Safer Use of Extending Leads

In the past I have covered the risks of extending (also called retracting) leashes which allow dogs to get up to twenty-five feet or more from the owner depending on the brand. Most trainers know I do not like these leashes.  However, I realize clients will use them no matter what is taught by trainers about the risks.  Even knowing the risks, should you decide to use one let’s look at ways to reduce the risk these leads pose.

First consider the leash:

  • Buy the size up from what is recommended for your dog.
  • Get a well known brand from a reputable dealer.
  • Look ones where the entire lead is the same material.  These are sometimes called tape leads.
  • Pull the lead out and make sure it is attached to the spool inside.
  • ­­­Make sure the buttons work.  These units will break down so inspect regularly for wear and tear.
  • Buying discount brands and used retracting leads is not advised.

Now look at your dog:

  • Your dog should have great leash manners on a flat buckle collar or a back attaching (not a harness that is used to reduce pulling) body harness as well as a high tolerance to things around him.
  • If your dog pulls hard on leashes, chases passing things, does not come when called, etc., do not use an extending leash. A dog chasing something can get to the end of the lead before you can respond.
  • It is not uncommon for locking mechanisms to fail at some point.  This will allow a dog to get into a road, target another dog or human, trip someone, etc.  If your dog is fast to chase things or gives chase to anything, do not use these leads.
  • The sound of the unit hitting the ground if pulled from your hand can cause a dog to panic and run.
  • Your dog needs to have a solid recall even under high distractions.  These leads do not retract and pull your dog in as many people assume.  Your dog gets closer to you only because he wants to when on these leads.

There are specific areas where these leashes should not be used or where you can consider their use:

The risks of bad things increases when extending leashes are used in densely populated or closed in areas.

  • Avoid using them in stores, busy parks, near roads, on bike and hiking trails, veterinary/groomer waiting areas, etc.  I have watched dogs end up in traffic as they tried to chase something across the street.
  • Cyclists on trails have been flipped and dogs hurt as bikes hit leads stretched across trails.
  • I watched two dogs walking towards each other on extending leads become tangled and fight as they panicked.
  • I have seen severe injuries as the leads get pulled across skin.
  • Check park regulations (national and state), many have policies restricting the length of leashes.

When you walk your dog, use a short lead to get to where you are going. Put the extending lead on and remove your short lead.  Be aware of your surroundings.  If you see people or other animals, call your dog close and put on the short lead.  When you return home or to your vehicle, put your dog on the short lead for the return walk.

I know that people will keep using these leads.  Even clients of mine will use extending leads even when I advise against them.  Though I am not a fan of them and do not use them with my dogs, I am also a realist.  I want to reduce the risk these leads pose.  You as dog owners determine the safety of these leads.  If you use an extending lead, please do so only with a well-trained dog in open, quiet areas.  They are not suited for general use.

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