Saturday, December 3, 2011

Retractable Leashes?

There's a lot of hatred for retractable leashes....  and there are a lot of people who love them.  And then the people who hate them, but then add they're okay or great for some types of training and situations.

When Blaze went to training class as a 6 month old dog, we were told about the evils of retractable leashes.  "They are the most frequently returned item to [large pet store]."  "They break, and then your dog is free!"  "You do not have a good grip on the leash!"  "It trains your dog to pull!". "You could get rope burn or your dog could get rope burn, or you could CUT OFF A FINGER!"

And so, I too joined in the dislike for the retractable leashes.   Last year I ended up with few as part of a product-testing situation.   One was for small dogs and I gave it away.  Another broke (It locked up on super-short), and the third is still occasionally used when I have a leash shortage.

There definitely are disadvantages.

The webbing could break or the spring that creates the retracting could break.   But regular leashes could break too.  I've had multiple leashes break on me. I've seen leashes break for other people.

Rope burn and tangling can happen, but it also can happen with regular leashes and longlines. I know from experience!   Fingers could get hurt from being caught in the webbing (I've never heard of this happening, but I'm sure it has.)

Fingers can also get caught in the plastic case....    I had a student who experienced this.  Her large breed dog circled behind her, and instead of rotating in place, she raised her hand holding the retractable leash up and over her head. The dog lunged away when behind her back and it pulled on her just right that she had serious fractures/broken bones/something resulting in many surgeries.     With a regular leash....she probably would have been hurt too, but maybe not as bad or maybe she would have broken her whole arm when pulled over backwards.    I know someone who had a finger get fractured when it was caught in a regular leash and her dog lunged.

A dog does have to put tension on a retractable leash to get more leash out.  This can, theoretically, be teaching dogs to do more pulling.  At the same time..... many people choosing to use this tool probably aren't all that concerned about polite walking or they wouldn't need or want their dog 10' away.   So while this point is valid.... I don't know that it's convincing.

Are they a commonly returned item? Maybe they were at that point 10 years ago.   A few years ago I worked in a pet store and never once had one returned while I was there.... I wasn't there long, but....0 returns in a few month time frame?  Not a frequently returned item.

"How about NO leashes"- Griffin
"Irresponsible owners letting their dogs wander!"   There's a reason I keep my (relatively friendly) dogs away from others when we're in public. We stay far enough away that it's not an issue, regardless of the type of leash.  This might not work in all communities, but we've been successful for 10 years.   I have seen just as many attempts of moving closer with regular leashes as again, it's a bit unfair to put these characteristics to just those who use retractable leashes.....

Probably the most valid point is that there isn't much communication to the dog from the handler.   Screeching stops and pulling the dog back so that the handler can then retract the leash a little more.....    So what's the alternative?  Training people to use a long line.  How often are people interested in this?  How many people would come to a class or session on using a longline?  The people who are most comfortable with the retractable leads are the ones I feel it would be completely unsafe to use a longline ( slower response times, older owners, poor mobility...)

The point?  It's fine to dislike retractable leashes....but there may not be as much validity to the dislike as it is just opinion and part of some-dog-people-culture.

I think I only have made the recommendation once in the last five owner with poor mobility and  a small dog that got tangled in the leash.  Walking in her own yard, not out in public.   The elasticy leashes were too long and the dog still could get tangled.

Can I or will I bring myself to recommend retractable leashes? Not by any means on a regular basis. But I also can't bring myself to talk poorly about them without strong evidence of their evils.


Catalina said...

They can be a good stepping stone in training. That's how I used mine. When I first started training my dog in agility (long, long time ago 6 months LOL!) I used it to train at parks. I couldn't trust her to not run off and visit, plus all the parks have leash laws. A few jumps and a flexi-lead and we could play in a new distracting environment. I tried a long line, but it didn't work at all!!

Kristen said...

Excellent example of a potential use for training. It's always interesting to see when it works as a step to off leash and when it doesn't (my dogs....they could feel the leash! But they also could feel the longline when it weighed them down or they stepped on it).

It's also interesting the prevalence of using a retractable leash on competition obedience as a way to inflict a correction from far away or to "make" the dog do something.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I hate them but only because of the people that use them, not because of the device itself. It's rare to find a dog savy person on the other end of a leash and that can be a recipe for disaster on a flexi when you mix in traffic or other dogs around.