Retractable leashes are all the rage but even for small dogs, they don’t offer any control or protection. For powerful breeds, such as German shepherds, they can be dangerous for both dog and owner.
What is a Retractable Leash
You’re probably familiar with what a retractable leash is but in case you’re not, we’ll explain here. Retractable leashes were created to give dogs more freedom while walking on their leash. It allows them the freedom to move away from their owner and then return without getting tangled up or dragging a long leash on the ground.
Fans of retractable leashes believe they improve the quality of their dog’s life because they get more exercise on walks and have more freedom of movement thus they have more fun exploring their surroundings. When using one, dogs are able to run around and investigate whatever catches their attention.
Retractable leashes are made from a thin length of cord that is housed inside a plastic handle, which houses a spring-loaded device. There is a button on the handle that controls how much cord can be extended, up to about 26’ depending on the leash. The handle is designed to fit comfortably in the hand and is easier to hold than the end of a standard leash, for some people.
The Problem with Retractable Leashes
Although there are many reasons people enjoy using a retractable leash, there are many reasons not to use one. The primary reason being, they offer very little control over even the tiniest of dogs.
While dogs look cute darting around on the end of a retractable leash, they are risky to use. Since some retractable leashes can extend up to 26’, it’s easy for a dog to quickly get into trouble. Some common problems include:
• Can get hit by a car if they run into the street.
• Can approach an unfriendly person.
• Can approach an aggressive dog.
• Owner loses control of surroundings when the leash is extended.
• Injuries to dog and owner when the leash reels in.
• No control in small spaces, such as the vet’s office.
• Leashes get in the way of pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.
• If the handle is dropped, it will potentially scare the dog when it “chases” behind them.
Retractable Leashes for Large Dogs
Retractable leashes should not be used on large or powerful dogs, such as German shepherds. In addition to the same lack of control problems they pose for small pups, they are even riskier to use on large dogs.
Although there are retractable leashes on the market designed for use on large dogs, they still pose risks to both dog and owner. Since German shepherds are a strong and athletic breed, owners need to maintain more control over their dog in public places, not less.
Some reasons why you should never use a retractable leash on your German shepherd include:
1. Break the leash
German shepherds are strong and fast. If they decide to run, they can quickly reach the end of their leash and snap the cord with their momentum and get lost or hurt or hit by a car or yank the handle from your hand.
2. No control
When a German shepherd is at the end of a retractable leash 25’ away, the owner has no control when they need it most. If the dog runs into an aggressive dog, person, child, or other problem, things can quickly get out of hand putting the dog and owner at risk.
3. Injuries to Dogs
Retractable leashes are known to cause injuries to dogs. If a dog runs or bolts, when they reach the end of the leash, they can get neck and back injuries from the sudden stop and snapping movement, like whiplash. They can also get tangled in people, trees, bushes, other animals, etc. They can receive severe trachea injuries, rope burns, cuts, or get tangled in the leash to the point of injury. Other people and animals can also get tangled in the leash and injured, especially if the dog panics, which can lead to dog bites. Veterinarians have even reported cases of strangulation and lack of circulation injuries as a result of retractable leashes.
4. Injuries to People
Owners can also be injured. If a situation gets out of control, owners can receive rope burn trying to control their pet. They are also at risk of back, neck, arm, and shoulder injuries when trying to control an out of control situation happening on the end of a long leash. Owners have reported broken bones, deep cuts, and even received amputations to fingers. They can suffer falls when yanked or pulled into unsafe situations.
5. Dog Fights or Animal Confrontations
Even the most well behaved, socialized dog will defend themselves if attacked by another dog. Retractable leashes put pets at greater risk of encountering unfriendly animals. It’s easier to control the situation when your dog is on a 6’ leash rather than running around at the end of 26’ leash. Pets exploring at the end of a retractable leash are also at risk of encountering a snake or other unpleasant animal.
Should you Ever Use a Retractable Leash?
There is one instance when a retractable leash can be a good idea, after weighing all the risks. First and foremost, the dog should not be aggressive, should be trained, and have perfect recall. Even then there is still a higher risk so when might it be okay to use one?
Retractable leashes can be a great alternative when wanting to take a trained dog off leash in an area that has leash laws, such as camping or hiking. A longer regular leash is safer but in certain places (with socialized, trained dogs, that you can trust off leash), a retractable leash can help you obey the law while enjoying the great outdoors.
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