Wandering around in the bushes, your leashed dog is exploring, sniffing every fragrant nook and cranny, and having the time of his life. Unless he’s more than 25 feet away from you. So he’s ecstatic about the freedom he feels, and you want him to enjoy himself, so you’re happy, too. This is the benefit of a retractable leash for dogs and their owners.
But retractable leashes have a major drawback. For a variety of compelling reasons, many dog trainers and veterinarians eschew the good features of retractable leashes, and these benefits are often outweighed by the negative results of using them incorrectly and irresponsibly or in the event of an accident.
Choosing the right leash for you and your dog
Humans have used leashes to control dogs since time immemorial, which not surprisingly helped people domesticate them thousands of years ago. Katherine Grier, author of American Pets: A History, writes that “leashes are the oldest material culture associated with dogs.”
What began as a simple way to connect dogs to their owners not only became the norm, but today it is legally required in most American cities. So, of course, you’ll want to take the lead on your dog whenever you’re out and about in public. From training and socializing as a puppy to a leisurely stroll in the park with your older dog, a leash is one of the most important tools you will ever use in your dog’s life.
But choosing the right leash for you and your dog is critical. From the standard 4 to 8 feet, to harnesses, slings, martingales or retractable leashes, there are many options. Each style has its proponents and critics, but none are as controversial as the retractable leash, which was patented in 1908 but didn’t become popular until the 1970s. Inventor Mary Delaney claimed it was a humane restraint, imagining that her invention provided owners with more control while allowing their pups a degree of self-expression.
But if you think a retractable leash is a good option for you and your dog, you should also be fully aware of its drawbacks before you buy one.
What are the benefits of retractable leashes?
Retractable leashes have a lot of fans – otherwise, it wouldn’t be on the market. The freedom to explore seemingly unhindered environments and dogs love it. Dog owners love it because they like to give their dogs some freedom while they imagine themselves in complete control and able to roll their dogs at will.
But when a dog reaches the end of that long, retractable leash, the person on the other end of the leash actually has less control than they thought.
Is there a suitable environment for a retractable leash?
With no, you may be wondering, is there a suitable environment for a retractable leash to have the least negative impact? Well, if you have a large, park-like property, but it’s not fenced, then there’s nothing better than taking a walk with your dog on a retractable leash in this idyllic, controlled environment.
While he’s unlikely to run out on the road and there may not be the odd dog or person lurking, you still need to watch out for those squirrels and chipmunks and the nasty bounce of retracting leashes. Perhaps this is the only place where a retractable leash offers minimal risk. Maybe Mary was trying to share quality time in nature with your dog when she came up with the idea for this device.
However, you must be careful and always be vigilant, keeping in mind that the tool you have in your hand is good, but can also be potentially bad and ugly. Or, you might consider using a long, non-retractable 20-foot or even 30-foot leash, also known as a “check leash,” like the one used in dog tracking exercises.
Always consider where you and your dog are walking, the potential hazards, and choose the best leash to ensure your safety in that environment.