A retractable leash allows an owner to adjust the distance that his or her dog can wander while walking with a handler. A mechanism in the handle of a retractable leash allows the handler to stop the extension of lead by pressing a button. A clip on the leash attaches to the dog’s collar.
A retractable leash tends to work best on dogs who are well-controlled and do not tend to pull away from the handler. To effectively use this type of leash, the handler must anticipate when he or she will need to restrain the dog because the animal is already in front of the walker. Therefore, the handler cannot wait too long to use the braking mechanism. Makers tout the advantage of giving the dog a sense of freedom while allowing the owner to restrain the dog.
Several issues of concern can arise when using a retractable leash. One concern arises when children or persons of small stature are handling a dog that pulls away from them. In this situation, the heavy handle of the leash bounces behind the dog if it breaks free. The dog may think something is chasing him and could run into traffic.
Even if a retractable leash is marked to indicate the size of dog it is appropriate for, that does not always mean it can resist a firm tug from that particular size dog. Another concern is the risk of injuries such as cutting, burning, or amputation from the cord being wrapped. Eye injuries are also a risk. Most packaging includes directions for use and a warning to not use this type of leash around children or infants. A retractable leash should never be used as a stationery leash attached to a pole or other object.
Retractable leashes come in various styles and colors. The lengths also vary, from around 16 feet (5 m) to 30 feet (9 m) fully extended. Some feature retractable cords, and others feature webbed belts. Another common feature is a comfortable, soft grip handle. Some leashes even feature a flashlight and radio in the handle compartment.