Running with Retractable Leashes: Is it Safe?
If you wander down the leash aisle at your local pet store you’ll see a huge range of leashes and collars on display; it’s not easy to choose which one to use when you’re out running with your dog. You may have seen people walking with a retractable leash – a handle with an extendible cord that attaches to your dog’s collar or harness, and which can be extended and retracted with the push of a button, depending on how close he is to you.
I’ve only ever walked Guinness on a retractable leash once. It was a freebie that came with his packet of heartworm pills or flea control treatment, so I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t like it at all for running. The handle felt clunky and awkward. The cord of the leash became wrapped around my leg and gave me a nasty friction burn.
Given that the advisory committee to the mayor of Philadelphia is hoping to have the sale of these leashes banned within the city, I decided to look into why these leashes are popular.
The biggest selling point for this type of leash is that it can extend to 20+ feet and give your dog more room to walk or run. It’s a safer alternative to letting him run free, if he doesn’t have a good recall or if you’re in an area that may be hazardous to him.
That was about the only positive I could find. On the other hand, there were plenty of negatives.
*The cord on the leash can burn or cut into hands, arms and legs if it becomes wrapped around them. I recently read a report of a lady who had a finger amputated by a retractable leash! Your dog isn’t immune from this sort of injury either.
*If your dog takes off running and hits the end of the leash at full speed it can cause you to fall or trip and hurt yourself. The sudden stop at the end of the leash can also injure your dog, and I have heard of dogs sustaining severe neck damage from this happening; in one case that I know of, the dog died.
*If the leash is dropped, the plastic handle will bounce along the ground after your dog which can look like it is chasing after him. This can give him a heck of a fright.
*If your dog gets into trouble with another dog or a cyclist or runner approaches, it can be a long slow process to retract the leash and get him safely back by your side. The consequences may not be nice. There are several tales of dogs that have been in a dog fight while on one of these leashes.
*This sort of leash can make an owner complacent. After all, their dog is on leash, so they are safe, right? Wrong. There have been three dogs that I know of that have been hit by a car while “safely” on their retractable leash.
While these situations may not occur all the time, and may be manageable when you’re just walking, I think the risk of harm is greater if you’re running, because of your increased pace. Personally, I don’t believe they should be used for running with a dog, and from what I’ve read, they’re barely useful for walking. What are your thoughts? Do you use a retractable leash?
I only use a retractable leash with walking. My dog is old and out od shape so she is slower then I am. When I try walking with her on a normal leash my arm is behind me dragging her along. With the retractable leash she can fall behind and then catch up as she pleases. I’ve never had a problem with any of my dogs on a retractable leash, I guess you just need to be smarter then the leash. There is a button to stop the leash from retracting and some have a heal handle at the end to hold the dog next to you. If you don’t want your dog going to far you push the button and pull the dog closer like you would with any other leash.
These types of leashes require more attentiveness than normal leashes. When your dog is far ahead or behind you, you need to be on the look out for obstacles the leash could wrap around and keep an even closer eye on your dog’s behaviour. You need to know the second your dog is turning toward the street, another person, another dog, and stop him before he can start.
I use a retractable leash to walk my Siberians every day. We walk through 30 acres of fields and the leash gives the dogs a chance to sniff, run a little and poke around without dragging me along. Downsides, sure, but for what I am doing the leash is worth the care you need to take while using it.
I never use the retractable if we are on a street setting or working my dogs in public areas. The leash isn’t the real issue though, it is the person behind the leash that uses it inappropriately.
My husband is planning to start running with our male Sibe and I think he will need a short leash and possibly a head halter, both for my husband’s comfort and to keep the dog from veering off the trail to sniff.
As a runner and owner of a border collie, I’ve found that a short (4 foot), simple nylon leash like a Basic Puppia Dog Leash or a Zack and Zoey Nylon leash is a better leash to use while running with your dog. I find them easier for me to use as the handle can be draped over my arm without restricting my movement. This type of leash also allows me to safely pull in my dog which is especially important when I’m running in areas with traffic. There are still the occasional potty stops during the run, but at least I know my dog is safely by my side and I can protect her from injuring herself.