TMI Friday: Dog on a Rope - Pros and Cons of Flexi-Leads

A Letter From Your Dog

This week my TMI post is a particularly ranty rant, so I want to tell you about something really awful that happened to me once, so you'll understand why this is such a touchy subject for me, and why I wont recommend flexi-leads in the store.

The first dog I ever had that was “my” dog was a really cute little Jack Russell named Josh. I called him Peanut, and he was very well-behaved. I took him with me when I moved to California and worked as an animal trainer for a kids' TV show called “Critter Gitters.” Josh worked with two chimps, a lion cub, and a hawk. I taught him lots of tricks. He was a really special dog, and even more than that, his personality really matched with mine. He was my best friend, and I've never felt closer to anyone.  He's the reason I am so passionate about pets.  He was irreplaceable and I was grateful to have him every day.

Then, one day when I was back in Colorado, I was walking to my car with him and a woman speeding through our parking lot ran over him and broke his back. She was mortified, but there was nothing to be done, and all I could do was race him to an animal hospital.  He died on the way. It was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. And I think that I might have been able to yank him out of the way of that speeding car if I'd had him on a short, conventional leash.

I've had several dogs since Josh was killed, and there have been numerous times that I was able to handle a dangerous situation better because I had them on short, conventional leashes. Even if the dog is well-behaved, it's still important.

One of the things I'm most passionate about is fostering dogs that have been abused and have “issues.” Many of the dogs I've fostered were never socialized properly and they are dog aggressive. The biggest problem I face every day with these rescue dogs comes from other people with good, friendly dogs, who do not keep them on a leash. If a friendly dog runs up to an insecure dog, they will often get attacked. And the person keeping their aggressive dog on a leash has no way to prevent the loose dog from being hurt or killed.

Having been in the pet supply industry for many years I have seen, with my own eyes, several cases of loose dogs being maimed or killed because they approached a leashed dog too quickly or assertively and accidentally provoked an attack. I have seen many people, adults and children, with burns and other injuries from flexi-leads.  I've seen kids with dog bites, and many cases of scrapes and bruises even on people who have never had one of these "worst case scenario" situations happen with their dog.

I love the idea of rehabilitating a foster dog, but the uncontrollable situations I've been in with off-leash dogs have really challenged me to consider the ethics of doing it. What is the best balance of giving an aggressive dog a happy life with opportunities for exercise and socialization vs. preventing unforeseen situations with off-leash dogs?

It's hard, when you think of your dog having the same thoughts and desires that you do, to understand why it's better to keep the dog on a leash. I mean, how would I feel if I was basically on a rope, attached to a person? But, I wrote the above “letter from your dog” based on a lot of experience with dog trainers and dog training, and I urge you to consider it when you imagine how your dog feels about being on a leash. The discipline you give them really does help them to live happier and more relaxed lives.

So, without further ado:

The Pros & Cons of Retractable Leashes

Written by Chelsea Kent

Meet Fido and Fluffy:

Fido and Fluffy

If you are considering the purchase of a Retractable Leash (or if you currently use a Retractable Lead) please know there are a lot of things to consider about their use. They can be dangerous and many people are not conscientious about using them.

Pro Number One:

“I want Fluffy to have more freedom.” On a retractable leash you can let Fluffy romp freely over the open plains to pee and poo wherever her little heart desires.

Pro Number Two:

“It’s so much more convenient to have a long leash.” With an extending leash you don’t have to follow Fido into wet grass, over hills, through woods, over the rainbow, or down the yellow brick road. Ok, realistically you only have 16-26 feet of leash with a Retractable, but if you have a 40lb dog that’s equivalent to 8 times (for a 16ft lead) to 13 times (for a 26ft lead) the length of their body!!! That’s the equivalent of a 5’8 person being a distance of 45-74ft away from their protector in the event of a disaster. That distance is hard to retract in the event of an emergency!

Con Number One:

While Fido is enjoying the convenience of your distance, he’s also able to capitalize on your distraction. He is much more likely to clothes-line and injure unsuspecting passers-by, or you!!!!

Con Number Two:

Fluffy’s playful and spacious romping can also cause severe rope burns and cuts from the leash's cord.  The longer the cord, the more time it has to gain speed as it extends or retracts, speed gains friction, friction gains heat… the hotter/faster/longer the cord the more severe the burn and thus, probably, the scar.

Con Number Three:

While Fido is far away it’s harder for you to notice if he is ingesting a toxic substances or foreign objects, or urinating on inappropriate things, such as strangers legs, kids backpacks, shoes, etc. If you are lucky enough to notice him attempting to consume unsafe material you’ll be luckier still to get to him in time to prevent him from swallowing it which may cost you a large vet bill. And if he is destroying something (peeing on it or chewing it up), the owner would be expected to take care of it.

Con Number Four:

Fluffy might be friendly with other dogs but that doesn’t mean other dogs are friendly with Fluffy.  Allowing your dog to walk up to another dog, even a leashed dog, just because their leash is long enough to get to them may end her up in the mouth of a scared or aggressive dog. Alternately, just like people, not every person likes everyone they meet.  Just because your dog is normally friendly to other dogs doesn’t mean they will be when they are at the end of a Retractable Lead. When you are far enough away to not supervise introductions your dog may attack another. Either scenario will likely lead to medical bills.

Con Number Five:

Retractable leads have the sneaky habit of hiding defects in their little shells when they’re retracted. It is inconvenient to closely inspect a retractable lead when they are not in use, and it is nearly impossible to get a good look when they are in use. Frayed leashes tend to go unnoticed and when they break they can snap back and injure your face. Meanwhile your dog will be loose and more likely to run into traffic, into dangerous wildlife, or other dogs, etc.

Con Number Six:

Dogs are pack animals.  In a pack everyone has a status, or a rank.  When Fluffy has a lot of freedom it not only means that she’s expected to be alpha, fending for herself in the case of danger, but it also means, in her mind, she has to fend for you. That is A LOT of responsibility for a dog.  Too much freedom actually causes anxiety, panic, fear-based aggression, nervous trembling, etc.  Your pet will not be feeling that they can trust you to be the alpha and protect them in potentially dangerous outdoor situations; they are likely to continue the behavior in the home and other places.

Con Number Seven:

When Fido gets excited on the leash and runs out to the end he has a lot more room to get running to full speed before abruptly hitting the end.  Not only can this severely damage his neck muscles and trachea, but it also makes it a lot more difficult for you to hold onto the leash when he gets there.  If you lose his leash you may also lose him (which, again, may end him up in traffic or another dangerous situation) OR the heavy plastic handle may hit and injure him once it fully retracts. If you ARE strong enough to hold on you might get a flight lesson which could land you in the hospital getting shoulder surgery (we have seen this MANY times over the years).

Hero’s Pets does not recommend Retractable Leads for any dog that is not fully trained to heel, sit, stay, and be calm in any situation. If you DO choose to use a Retractable Leash it’s your responsibility to lock it at six feet or less any time your dog is

a) around other dogs, kids, adults, or animals

b) may see wildlife

c) feels anxiety

d) is indoors or in any public place with other people around

e) if you haven’t inspected the leash for frays or damage within the last two or three uses

f) your dog may have access to unknown substances

g) your dog may have the opportunity to behave inappropriately.

If you want to use a Retractable Lead LOCK IT OFTEN. A safer option though is to get a shorter, safer leash that still fits your needs.

Stop by Hero’s Pets for recommendations