Retractable leashes are extremely popular and they can be useful in certain circumstances when used properly. The problem with these leashes is that they can give owners the illusion of control over their dogs because they are on a leash. However, these leashes can extend up to 25 feet if the locking mechanism is not engaged. There have been numerous dogs who have gotten into fights with other dogs and even hit by cars while on a retractable leash. There is also a significant risk of injury to handlers, from severe rope burns, being tripped by the dog wrapping the leash around people’s legs, to even traumatic amputation of fingers that become trapped in loops of the leash. All of these dangerous risks can come into play when dogs are brought to the veterinary hospital on a retractable leash. Since many owners who use these leashes do not engage the locking mechanism, their dogs are then free to run up to other unfamiliar dogs who may be nervous about being in a different environment. This greatly increases the risk of bites. Another danger posed by these leashes comes if the dog is running and pulls the leash from the owner’s hand, the plastic reel and handle will be clattering behind “chasing” the dog which can scare them and cause them to run away even faster.
From a training standpoint, the issue with retractable leashes is that you are teaching your dog to pull. If a behavior such as pulling on a leash is rewarded by allowing the dog more freedom, then the behavior will occur more frequently. The strongest way to reinforce a behavior is through random rewards, such as what occurs when owners sometimes allow dogs to forge ahead and sometimes lock the leash. Owners may think they are being nice by giving their dog more freedom, but you can’t have it both ways unless you are willing to devote a lot of time and effort to training your dog.