Retractable / Extendable leads – yes or no?

This was mentioned on another thread recently and I wondered what your thoughts were?

I volunteered for a charity in Scotland for a number of years and they banned the use of them when volunteers were fostering or walking dogs.

You just need to google retractable lead or extendable lead to see how many negatives there are.

A few quotes:

Using one of these leads means that your dog can get far enough away from you to get into trouble (some of these leads extend up to 26 feet). When your dog is that far away from you, it is not possible to protect him and a situation can quickly turn dangerous. A dog can run into the middle of the road or get into a situation where they have unwelcome contact with another dog. Once that lead is extended, you are powerless to help quickly and sometimes it can be too late before you are able to intervene.

If you get caught up in the lead and the lead comes into contact with your skin as it is quickly pulled, you will get a nasty friction burn or cut. This has also resulted in amputation. These injuries occur most frequently on a hand but if the dog runs in circles, tangling you up, these injuries can occur on other parts of your body too. Many people have been pulled off their feet when using these leads and this can result in broken bones. Dogs can also get injured, generally on their legs, or their tails and similar injuries can result. The sudden jerk on the neck can result in neck wounds, lacerated tracheas and spinal injury. People have been bitten by their dogs when trying to untangle them from these leads.

They can malfunction. They are made up of lots of parts which can become faulty or break. The cord can come loose from the handle, the locking mechanism can fail, the thin cord can break. If any of these happen (and they do), you would lose control of your dog or a broken part could cause injury to you or your dog.

The handles are heavy and bulky and can easily be pulled out of your hand or dropped. This can result in a loose dog which is bad enough. However, if the handle is dropped, the noise of it dragging behind your dog can be very scary for him. Imagine, especially for a fearful dog, how this must feel when the scary, noisy object is retracting as he tries to escape it but can’t because it is gaining ground on him? This could result in a lingering fear of leads for your dog.

They are a very bad idea from a training aspect as they actually train dogs to pull while on a lead because they learn that pulling extends the lead. To teach your dog not to pull on a lead, it is really important not to allow him to pull as being inconsistent will result in your dog trying to pull - because sometimes it works! It is much better to teach your dog to walk politely on a lead beside you without pulling.

They can be a nuisance to other people as the length of a retractable lead enables your dog to run up to people before you have enough time to control it. It could have run and jumped on someone, scared a child or someone who is wary of dogs. It could have caused another dog to feel threatened, as some dogs adopt a posture when pulling which can look like aggression to another dog who may then decide to fight back.

I have used them in the past, and if an owner has one as the main dog lead, I will use it, but only at a very short length.

And if there is more than one dog - almost impossible to use.

I would never use them in the street but do use them in open spaces to allow a dog that I have been told not to let off leash to get some exercise and to burn off some energy.

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I’m incredibly leery of retractable leads since a young dog we were watching chewed through his lead in the 1 second my back was turned.

For me it depends on the dog and location. In a city? no. They need to stay close. In an open area, maybe, if the dog is well trained and not very strong. For a large or not well trained dog, no for all the reasons in the OP.

I did a sit in london that was 2 blocks from hyde park. I’d walk the dog over on a regular lead and switch to an expanding one once we were away from people. There was enough space that she could get that far away from me without being problematic, and she was well trained to sit or return to me on command.


I agree, it all depends on the dog and the situation.

If the dog has excellent recall, a retractable lead can be okay. If you are in an open space, with no other dogs off lead, again, a retractable lead can be okay.

That’s why, if at all possible, we like to go on a walk with the HO and the pet(s) during handover. We like to see the dog’s usual pattern of behavior and then take it slowly, one day at a time, as we get used to the dog and the dog us.


I use them in certain instances. I never would use one longer than six ft and only in safe areas like an open park. When walking along a street, I take it off the retractable setting so the dog walks along my side so the end of the lead is at my knee. I always want to see what the dog is getting up to and NEVER out of my sight just in case he is doing something he should not be doing. Dogs love to sniff and get attracted to something on a walk so it helps to de- stress them maybe?

I agree they must be used very cautiously, depending very much on the dog and the area. And if a person is somewhat inexperienced handling dogs, I’d avoid them.

I tend to bring along regular leashes as I am not a fan especially in cities with 2 dogs lol.

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The shelter that I volunteer at bans them and I will not use them. I always have leashes in my car to use, if that is all the owner has. I have seen a bad accident on a multi-use recreational path, where a dog ran across to the other lane in front of a cyclist coming from the other direction. The leash acted as an almost invisible trip-line for cyclist and both he and the dog were injured pretty badly.

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I have always had extra leashes, collars, and other doggy paraphernalia in my car, because out here in the country people abandon them. I collect all the little strays around, some of them not so little either, and try to find them homes or, if nothing works, I take them to the shelter which is a no-kill facility.


I am one of those unfortunate humans who had one of theses leads wrapped around a bare leg resulting in a nasty burn and deep cut which took a long time to heal.

They do have a function but that’s in the middle of a very large space where no other obstacles, including pets and people exist and even then used with common sense.

I have seen dogs running full tilt only to be stopped in their tracks, all four feet off the ground, with all that force on its throat and neck … most things are suitable if used correctly, with care and common sense.


Used correctly and the way they are intended to be used they can be a great addition to any walk. I had some lap dogs who were not keen on walking and as soon as I started using these leads in an appropriate manner, the dogs started to get very excited for their excerise routine. By allowing your dog some freedom to sniff and investigate in a controlled environment, endorphins are released and empowers the dog in a good way. Obviously,they are not suitable in a rescue environment

Like everything in life, you have to use a bit of common sense about what works best for you but those leads give you the option of using like a regular lead or to extend when it is safe to do so.

I personally don’t like them although I can see using them with a dog whose recall I don’t know in an open space to maybe allow some running around.

I am not a fan and have never owned a retractable leash for my own dogs. My preference is a flat, woven ‘long line’ leash, as it allows the dog to get a lot more exercise than a typical 6’ leash. After using a long line for awhile, you get very good at controlling the dog and retrieving them to your side quickly, if needed.

The times that I have used a retractable leash for dogs that I am watching, I feel there is so much ‘jerking’ on the dogs neck from the leash coming to a stop, and from the dog pulling. Admittedly, I am not experienced with using them, so that may be handler error on my part.

Athomasfamily, I would NEVER attach it at the neck. It needs to be attached to a well fitting harness with the D hook over the shoulder area. Some dogs are prone to tracheal collapse so the type of collar I think you are talking about is not good for them although the shelters I used to work for also just used the types you are talking about. You also have to be selective about the type you buy. The ones you can buy from discount stores have often a “string” type lead - totally useless. Needs to be like a proper lead.

A solution looking for a problem in my opinion. I loathe these retractables - they provide very poor control of a dog, can be unreliable in use and are an absolute hazard to others, especially cyclists when a dog has been allowed to wander across a road ( I speak from bitter experience as a cyclist). I feel they should be banned.

We use them with a harness for puppies when they are very young. They get to go on an “adventure walk” under very carefully controlled circumstances. I agree that using them on larger more boisterous dogs can be dangerous.