By Karen Fazio, CDBC
 Director of Behavior and Training

Retractable leashes are a serious threat to pet health and pet safety.

One day, as I was about to leave my house for a walk with my dog, I saw (Insert dog’s name) spot a squirrel in our yard. Not surprisingly, before I could utter the word “NO!” he took off after it. Worse still? As he was bolting down the front steps, I realized  – a bit too late – that I had forgotten to lock the retractable leash he had on. I stood, transfixed at the top of my brick stairs, as the zip line ran out… The last thing I remember was toppling down the stairs and landing flat on my face, leaving me with a small scar just above my right lip that serves to remind me of the dangers associated with retractable leashes.

I will admit that retractable leashes can be fun. They provide pets with a sense of off-leash freedom that allows them to explore areas that they might not otherwise be able to. Many people wonder if retractable leashes are good for puppies. However, in my experience, the risk of serious injury, or even death, far outweigh any pleasure you or your dog might enjoy.

Retractable Leashes Present a High Risk for Pet Injury

Retractable leashes are commonly made out of thin nylon cord, which can cause serious injury to both pets and their owners. When these leashes get wrapped around a finger, arm, or leg they have the potential to cause severe burns and deep gashes, which may send the victim to the emergency room. When wrapped around the body or limbs of a pet, the risk for broken bones or even dismemberment is tremendous.  

Serious neck and spine injuries also are a consideration for pet safety, especially if your pet bolts when the mechanism isn’t locked and it reaches the end of the line, suddenly jerking your pet backward at his neck. In these cases, trauma to the neck and spine is a certainty; and in some cases, the injuries are grave enough to cause death.

Taking the Lead

Despite how comfortable retractable leashes may feel in our grasp, they can be difficult to hold on to when attached to a struggling or pulling dog. This is because the handles are designed to be held primarily by the fingers, which tend to be quite weak.

Novice Pet Owners

Another reason retractable leashes aren’t always safe for pets is when they are held by novice pet owners who adopted a new dog during the pandemic. Many of these animals (and their owners) have not had the opportunity to socialize with other animals and might get too excited upon seeing a potential friend out on a walk. Inexperienced pet owners will have a hard time controlling a dog with just a flimsy retractable leash, which could lead to a dangerous situation for both dog and owner.

If you would like to learn more about the dangers of retractable leashes, and what options may be right for your individual pet, please schedule an appointment. The team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is committed to keeping your pet safe, happy, and healthy, both at home and on the trail.