I was almost another statistic of a retractable leash severing off a digit on my dog walk tonight – and I don’t even use these leashes. Not to mention, a dog friend had a near miss with an oncoming car.

On our dog walk, Mort saw a dog friend. They were excited to see each other. This dog friend, on a retractable leash, ran around me – and when I saw a car coming and the dog friend running towards the street I grabbed at the leash (the leash wasn’t locked short) and it somehow wrapped around my finger. It would have probably taken my finger right off if the dog was any bigger or running faster – luckily I just got cord burn.

I recognize that these dangers are noted in the safety warning with the leash – but I want to stress that this warning doesn’t matter in this somewhat easy to encounter real-life scenario. Excited dogs, a passing car, passing someone you know on the sidewalk – things happen quickly, faster than caution can be applied.

Why are retractable leashes bad?

Even if you lock the leash short and have your dog under control, remember: real life, unexpected triggers (squirrel! long leash!), human impulse (grabbing leash cord with dog running towards car), failing locks, are all completely unnecessary dangers given there are safer tools available for walking a dog.

A few things to note:

  • The retractable leash was not safe because of the oncoming car – the length can be much longer than a standard leash, the leash wasn’t locking at the time (distracted owner or failing lock), and the dog almost ran in front of the car. Trying to stop that from happening, me grabbing at the leash out of impulse, almost caused serious injury in addition to the danger of the car.

  • The retractable leash kept spinning right around me, a bystander. Could have caused injury through cord burn or tripping.

  • The cord wrapped around my finger and gave me a painful cord burn (not to mention fright). There are many cases of these leashes severing off fingers every year – I was lucky.

Retractable leashes aren’t only dangerous to you

Most importantly – the person using the leash isn’t the only one at risk! I hate these leashes, and yet almost had my finger taken off by one tonight. This would not have happened with a standard leash – the whole scenario wouldn’t have even began had the other dog been on a regular leash and under proper control. I’m not the kind of person to sue someone, but you don’t know who out there might – yet another unnecessary risk. So for your own safety, that of others, and potentially your legal safety – it’s a great idea to switch to a regular old leash if you aren’t using one already. Use a long lead if you need the extra length. Warnings and cautions aside, why choose a leash that carries the risk of entangling, tripping, burning, cutting, or severing you, a friend, or a stranger? Or not locking in time before running in front of that car? Throw it out, get a new leash.

Another great post about the dangers of these leashes (fair warning, a photo that is not overly graphic but will make you think “ouch!”.


About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.