Retractable leashes. Yay or Nay?


Retractable leashes seem to be the go-to leash for just about everyone these days except for dog trainers and people who know better. Retractable leashes are those that you can let out or reel in like a fishing line if you don’t want little Fluffy to wander too far from you. I’ve seen them extend out to more than 10 feet. Ughhh… These leashes give the dog confusing messages on boundaries and limitations. This time you allow your little furball to walk out the full 10 feet, but then you reel him back and before you know it you have a four-legged yo-yo at the end of your arm. The dog’s confused. You’re confused. It’s a mess.

Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on consistency. Besides not being consistent with your message about how far out in front you allow the dog to walk, they are also a danger to yourself, the dog, and others. Have you ever had your dog wind herself around your legs as you’re trying to walk down the sidewalk? She didn’t do it on purpose, but the 10 feet of line can be pretty entangling just by itself nevermind adding an excited dog to the mix. Besides being a trip hazard how much control do you really have over the dog when using a retractable leash? Not much is the answer. A walk for a dog is akin to a hunt for them. The leash is used to maintain that physical link between you and your dog. The yo-yo effect from a retractable leash takes the control away from you and gives it all to the 10 or 75 lb family pet at the end of the leash. Some vet clinics do not allow retractable leashes in their clinics for this very reason.

The best type of leash is one that is sturdy and comfortable for both you and your four-legged companion. Dogs are not born knowing how to walk on a leash and like any skill needs to be taught correctly. Starting out with a 4-foot leash is a good place to begin. A training collar, also known as a Martingale, can be used as it will allow you to use slight changes in the pressure on the neck to let the dog know if a correction is being made. They should be used under the supervision of a trainer and never left on unattended as they may strangle the dog if it were to be caught on a fence or other object. A Martingale is different than a prong collar.

There are tons of DIY videos online on how to teach a dog how to walk on a leash, but as with any training tool, it is only as good as the presenter. Finding a certified trainer in your local area is always the best way to go. Training means consistency and it doesn’t end when the lessons are over. Success or failure happens at home. Take notes and ask questions. A relaxed walk with your dog in the evening after a nice supper is the best way to end the day.

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