You've probably overheard that dog trainers prefer static leashes to those that extend. Why are retractable dog leashes bad in certain people's eyes, and okay in others?

The pros and cons of retractable dog leashes are difficult for some proprietors to weigh up.

That's simply because they provide something which appears like a good thing.

It seems like your pet has the illusion of freedom, with no fear of becoming lost.

Unfortunately, a realistic look at a retractable dog leash isn't so freeing!

Why are retractable dog leashes bad?

I am not really a fan of retractable dog leashes, also it comes down to few different reasons. And they are quite varied:

  • Injuries to the owner
  • Dog injuries
  • Teaches your dog to pull
  • Bad for recall

Retractable leashes can cause hand injuries

This section isn't for the faint of heart – so if you're squeamish skip down to the next one!

Hand injuries from retractable leash use

There happen to be several reports of individuals suffering horrific hand injuries, after their retractable leashes become wrapped around their fingers.

In a procedure known uncomfortably as 'degloving' your skin is ripped off once the dog suddenly moves.

Lots of people get away with an awful friction burn, but even that is far better avoided.

The temptation to wind the cord around your finger, because of the thin nature of them, makes injuries like this more likely than with a typical short leash.

Eye injuries from retractable leash use

It's not just both your hands of dog owners that use retractable leashes that are in danger. It's their eyesight too!

Scarily, there have been reported incidences of retractable leashes snapping at a distance and automatically retracting, causing the dog's clip to become thrown at great force into the owner's eye!

While this appears like a freak occurrence, reports are not seemingly a one-off.

Although this can be avoided by utilization of eye protection or perhaps a secondary clip, most owners will not use either of those along with their retractable leashes.

And it's not just owners at risk from their store.

Dog injuries associated with retractable leashes

When you have a dog on the retractable leash, you are feeling that they are protected from harm.

But in fact, retractable leashes happen to be recognized to fail when fully extended. Particularly when attached by a collar.

This means that your dog which has learned it can do because it pleases with the leash off, is now out in the world leash free.

Where they can encounter whatever trouble may be waiting coming.

Many users of retractable leashes rely on them because their dog's recall is poor. But there is no replacement for an excellent recall within this scenario.


Although it doesn't always lead to injury, another downside is the prospect of getting tangled.

Both both you and your dog, but also others, are in risk once the leash is extended.

As it remains taught, it is held full of the air and also at best presents a real trip hazard. And worst, it wraps round the person or dog that your pet just whizzed past.

So that summarises the problems with safety and retractable leashes, but why are retractable dog leashes bad for training?

Teach your dog to pull

A retractable leash is the very opposite of the best thing with regards to having your dog to walk nicely next to you.

Because it rewards your dog for pulling.

Every time they pull, they reach go investigate a new thing! Or meet a brand new friend! Or sniff a new smell!


Except this is not such a big cause for celebration if what you want is the dog to stay in your organization sometimes.

Like when you're walking along alongside a busy road, for example.

Recall issues

There are some reasons retractable leashes are bad for a dog's recall too.

Firstly, they offer a band aid to the problem of bad recall and an illusion of safety.

This helps make the owner not as likely to put in the effort necessary to sort out their pet's recall problems.

And encourages these to go to places which are not secure to allow their dog have a play.

But it also doesn't work as a tool for during training.

Because a retractable leash can't replace a long line.

Muddle up two training tools

Sometimes the owner may wish to use a retractable leash in place of using a short and long line, which they have experienced suggested as training tools.

They think it would be ideal. Just one purchase, with no need to swap backwards and forwards.

When on a short length a retractable leash could hypothetically do the same job as a standard short leash.

Provided that you simply never used the discharge button, which, let's face it, will make this function rather redundant.

But even though you did that, the issue of swapping purposes will begin to cause you problems.

As unfortunately, the character of how that a retractable leash can be used implies that it may not be a substitute for an extended line.

Long lines

A long line is the dog training tool you we do hope you never need to use.

It's a plan b. A fail safe.

And it's function depends upon your dog not realising it has one.

The long lines are mounted on a harness when you are training your dog inside a safe, enclosed area.

You don't want to use it like a preventative when you will find temptations around like other dogs, or wildlife.

Because to be able to provide your dog the true illusion of freedom, they have to not know that you can stop them running away if you want to.

We teach them to make good choices through rewards, not barriers.

Two leashes – fewer problems!

Why are retractable dog leashes bad?

Ultimately it is a combination of potential for physical injury to the dog and owner, and due to the negative impact using them may have in your training efforts.

For dog training and obedience success, invest in a nice short leash along with a long line, to make use of in conjunction with your dog's harness.

You won't regret it!