Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Retractable Dog Leash Dangers: Do You Know the Risks?


retractable dog leashYou think you’re buying a fun thing for your dog – a leash that will give your dog a little extra freedom. The retractable dog leash is sold at nearly every pet supply store – on and off line. It comes in cute colors and you see them everywhere. You have no idea you are buying something that could cause injury (or worse) to your kids, your dog, yourself or some innocent passerby.


Am I exaggerating?
Being alarmist?

Sadly, I am not.

Retractable Leash Warnings ImageBrenda Conlan, one of our readers, knows too well: “I have avoided using them [retractable leashes] or even being near them since the cord literally opened my leg when my dog ran around behind me to chase a squirrel. I still have the scar…

Such moments happen in seconds. Everything is fine then you’re seriously injured – or a passerby or a child or the dog. Literally, in a blink.

Consumer Reports sounded the alarm in Retractable leashes pose problems for people and their pets. “…With horror, she realized it was a human index finger; with greater horror, she realized it was her own. The cord of the retractable leash had looped around her finger.

But did you know about those risks?

Clearly the girl pictured above does not. She stands, grinning, grasping the tape lead of a retractable firmly in her left hand (the #1 no-no of this leash – do not EVER hold the cord or tape parts of a retractable). If her labrador suddenly takes off she will, very probably and at best, be lacerated.

If she does what humans instinctively do when their dogs are out of control, grab the leash hard in an attempt to manage them, she could well need medical treatment.

If she lets go of the plastic handle, and who could blame her, that handle, bouncing along after the dog could send him into a panic. One dog I know died that way, bolting in fear over the wall of a parking garage.

Injury to You, Your Children or Others

  • Amputation of fingers
  • Cuts, burns and deep Lacerations on hands, arms and legs
  • Broken teeth (if collar breaks or leash clip fails and cord retracts at maximum speed to smack you in the face.)
  • Eye injuries/blindness (same)
  • Serious falls (when full speed dog hits end of 20+ foot leash or when bicyclist tangles with leash).
  • Think I’m kidding? Read their own warnings – scroll down – or watch their Video (listen to the content, don’t get thrown off by the calm delivery or jaunty music).

Injury to Your Dog or Other Dogs

  • Amputation of legs or tail.
  • Getting lost (when plastic handle “chases” them).
  • Hit by car when they dart into the road (know several dogs, personally, who died that way. Still on leash but dead.)
  • Injured when they get tangled with other dogs or bicycles.

There is more, but you get the idea.

Do I ever use these in my work? Rarely and briefly with certain house training issues and for some heading-toward-off-leash work with my advanced teams. But as a casual tool for general walking use? No. I do not. And I wish others would not as well. I have way too many stories in my head about what can happen and happen fast.

Now you know.

If you like my blogs, you’ll love my books: How to Train Your Dog to ComeMy Smart PuppyChildproofing Your DogDogologyTails from the Barkside.


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