The Dangers of Using An Extendable Leash for Walking Your Dog

The extendable/retractable leash debate goes on and on! You will hear dog owners saying the love extendable leashes but often pet professionals such as dog walkers and trainers will never recommend or use them. Lets discuss why pet professionals have this opinion!

Control

How are you suppose to control your dog if they are 10-12 feet away from you. Your dog is able to do what he or she wants to do. Your dog could approach people and dogs that don’t want to be greeted. There are many people who are afraid of dogs and consider it rude for your dog to approach him or her without permission and this could result in an angry tirade from strangers on the street. You also run the fear of bumping into a dog who is afraid of dogs and exhibit fear aggression towards other dogs. It is extremely hard to tell your dog ‘No’ when you are far behind them.

Children can pet your dog and approach your dog without your say so and your dog can be uncomfortable with this and react to the child. Kids can make noises and sounds that your pup will react to and the outcome is unpredictable as your dog is being put in an unknown situation.

You are walking along the road and your pup is ahead of you doing their own thing and next of all they see something attractive across the road and they decide they have to go investigate and dart across the road. If you are lucky enough and your dog wasn’t hit by a car or bike or cause an accident count yourself lucky. You are responsible for your dog, you wouldn’t let a toddler have free roam when they start walking you use a short walking harness and keep them right beside you, if you let your child walk ahead of you and they see something much more exciting, off course they are going to go see it.

Dogs find all kinds of things appealing on the side walk…bones, food, dead animals, used tissue, poop among many other things. Your dog will be 100% more effective in gathering up items along the sidewalk in they have their own freedom out on  your walk. He’s walking along and sees a delicious chicken wing on the street so decides to pick it up. What happens next? Your dog has a head start on you so you can do your best to get to your dog as quickly as you can but chances are he’s ate his way through the chicken wing before you even get to him so you are left with the reminisces of what he picked up to take out of his mouth! With a dog on a short leash and by your side 90% of the time you would have seen the chicken wing on the street, avoided it and walked on as you have control over your dog so all ends happily. There is always a chance that your dog had been successful in picking up the yummy bone but with your dog on a short leash you would simply be able to remove the bone without your dog having any success and not chewing or swallowing foreign objects. On a side note if your dog swallows a cooked chicken bone watch them carefully as these bones can splinter. Any signs of discomfort call your vet immediately. Teaching your pup ‘drop it’ and ‘leave it’ will help with these situations.

Training

You want your dog to walk nicely on a lead beside you and you don’t want your dog to pull. With training we need consistency. We can’t say for our portion of the walk I want you to walk beside me nicely and not pull then later decide ok you can have freedom, walk behind me, in front, to the side and do whatever you like. This is sending mix messages to your dog. If you want your dog to walk nicely on a leash beside you, you need to practice this on every single walk, be consistent, let your dog know what is expected of them. For some helpful management tools for walking your nicely, look at our article on how to manage pulling.

Safety

retractable leash scar

Extendable leashes break quite frequently, so you are about to cross and road and you and your pup set out to cross only a car makes an unexpected turn. You click on your leash to stop your dog and it doesn’t work so your instinct is to grab the rope! For your efforts to keep your pup safe you end up with cuts and burns on your hand. Anyone who has experienced this, they know the severe pain.

It’s not just humans who are at risk of cutting their skin open. Dogs who are off adventuring on their walk can get themselves caught up and tangled and in a panic the rope can rip across their skin and cause a burn, a cut or much worse they tear a tendon

.dog scar retractable leash

The sheer force your dog can build up before they reach the end of their leash, especially large dogs can be enough to bring a grown man to the ground and dragged if they haven’t let go of the leash or the leash hasn’t snapped in the process. This is a huge hazard and one I have seen happen quite a lot. A dog sees a squirrel and you are walking along enjoying the sights, you suddenly realize what’s happening, you will either try and pull the cord or hold on tight hoping it will be enough when he reaches the end of the lead. The momentum your dog has built up is not enough to stop your pup and you will end up on the ground or being dragged along. Shouting at your dog or being annoyed is not going to help the situation. You gave the dog his freedom, you let him wander off and you have taught him that its perfectly acceptable to do this.

I had a client who absolutely loved their extendable leash for walking their beautiful chocolate lab that was until the dog saw something of interest behind their owner. The dog ran behind their owner and tied up their legs and before the owner knew what was happening they were surrounded by concerned passersby while lying on the ground with a massive gash on their head. They ended up in A&E and a hospital stay for 2 days. Accidents will always happen and you will not always be prepared for sudden movements by your dog. With the extended leash the dog has significant more force when they have ran a few feet and then the owner gets pulled to the ground whereas if he was on a short lead and pulls, the pull is immediate and the owner will have much more success in controlling their dog and eliminate the possibility of getting a serious injury.

retractable leash scar

If you want to give your dog freedom and that’s why you are using an extendable leash, why not reinforce a solid recall with your pup. I’m sure your dog would be much happier having a free run around and sniff around an off leash trail or ravine. There are many off leash areas for dogs to be walked in Toronto where the dog can enjoy their freedom and be safe. Invest in your dogs training and you will have a happy dog and when a dog has true freedom the owner is happy!