The Dangers of Retractable Leashes


One of the most popular devices used to restrain dogs when taking them out for a walk is the retractable leash. Many owners, however, wonder if such a leash is appropriate or even safe to use. Well, the answer generally depends on a person’s reason for using the device. While there are several ways to utilize the retractable leash properly, it is important to remember that they also pose some danger to you and your dog if not used correctly.

Before using a retractable leash, make certain you’ve got one that’s strong enough to handle your dog. Dogs that have a tendency to bolt or take off running after perceived prey should never be restrained with a retractable leash. Aside from those dangers, there are other things to keep in mind when using one of these popular leashes.

What You Need to Watch Out For

· Prickling leash burns. Retractable leashes, especially the thin string variety, can very easily cause leash burns. This could happen when you let your pooch race past you with the retractable line zipped up across your bare skin. Unwarranted injuries, however, can be prevented if you try the flat, tape style retractable leash.
· Entanglement or strangulation. Not only can retractable leashes burn us, they can also get twisted around a dog’s neck or legs. Worse, if your pooch panics and jerks the moment they get hog-tied; it could cause the leash to pull even tighter. Although you can loosen the cords that have wrapped around his neck, the situation could quickly become life-threatening.
· Fatal accidents. There are times when our dogs dart away all of a sudden, and with a retractable leash on him, your dog might dart even farther, faster. Nevertheless, it’s the reeling that’s a serious issue here. It is possible that Fido may spot a squirrel or anything interesting across the street, and suddenly take off after it. If you’re not alert enough, his abrupt behavior and an un-sturdy retractable leash could put him smack on the road, right in front of a speeding car.

Other Things You Would Never Want to Happen

· The leash drops. Because these leashes rarely have a wrist strap and are sometimes heavy and bulky, dropping them is a regular occurrence. What’s worse, if you drop the handle, the lack of tension can send the heavy handle hurdling toward your dog. Not only could the heavy leash handle smack your dog in the head, if your dog is spooked by the leash handle zipping deafeningly toward him, he may take off running.
· The cord is grabbed. If you grab the cord/tape while it is being pulled from the handle, you might suffer from immediate injury like cuts and burns.
· The cord wraps around you. Poor handling can also cause the cord/tape to twist around you or someone else’s fingers resulting in deep wounds, or worse, amputation.
· The collar breaks or comes off your dog. The moment this occurs, the leash could retract at top speed while the other end of the line whips around at the same full momentum leading to serious injuries to face, teeth, and eyes.



  1. Haven’t had a chance to read through the other comments, but one of the things to keep in mind when selecting/using any leash are your local bylaws.

    Some municipalities have restrictions on leash length when walking on public sidewalks/paths.

    Using a retractable leash extended beyond the “legal” length can result in significant fines.

  2. I use a small retractable leash, specifically mad for Chihuahuas for my youngest dog(which she is a chi) whenever I walk her and being so small and dependant on staying at my side I have no problems. :) For my other dogs, who are med size and mostly outdoors, I use a normal leash as they are likely to try and dart off. In fact sometimes it feels more like they’re walking me(especially when they go on walks together).

  3. We have a small beagle – 22lbs and were using a retractable leash for her. Just as mentioned in the article, she saw something, darted toward it, and pulled the leash out of my daughter’s hand. She went around a corner, and my daughter lost sight of her. We live in a very wooded area, and after a 2 days search, we found our beagle tangled up in the creek through the woods. Thank goodness, the leash tangled up and kept her from drowning, but it had her trapped in the creek for 2 days. Good and bad – it kept her from getting swept away in the deep creek and stopped her so we could find her, but it also held her down and could have subjected her to being attacked by snakes, coyote, foxes and the other wildlife we have in our woods. A lot of people told me to buy a new, fixed length regular leash, so that’s what we have now!

  4. I have used this type of leash for 23 years. With my previous dog a Labrador Retriever mix for 15 years and with my present dog a Golden Retriever. No problems and I love it. I have used the big model(2), no thin cord.
    However, I would use this type of leash only with mild mannered dogs. Both my dogs have been well Balanced dogs and I have not encountered any issues.
    Of course there can arise problems with this long leash but the problem is not the leash but the people who do not know how to use it properly.