Why You Should Stop Using a Retractable Leash

by Dr. Tory Waxman, VMD

Retractable leashes can seem convenient - it allows your dog to have a sense of freedom but also prevents them from running away. While they may seem like a good idea, I would strongly caution against their use.

In actuality, retractable leashes give you very little control of your dog. When your dog is 10 or 20 feet away from you, pulling on the thin retractable lead will do very little to prevent your dog from getting into danger (such as running into an unfriendly dog, dashing into the street, eating something they are not supposed to). Dogs can run very quickly and in a split second on a retractable lead, they can be very far from you. (Think how quickly your dog can run if they see a squirrel). 

Retractable leads can also be dangerous to people. If your dog were to run across a path and a runner or biker were to not see the thin leash, it could cause a serious accident. 

Retractable leashes can also be confusing to dogs as they give mixed signals. On one hand, you are saying to your dog, “we are on leash, I need you to walk near me” but also you are letting your dog run free. This can be confusing to your pup. Especially if your dog tends to pull, retractable leashes are a big no-no for that reason.

If you want to give your dog the chance to run around and don’t have a fenced-in yard, visit a dog park or rent a yard on SniffSpot to give your pup some freedom.

About the author

Tory Waxman, VMD

Co-Founder & Chief Veterinary Officer

Dr. Waxman is a practicing small-animal veterinarian.

She received a BS in Animal Sciences with Distinction in Research from Cornell University and her vet degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she did original research at the Penn Working Dog Center. Tory completed her internship in veterinary medicine at the world-renowned Animal Medical Center in New York City where she treated an actual lame duck and saw a hungry snake that hadn’t eaten in a year.

Tory grew up outside of Chicago with chocolate labs. She’s not sure why she ever gave up her first job, which was as a dog beach attendant on Lake Michigan. Over 4 years ago she rescued a mixed breed terrier named Mabel who is obsessed with tennis balls. Mabel is also her tireless running buddy who completed a 14-mile run while Tory was training for the Chicago Marathon. Tory enjoys dog training and competing in dog sports such as agility and dock diving.