable leashes. Whatever you do, don’t Google Image search it!
I borrowed the image fromDogTime.com, which also has an informative article about retractable leashes 🙂