Do you have the same reaction I do when I see someone coming down the street, with a dog on a retractable leash? Inevitably the dog is a big one and often seems to be out of control as well. The owner looks to be skiing down the street, surprisingly with the leash fully extended as they try to control their excited mutt.
I became aware of these types of leashes years ago, while taking care of two beagles named Lewis & Clark. Can you guess that I lived in Oregon at the time? Each one of them was outside with me, with their own retractable leash and, since they were both relatively young, they were very playful with one another. My leg got caught in a vise grip of one of those leashes and cut into my flesh so deeply, I had scars for years afterwards. Not a pleasant experience.
I actually used a retractable leash at one time, maybe 20 years ago. Fortunately I learned more about dog training and eventually threw the awful thing away.
Nancy Kerns, editor in chief, of the Whole Dog Journal, writes about this on her blog today. She gives a great evaluation, in training terms, why this leash won’t work for training a dog or is even a good idea for any dog, ever. She suggests alternatives to the retractable leash, how and when to use them to allow your pup the freedom of movement, without the risk of injury or even death to your dog.
We have a few dogs in the neighborhood who use these leashes and the dogs who are attached to the leash are sweet dogs but not well trained and not well managed on leash. How could they be when the owner is holding onto a clunky plastic device, which can only be held in one hand and the thin cord doesn’t lend itself to be held onto without risk of cutting your palm open. A fixed length leash can be held in two hands or the loop can be held in one hand with the other hand on the leash, keeping the dog close to their owner. You can buy fixed length leashes of a variety of materials, from uber soft material to less expensive nylon brands.
I really like the leash I bought for Bear, that goes with his harness. It is so soft and a perfect length for walking and training a dog. Both his harness and leash are from Clean Run Productions. Look for a blog on this in the near future.
Take a look at Nancy’s blog and, if you happen to be using a retractable leash, consider throwing it away and getting a fixed length leash instead.