Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Retractable Leashes, just don't do it

by User Not Found | Nov 02, 2014

I wanted to provide a quick update on our little buddy Baelfire.  When we last left him, he was full of heartworms and his heart and lungs were not functioning properly due to the severe damage from the worms.  Thankfully we were able to proceed with his final two injections of immiticide (the drug to kill adult worms), however he continues to feel badly.  He has little to no energy and just getting him to eat can be a struggle.  We have added another medication, but it will be at least a month before we know if he can even begin to recover.  If we are lucky, we will know in six months if his heart and lungs will be able to be repaired.  Thankfully for his amazing fosters, they have committed to his long road to recovery.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  And most importantly, please remember to give your dog heartworm prevention, once a month, every month, so that this horrible situation doesn’t have to happen to another dog, ever.

And now for today’s soapbox…I mean blog post.

I have three dogs of my own. I have been known to walk at least four (3 + a foster) dogs at once around my neighborhood in a happy pack.  One of my favorite things to see coming in my direction, is an owner desperately performing the reach and grab.  Rapid desperation as they attempt to reel their dog back in I immediately recognize the dreaded retractable leash, also known as extendable, flexi, and otherwise completely ridiculous and useless.  I always try to be open-minded to both sides of an argument, but in the case of these leashes, I just can’t find a good thing about them.    

If you look leash up in the dictionary, you’ll see words like “lead”, “restraint”, “guide” and “secure”, all of which are the antithesis of the retractable leash.  At what can sometimes be 26ft away, there’s nothing secure, controlling or restraining about it!  It’s essentially a giant plastic handle connected to a long skinny false sense of security.  Never mind that these thin cords are extremely prone to breakage, they are also the number one cause of human amputated fingers!  Yes I said amputated as in cut off.  People have suffered severe burns, cuts, eye and face injuries and again, amputations as a result of these types of leashes. Think you’ll avoid all these problems as long as you don’t grab the leash?  Think again.  It’s just as likely that the giant plastic handle will be ripped from or just let go of.  Now you’ve got an excited or stressed dog running and dragging it behind them, sending them in to a panic and in to a busy street or over the wall of a parking garage (sad, but true story).

Even if your dog is the best behaved dog on the planet, there are always things that are out of your control.  All it takes is one wild pack member or rogue squirrel and you’re playing a game of hogtied granny at the dog park.  If you happen to stop to chat with someone walking their dog on this kind of leash, now you begin the leash ballet, only the cord becomes wrapped around your dog’s leg or throat causing damage to the trachea or a broken bone. At the very least, it can be an expensive trip to the ER or injuries could be more severe if a dog begins to panic realizing he/she is caught or a fight breaks out.  I’ve actually witnessed a dog get stuck in the owner’s bicycle because he was using a flexi-lead on his dog.  The dog suffered a spine injury and a deep neck laceration.

You think you’re buying a fun thing for your dog, giving him extra freedom and the ability to sniff and smell and walk wherever he wants. Retractable leads, by nature, are actually teaching a dog to pull while on a leash.  They learn that pulling extends the lead. None of these things are good for your dog, or for you. What kind of walk is that? That would drive me crazy! If your dog is approached by an aggressive dog, there is no way to get control of the situation if your dog is 20 feet away at the end of a string. That much freedom can leave you with no time to react if your dog wanders in to the road or makes uninvited contact with another dog or people. 

If you absolutely must use a retractable leash, please use some common sense rules. 

  1.  Do not use in heavy dog or congested areas, you know like parks and trails with bikes, horses, kids, etc.
  2. Don’t get the longest leash you can find.  Only get as much as you can handle and I would venture to say that 26ft is not necessary and a bit ridiculous.
  3. Be prepared with a backup.  These leashes can lock up and break at any moment, so make sure you have a real leash just in case.  The only thing worse than a retractable leash is a malfunctioning one.
  4. Retractable leashes aren’t for every dog.  Again, this is absolute terror for a fearful dog should you drop the handle.
  5. PAY ATTENTION!  The more leash you let out, the more aware you need to be about the things around you and what your dog is doing.  You will be called an idiot if you don’t notice before your dog has wrapped himself around a tree three times.

So don’t be on your vet’s list for “top things people do to annoy their veterinarian.”  Get a nice 4-6ft leash and keep control of you and your dog safely.



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