The depth to which I dislike retractable leashes knows no bounds. It’s literally bottomless. This speech is much better listened to in person so I can wildly gesticulate at the same time, but feel free to let your imagination fill in the blanks.
1. They teach your dog to pull. While the tension is light, the dog learns to walk under a constant back pressure. They also learn that if they pull against this pressure they get rewarded by getting to go wherever they want. Pretty much the opposite of getting your dog to walk nicely beside you without pulling…
2. You have zero control over where your dog is walking. This can be something as simple as you trying to walk around a mud puddle while your dog chooses to charge through it, to the dog being allowed to veer wildly from one side of you to the other and dropping back to sniff things continuously. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, I allow my dogs to walk like that all the time… when they’re off leash. But a leashed walk should involve both of you doing something enjoyable together, and you certainly don’t seem like a very important part of the team if the dog goes off and does everything without you.
3. They break. A retractable line is thin, and they are not always examples of fine craftsmanship. They break, snap, fray, and the handles are so bulky I’ve seen more than one pulled out of a distracted owners hand.
4. They create distance between dogs and owners. I don’t know why people think dogs need distance from their owners to get a fulfilling walk, but if that’s your reasoning maybe you as the owner should put more effort into making the walk interesting. More distance may create more sniffing opportunities, but more distance increases the risk to an untrained dog substantially. If your dog eats something off the ground 25 ft from you, you most certainly won’t be able to see what it was, or if it was dangerous. Maybe it was a stray French fry, but maybe it was a raisin, or a cigarette butt, or chicken wing bones or one of the innumerable other dangerous things people litter. Maybe your dog will see a rabbit on the other side of the road and will run into traffic because you couldn’t get the button down in time, or (see number #3), it breaks and doesn’t stop the line. If your dog meets another dog at 25 ft, will you be able to see the warning signs if the meeting doesn’t go well? This is a lot of maybes, I get that, but every single one of them is a probable day to day scenario you could face while on a walk… why risk it?
5. So. Many. Injuries. If you doubt me, go google “retractable leash burns”. These leashes get wrapped around legs and arms so quickly and they’re so thin, they create horrible burns almost instantly. Have you ever tried to grab the line on a retractable as it’s being extended? That won’t even burn, it just slices. To be honest, I’m less concerned if you as the purchaser of a retractable get burned or cut, I feel that falls under the category of “experiential learning” and hope you learn your lesson. What I absolutely can’t stand is that it’s not just you that stands to get injured. Your own dog, random bystanders, or other dogs can all get caught in that line and they have no idea what’s going on. Just picture how a greeting with a strange dog would go if, while the leash is fully extended, your dog and the new dog circle during the greeting, the new (potentially) friendly dog gets caught in that line, and happens to get cut as it pulls. How friendly do you think that dog’s going to stay? Now you have a possible dog fight, while 25 ft away, with the added problems of a tangled line and an injured dog.
There’s only one circumstance I’m generally ok with people using retractable’s in and that’s too potty an injured dog that normally is not asked to pee on leash. It gives them some feeling of “not being on leash” so they’ll go, but gives you the ability to stop them from running wildly around your yard and reinjuring themselves. I fully accept that it’s far easier to buy a retractable leash than to buy enough chain link for a temporary potty run. That being said, if you’ve got Amazon, they sell long lines for the same price as a retractable…
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Beta, none of that has ever happened to me and I’ve used a retractable for 5 years! I’m responsible!” Congratulations. I’m a responsible driver and I’ve never been hit by a drunk driver... Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, just means it hasn’t happened to me. And just because it hasn’t happened to me, doesn’t mean I should believe drunk drivers don’t hit other cars. Remember in dog training, like in life, just because something hasn’t happened to you personally doesn’t mean it can’t happen, or even that there’s a reasonable expectation that it won’t. It literally just means it hasn’t happened to you, personally. Yet.
TL;DR - Don’t use retractable leashes. They’re shit and cause more problems than they’re worth.