Why Retractable Leashes are Dangerous

Hello from beautiful Napa! I truly believe this place is Heaven on Earth. It’s been so good for my soul to be out here, relaxing, and taking a bit of digital detox. This will be my only post this week because I couldn’t resist writing. Plus, it’s something I’ve gotten a lot of questions about so I figured I’d share it with everyone: why retractable leashes are dangerous.

When I volunteered for the Parvo Prevention Project, one of the things we did was give leashes away to those who needed them. We also exchanged retractable leashes for traditional ones. Most people were willing to make the trade, but some were reluctant to let go of the retractable ones. It’s understandable, considering they most likely spent a good amount of money on the retractable leash. However, once we explained the benefits of a traditional one, everyone gave them up.

Here are a few reasons why retractable leashes are dangerous for both you and your favorite canine companion:

  • Loss of control – This is probably the biggest issue and one of the main reasons most dog trainers despise retractable leashes. They extend beyond 25 feet, at which point, you have no control over your pup. Many things can happen while your dog is far away from you and you’d have no control over how your dog reacts.
  • Streets – Oh sure, squirrels cute and fuzzy, but let’s say your dog is 25 feet away from you and a squirrel catches his eye. You pup begins to chase the squirrel when the squirrel darts into the street. Since you already have less control, your dog can chase after said squirrel and end up in the middle of oncoming traffic.
  • Other Dogs – Again, when your dog is so far away from you, and you can’t reel him back in, there’s a lot outside of your control. If a dog-reactive pup comes around the corner, you don’t have a way to gain control over your dog. It’s best to keep your canine within a few feet of you so you have control over him at all times.
  • Breakage – Retractable leashes are just thin cords that are wound around a plastic spring. If you have a big dog, there’s a good chance that he can take off and break through the cord with little issue. The wear on retractable leashes isn’t always as obvious as a traditional leash.
  • Other people – I’ve heard horror stories of people at dog parks bringing their dog in on a retractable leash (a no-no). The dog takes and ensnares people in the retractable leash. Falls, cuts, bruises, I’ve heard it all.
  • Neck injuries – Commonly, when a dog is on a retractable leash and it starts running, it’ll inevitably be yanked back once the leash has fully extended. This can result in tracheal and spinal injuries in the dog.

I totally understand that people want to give their dog an extra 20-30 feet to be a dog and let them wander. However, in the dog-training and rescue world, retractable leashes are a disaster waiting to happen. So minimize your risk and opt for a traditional leash instead.


Both Jackson and Jitterbug have found their forever homes! Congrats boys!

For a similar pup, check out Stuart.


If you are catching me on Instagram, you’ll know I was super excited when I got this shirt from The Spotted Owl. The store is owned by one of my sorority sisters and I love supporting fellow women doing what they love. The Spotted Owl is located in the tiny town of Fairbury, Illinois. While it might be far, they have all their clothes available to shop online. Find my shirt here! I’ll be wearing it all fall long. I paired it with my Levi’s and booties. Shop them below!

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All photos: Margaret Rajic

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4 thoughts on “Why Retractable Leashes are Dangerous”

  1. Yikes I had no idea how bad they were! I used to use one when we had our dog butid useit with a harness BC of the neck issues… but I never thought about the other things!!

    1. Yes! We used them all the time and I slowly realized they are never recommended by any trainer or shelter I’ve worked with! Makes sense now!

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