When going out with your dog in public, it’s not only a legal requirement to leash him up, but also a protective measure for both him and the public. There are numerous ways you can leash your dog. These include the use of a harness, slop lead, headcollar, and retractable leashes. Each of these options has its pros and cons, except for the retractable leashes, which are more dangerous than they are helpful.

What Are Retractable Dog Leashes?

Retractable leashes for dogs typically consist of a plastic handle, which contains a locking and retraction mechanism for an elongated cord that’s attached to a dog’s collar. A lot of people love this type of leash as it allows owners to regulate how far their dogs can roam in front of them. The ranges of most retractable leashes are also quite large, usually between 6 and 9 meters. But, are these two advantages worth the pain and damage that these leashes can potentially cause?

Dangers of Retractable Leashes

According to an ABC story (featured in 2009), a 12-year old dog owner, Dereka, was outside walking her dog on a retractable leash when it snapped and broke, unleashing flying pieces of metal and plastic, one of which landed in her eye. This caused considerable damage and pain to the little girl, which wouldn’t go away even after 3 surgeries.

Another story is about a woman whose dog, a 90 pound Labrador, suddenly bolted from her grasp, causing the retractable leash handle to explode in the process. Unfortunately, the lady had wrapped a part of the cord around her finger, which consequently got ripped off by the sheer force of the dog’s breakaway. 

As you can see from the above cases, retractable are okay until they explode – which tends to happen quite often. The flying metal and plastic parts that ensue from these explosions and breaks can cause facial cuts, broken teeth, eye injuries, and even broken bones. A person’s wrist or finger(s) can also be caught up in the wire cord as their dog forcefully tries to break away, which can result in skin lacerations or amputations. 

In a 2007 study on leash injuries by the Consumer Report and Consumer Union, it was found that 16, 564 people required medical attention for injuries caused by pet leashes in that year. While the study didn’t define the exact types of leashes that caused these injuries, it did mention the fact that in 2008, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled over 220,000 retractable leashes that were sold under the brand name SlyDog between the years 2007 and 2008. Coincidentally, Dereka (the girl we mentioned earlier) was using this same brand of leash when she got injured.

Apart from the risks to dog owners and walkers, retractable leashes are also a danger to the dogs themselves. For one, their longer ranges give the leashed dog too much roaming freedom. If a dog walking 20-30 feet ahead of the owner rushes into a road, the owner won’t have enough time to react before the dog is hit by an oncoming car.