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Retractable Leashes – Yay or Nay?

April 1, 2020

Most dog owners opt for a retractable dog leashes because it has several convenient features including the ability to lock and retract the leash, but are retractable leashes really as great as they seem? Here are a few things you should consider in your decision to buy a standard or retractable leash.

 Pros of retractable leashes

  1. More freedom of movement
  2. Allow more energetic dogs to exercise at a faster pace
  3. Useful for training the “come” command

Flaws of retractable leashes 

  1. Encourages pulling 
  2. Distance and Response time 
  3. Dangerous for reactive dogs

Dogs have a natural reflex to resist force by pulling or pushing against it. Retractable leashes when in the unlocked position give the sensation of backward pulling to your pup, which triggers his natural instinct to pull away. This can make the walk uncomfortable for you as you will feel as if you are in a game of tug of war and you are training your dog to continue this behavior during walks. 

Also, when using a retractable leash, as your dog creates distance between the two of you, your ability to respond if he were to encounter danger diminishes. While we don’t often think about the dangers that can arise during a walk, it’s possible that you’re put in a position in which you need to respond or intervene quickly for the safety of your dog. 

If your dog is reactive, meaning he becomes aggressive or territorial at the sight of other dogs, he shouldn’t be on a retractable leash. Walking a reactive dog requires control and that can’t happen on a retractable leash. The use of a retractable leash with reactive dogs can place your dog and your community at risk. Even with the lock feature enabled, reactive dogs can easily lunge forward, and due to the bulky handle, you won’t always be able to quickly move your dog closer to you. 

We all want out pups to behave during walks, but this requires using the right type of leash for your dog. Puppies and reactive dogs respond better to non-retractable leashes. You have options for your leash. We recommend a 4-8 foot leather, cotton, or nylon leash as this leash will ensure that your pup will be close to you and you can easily take up the slack if need be. 

You can also choose a front attachment leash and harness. Front attachment harnesses don’t give the pulling sensation and the strap is less likely to make your dog feel as if they are being choked as the strap sits low across the dog’s chest. 

One of the downsides of transition from a retractable leash is that you will have to train your dog not to pull. We recommend humane head halters or pull harnesses which will help you to control your dog on walks. Another is that you’ll most likely have to pick up the pace of your walks to match your dog’s need for exercise. If this really gives you pause, you can wear your dog out by playing in the house or yard before a walk so that he or she is a bit less energetic.

After making the switch, time and good positive reinforcement can help you teach your dog to walk without pulling.

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