Dogs naturally walk faster than us, so you may feel like you’re hindering your dog’s freedom when walking with a standard 6 foot/1.8m lead.
Many dog owners turn to retractable dog leads as a way to give their dogs more leeway. These devices however, can actually encourage unwanted behaviour, fail to contain the dog during an emergency, and even cause life-threatening injuries.
Why Retractable Dog Leads Slow Down Training
Does your dog constantly pull at the lead, dragging you from bush to bush or straining to track down critters?
Teaching leash manners is difficult for many because pulling is a “self rewarding” behaviour. Every time your dog pulls, they get to move forward, perhaps towards something interesting like a discarded chicken wing or a fire hydrant.
One of the most effective ways to stop pulling is to simply stop in your tracks. Your dog’s pulling is then not rewarded by moving forward, so your dog learns that they must return to your side before the adventure can continue.
With retractable leads, your dog experiences constant tension from the spring-loaded mechanism. In order for it to work, your dog has to pull.
With a standard lead, a well-mannered dog should leave a j-shaped slack in the lead while they walk beside you. You want your dog to respond to pressure on the lead by returning to your side, not by continuing to pull ahead like they’re in the Iditarod.
Injuries From Retractable Dog Leads
When using a retractable lead, ifyour dog suddenly dashes into the road, you have just moments to engage the locking mechanism and reel them in. If you don’t act fast enough, your dog could get hit by a car.
In some cases, people panic and reach for the thin cord as it’s rapidly dispensing out of the handle, causing a painful friction burn. The cord can also wrap around your or your dog’s legs. For small dogs, this can be especially dangerous, leading to lacerations and broken bones.
Retractable leads are no match for large, strong dogs, who can actually snap the cord if they pull hard enough. Then, your dog would be on the loose, running into the road or running up to people or other animals.
How To Safely Give Your Dog More Freedom On Walks
If retractable leads are dangerous and unreliable, and standard leads feel too restrictive, how can you safely expand your dog’s range of exploration without putting their safety at risk?
The best way is to use a long line in a wide open space, like a park or a field. You can safely practice recall training without the risk of losing control of your dog. You can use a long line to train your dog to walk off-lead, though you’ll still need to obey leash laws and choose safe areas.
Your dog can also safely explore fenced areas, such as a dog park during off-peak hours, a friend’s garden, or even a rented space from SniffSpot, an app that lets you book a yard for your dog for a small fee.
Walking Your Dog Should Be Fun!
If you’re struggling with leash manners or recall, keep up to date on our latest positive training tips by signing up for our email list or following the Healthy Houndz Facebook page. Get in touch if you have any questions; we’d love to hear from you!