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Why you shouldn't use retractable leashes

A retractable leash with tape/belt.
A retractable leash with tape/belt.
Kaitlin Krhounek

Retractable leashes frequently fly in the face of responsible dog walking. They foster laziness and tout it as “freedom” for your dog. They cause injuries to people and pooches alike. Yet you see people walking their dogs on them all the time, big and small. Below are some of the reasons these leashes are NOT the best choice:

The proper way most any trainer will tell you when walking a dog is this: the dog should be walking on a loose leash by your side, NOT in front of you. The person, not the dog, should be in control of the walk. Unless you give enough slack on the retractable line, and your dog is already well behaved, this isn't going to be an option. And the instructions on such leashes advise against leaving any slack. It basically teaches your dog to pull and that by pulling it can gain more control.

It hardly fosters a way for the owner to be in control. In order to regain control of your dog if something should happen or they go too far, you must do a special maneuver. You know the one: that arm swing while engaging the brake and frantic running to catch up to your pooch.

They break. Drop the housing on the ground one too many times or the inner mechanism can break leaving you without the ability to reel in the line; not something you want to happen when out and about with your dog. They are also more easily chewed through than a traditional nylon or leather leash.

They are dangerous. Should you really need to use instructions on a leash to be able to operate it safely? The Flexi company- the self-proclaimed foremost maker of retractable leashes sites cuts and burns, finger amputations and fractures, eye and face injuries, falls, and injuries to bystanders as special precautions. They even have stick figure representations of each scenario. Scary, no? And these types of injuries aren't reserved just for humans.

The bottom line is this: there are few legitimate reasons for your dog to be more than six feet away from you on a leash. It’s about control; as the owner, you’re the one that should have it. And no bit of retractable cord or tape/belt is going to give you that whether your dog is well behaved or not.

It would be remiss to say there aren't people out there that safely operate these leashes, but convenience shouldn't be your top priority when choosing the way you control your dog in the outside world. Even the best behaved dogs can become victims of circumstance.