Why Are Retractable Leashes Bad for Dogs?

Ask any dog owner what their ideal dog leash looks like, and you're bound to hear a variety of answers. Some people like dog leashes with special features and attachments (think stretch webbing for running and extra D-rings for their dog poop bag holders), while others prefer cute dog leashes in fun designs that show off their pup's personality. 

No matter which type of dog leash you choose, safety — both yours and your dog's — is paramount. While a popular option among dog owners, retractable dog leashes are somewhat controversial due to their potential to put dog owners and their faithful companions in dangerous situations.

trio long retractable dog leashes

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But what are retractable leashes, exactly, and why do so many experts caution against them? In this article, we explain the dangers of retractable dog leashes and what to use instead.

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What Is a Retractable Leash?

Retractable leashes are a type of dog leash that give your pup more freedom to roam and explore without actually letting them be off-leash. They typically feature a thin cord or ribbon-style leash housed inside a plastic case with a handle. These leashes may extend up to 26 feet in length and retract with the simple push of a button, giving you the option to keep your furry friend close by your side or let them wander. Retractable leashes also feature a brake button that allows you to lock the leash at a specific length.

Why Are Retractable Leashes Bad?  

Retractable leashes may be convenient, but the unfortunate truth is that they can be dangerous to both you and your dog. One of the more significant concerns with retractable leashes is that they allow your dog to wander out of sight and, potentially, into hazardous situations. For instance, if your dog is 20 feet ahead of you and happens upon someone’s garbage, they could ingest something deadly without you even knowing it.

Soggy garbage on the ground isn’t the only reason to avoid retractable leashes. Here are a few more downsides to this type of dog leash:

  • They’re more likely to break. To fit inside the plastic handle, the cord of a retractable dog leash must be extra thin. This design makes it more likely to break when your dog yanks on the leash.
  • You or your dog can become tangled in the cord. At best, this can be a minor inconvenience as you struggle to untangle you and your dog from the cord. At worst, it can result in serious injury, including facial cuts, rope burns, broken teeth, eye damage and finger injuries
  • They’re not good for your dog’s neck or throat. If your dog gets overexcited at the sight of a squirrel and takes off at top speed, the braking mechanism of a retractable leash can end up jerking their head and neck backward. This can result in severe and long-lasting injury to your dog’s neck and throat. 
  • They may lead to leash aggression. Retractable leashes give your dog more freedom on walks, which can lead to problems if you allow your dog to enter another dog’s personal space. For example, if you’re rounding a corner on a trail, your dog may encounter an aggressive dog before you have time to retract the leash.

aggressive dogs barking on walk

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  • They’re easy to drop. The bulky handle of a retractable leash makes it difficult to get a good grip on the leash. If your dog decides to bolt, the handle of the leash may slip out of your hands, resulting in a runaway dog. 
  • They encourage leash pulling. Because the tension is constant on a retractable leash, they actually encourage your dog to pull. If you’re teaching your dog how to walk on a loose leash, this will be counterproductive to your training efforts.

What to Use Instead 

For all-purpose walking, you can’t go wrong with a classic dog leash. These leashes usually come in lengths of five to six feet, which should give your pup plenty of room to safely explore their surroundings while still keeping them fairly close to your side. They’re also made from durable, easy-to-wash nylon or neoprene that promise to stand the test of time.

A no-pull dog harness is another helpful tool that can make your daily strolls together safer and more enjoyable. Designed to give you better control over your dog, these popular dog accessories help reduce your dog’s ability to tug on the leash so you can enjoy your walks while teaching them good leash manners. Trust us, they’re a game-changer for your daily strolls!

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cupcake no pull dog harness

The Bottom Line

Retractable leashes aren’t safe for you or your pup — period. They allow your dog to wander off into dangerous situations and are made from materials that can easily result in a litany of injuries, from rope burn to deep cuts.

If you want to walk your dog in safety and style, check out the cool dog leashes at Beast & Buckle. Made from premium quality materials, our durable dog leashes come in an array of eye-catching designs that will take your pup’s style game to the next level!

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