Many questions arise among pet guardians when looking for the perfect walking supplies: harness, collar, leash, etc. What is the best way: collar or harness? What leash best suits me and my dog: retractable or traditional leather/nylon leash?
On top of these, we also get the million-dollar question: Why don't we carry retractable leashes? The answer is always the same, but we thought it was almost necessary to explain the risks and potential dangers this type of “leash” represents.
We will always encourage you to seek out the best products that suit your lifestyle, looking for comfort and safety. But when it comes to what we consider a not-so-safe product, we feel the need to inform you and encourage you to do your research in order to protect not only your pooch, bur your family and yourself from this device. Far from being judgmental, we believe exposing the CONS, will help enlighten the importance of the issue. So here we go!
Let's start by defining a retractable leash. In the words of Dr. Karen Becker, a retractable leash is “not so much a leash” as it is a “length of thin cord wound around a spring-loaded device housed inside a plastic handle (...) designed to fit comfortably in a human hand”. We are talking about a leash-like device that is practical at first glance, and that provides total comfort for the walker and provides a sense of “freedom” to the pet. Now, The leash is strictly attached to the walking. We can't move forward without first talking about THE WALK.
Walking is a “Team Sport”
Let's not underestimate the importance of "The Walk". A special power lays within this outdoor activity, and that is: the control you have over your pooch. It is not only a control tool, but it is the foundation of any structure you may give to his training, obedience and influence of positive behaviour.
Walking your dog helps build a trust between you and your dog. It helps reinforce any cues and behaviour you want to see in him and it most likely results in a very well-behaved adult dog. Communication is very important, especially when you are trying to train and educate certain behaviours. Talking to your dog during the walk will help you connect and strengthen positive behaviours.
We believe the most important thing to consider when looking out for walking supplies is: what will ensure you and your doggie have a nice, well-behaved and safe walk? And let's not forget, walking your dog should be fun, worry-free and a time for bonding. Let's make sure this happens - if you have a retractable leash, keep reading!
Unfortunately, a retractable leash is hands down, one of the pet products out there in the market with the most risks, which you would probably want to stay away from.
The PROS and CONS
We understand how walking a dog on a retractable leash can seem less confining and may look as if you´re being good to your dog in terms of giving them more space to sniff around and more “freedom” to do their own thing. This seems to be the only and principal argument in favour. We respect this, ultimately we only want them to be happy, yes?
Regardless of how well-trained your doggie is, you should always want him close to you during a walk. Especially if you live in a crowded and high-traffic area.
The problem with the “distance"
- A retractable leash, as we said before, consists of a thin cord that extends as the dog walks forward, allowing the dog to walk away from the walker and leaving a big gap between them. Some of these leashes will go as far as 26 ft. A button on the plastic housing allows the walker to lock the leash in order to prevent from it to extend further. However, these leashes do not (I repeat: do not) have a feature to retract the dog itself, meaning the walker has to approach the dog in order to shorten the amount of cord extended. If you were to unlock the button to retract the dog, the pressure on the neck (or body) of the dog is such, you can potentially create spine and neck issues.
- In many cases, dogs will sniff around and will approach other people or other dogs (uninvited greetings) and can potentially initiate a dog fight. When walking your doggie, you should position yourself in between him/her and whatever object/person/dog he or she is approaching.
- With the dog being far from your control, dogs can easily walk on the road and get hit by cars.
- It is not only risky for your doggie, but for humans too. While trying to control your dog, you may grab the cord (or get some other human involved) and get serious burns or cuts from getting the cord wrapped around on some parts of the body such as hands or fingers. This also may result (and has resulted) in cuts, broken bones, falls, and amputations.
- We live in a world where getting distracted is very easy. It is known that reacting to a dangerous moment or situation can be panic-inducing, so when something like this happens during your walk - it is quite tricky to react instantaneously without getting harmed.
- A retractable leash may not be the greatest idea for a big doggie on the other side of the leash, as the buckle can easily break from the heaviness and strength of the pooch and potentially snap - hurting your dog or yourself on its way back.
- This may encourage some escape-behaviour from your dog when losing control of the leash and falling to the ground creates a noise your dog may not like and he may attempt to run away. Additionally, the plastic housing will be “chasing” them, resulting in a bad walking experience for them.
The problem with the “freedom”
- Walking a dog with a retractable leash will most likely encourage pulling (if they already pull, they will pull harder). Dogs are super smart creatures, they learn very quickly that the leash extends as they pull, which means more space to walk and sniff. This behaviour is something you want to avoid always as it can be difficult to correct.
- It is great for dogs to have freedom, space and liberty in their walking. However, we need to let you know this: the minute they walk in front of you and not beside you, it is harder for you to connect with them and give commands. You are basically surrendering any type of control you may have. Human, I've gotta tell you: you are being walked by your dog.
- Keep in mind this thin cord can wear out and when this happens, it is more likely it will break quicker and easier than expected, leading to situations where you could find yourself without a leash in the middle of the walk. Nobody wants this.
- Retractable leash manufacturers know they have a not-very-safe product. This is why you will commonly see that they include a set of “instructions” and manuals on how to avoid a long-list of risks.
The problem with the “behaviour"
- You are not having a walk with your dog… both you and your dog are having different walks! This is a problem because the walk should be, as discussed before, a time to bond and connect. It is a time where your pooch has to listen to your commands and share a walk in which you will both reap the benefits. We should remember having pets is like having kids - we want our kids to be well behaved!
- It is not that they ignore you while walking on a retractable leash, but kind of. They have the opportunity to just ignore your commands. Another downside regarding trying to maintain proper training while walking on retractable leashes is that it blurs out the boundaries you may have taught.
To summarize, it is not about you or the attentiveness you provide. It is also not about your dog and how poorly or well-trained he is. It is about the leash. It consists of all possible dangers for you, your pet and people surrounding you. We believe there are lots of options on the market nowadays that will provide full support, comfort and safety to your walks! Try a standard nylon leash! Leather alternative materials are also very popular these days!
Click here to see our line of Smoochy Poochy leashes. The hands-free leash is a great choice if you're looking to be comfy because you can use your hands while walking your dog. It will also work if you need to tie your doggie for a while to a tree or post! The 1” leash gives you the option of using the leash as a traffic lead (very short leash to keep your doggie close to you). Our hands-free leashes come with a pouch for you to put your keys, money, poop bags and/or treats. Find it here at our store in different colours and widths! Click here to buy online.
Keep in mind the Toronto by-laws! According to the 349-12.1 Leashing and walking dogs; “No person shall keep a dog off the premises of the owner other than on a leash which shall not exceed two metres in length, except in designated areas of a City park…”.
If you´re thinking: Where on Earth I can find a long leash to bring my dog to the park and let him be free? No worries, you'll find it at Sit! Stay!. We carry Smoochy Poochy nylon 15 ft leash - people love to get these for their doggies for park time!
Now, if you don't like this option - it's no problem. Just throw that retractable leash in the garbage and get yourself a brand new conventional 6ft leash from your closest doggie store and be safe. That is all that matters!