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For my dog Rocky’s entire life and for a short time in Yankee’s life, I used the same retractable leash to walk them both. It seemed to make sense with Rocky who liked to wander and sniff more into the neighbors’ yards than I was willing to walk.
Rocky was very low key, and not fazed by anything so walking on a retractable leash presented no real problems unless another dog approached.
Yankee on the other hand is not, and when he chewed through the leash cord as a pup, I made the decision not to replace it. Instead, I now use a six foot leash that has a myriad of configurations for politely walking him in any situation.
Since then, because of a variety of experiences, I’ve become very aware of the problems and dangers associated with retractable leashes. Most of my bad experiences have been at dog events where Mom or Dad is at one vendor booth, and their dog is 20 feet away at another booth.
One event in particular where Mom wasn’t paying attention resulted in her dog being attacked by a dog in a rescue’s booth. Mom’s dog approached the rescue dog, and because Mom wasn’t paying attention, her dog got much too close to an unknown dog, who then attacked. It was a very unpleasant scene to witness. Mom’s dog needed veterinary care because of bite wounds, and she blamed the rescue. It wasn’t the rescue’s fault, it was hers, because she wasn’t paying attention.
In my own case, when Yankee was young, I was playing with him in my neighborhood park, a park that’s located on a busy street and requires that dogs be on leash.
On the retractable leash, he was chasing a ball that I threw too far. I ran with him but when he got to the end of the retractable leash, he pulled so hard it pulled me down. I landed hard on my left shoulder and tore my rotator cuff. I couldn’t lift my arm for months.
That was years ago and that shoulder still has some damage.
These are cases of danger solely based on my personal experience.
Retractable leashes may have their place if you’re walking your dog in an unpopulated, quiet area and you want to give your dog more freedom to explore.
They may also be appropriate if your dog is a great walker on a regular leash, and is gentle mannered enough not to abuse the freedom a retractable leash gives him. But for most dogs, most cities and neighborhoods, and certainly in cases where there’s a crowd with or without dogs, having your dog on a retractable leash isn’t worth the risk to either of you.