A plague of retractable leashes is upon us! Though that statement comes perhaps ten years too late, I’m happy to offer you my take on this important subject here and now.


Call me a hater, but I HATE retractable leashes. Here’s why:


I’ve never found one that didn’t click and stick or unspool suddenly at the exact wrong time (like when a stray cat crosses your path and an oncoming car has to slam on the brakes to spare your dog’s life). Sticky situations like this serve to illustrate how the "canine lunge line" can serve to thoroughly foul up your control over your animal.


Here's an example: My aunt and her dog Trixie were on a placid walk up in northern Florida a year or so ago, when another dog came bounding suddenly from the end of a twenty-foot "super-retracto." Dog-fearful Trixie did what any other encroached-upon dog might under the circumstances. She bit the strange dog.


My aunt, being the responsible dog owner that she is, offered to pay for the care of the bitten dog. She later called me to determine what measures she might take to prevent similar incidents in the future.


My take? It’s the other owner's fault. And not just because lovable Trixie spent six months as one of my foster dogs before finding a home with my aunt. If my aunt truly had control over Trixie and the bitee’s owner didn’t have control ever her extendo-apparatus, then, well, it seems pretty clear who's at fault, right?


The same situation plays out in our waiting room on a regular basis. Owners with ill-behaved or over-stimulated and stressed out dogs often lose control of their charges. No degree of thumb clicking and hand over hand reeling-in will suffice when the thin line is already wrapped thrice around an elderly woman’s ankles.


Retractable leashes do have their places. But heavy dog interaction zones are not among them. Pet owners thinking about using this kind of leash as their tried-and-true  standard would do well to consider this vet’s point of view: These leashes are often a liability.



Dr. Patty Khuly