Dog owners who value their fingers might want to give up their retractable leashes in favor of the more traditional, less amputation-prone fixed-length leash. [Consumer Reports] (Photo: me and the sysop)


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  1. HarcourtArmstrong says:

    My dog’s retractable leash has a GIANT label on it that says the exact same thing. Not exactly news.

  2. N.RobertMoses says:

    In some cases they may be illegal, as some cities have laws regulating leash length.

  3. catskyfire says:

    There’s “illegal” and there’s “enforced.” My city has a six foot leash law, but I see retractables much longer most of the time.

  4. Ratty says:

    There’s very little reason to have a retractable leash anyway. A nice open field in a dog-friendly area is fine, but walking down the sidewalk and leaving it unlocked, not so much. Far and away most people use them improperly. So if putting your dog at risk by being able to run a little TOO freely and winding up dead isn’t a deterrent enough for so many people, maybe losing a few fingers will be.

  5. mattwiggins says:

    Wait- what? they detail a story about a coman who grabbed the cord to stop a maltese from running away.. Why would you do that? Retractable leashes have baking mechanisms. Just hit the brake!

    I walked a large, and easily distracted golden retriever on a retractible leash for years, and never had a problem controling my pet. still have all my fingers, too.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @Matt Wiggins: Right, I don’t get it. I’ve always used a retractable leash. It has a brake. I keep the brake locked when around others, and let it off so the dog can roam a bit when we’re more isolated. I don’t see the problem here.

      I also don’t get how anyone can have the leash wind up around their fingers. Your fingers go on the handle, not in the leash. It seems rather obvious to me. Who is grabbing at the cord, anyway? There’s no need for that.

      I sympathize with the girl who lost her finger, just so long as her and others who can’t use these leashes don’t band together and take these leashes off the market. I happen to love them and will never go back to a regular leash.

  6. Ubik2501 says:

    Waaay ahead of you. I tried it once with the Rottweiler-hound mix I adopted last year, and by the time I got home my hands would have made a Cenobite queasy. The retractable ones just don’t give the same degree of control as a standard leash anyway, so for a large dog like mine they’re worse than useless.

    (Okay, so my hands didn’t get cut up THAT badly, but still.)

  7. veronykah says:

    I am a dog owner and absolutely HATE those leashes.
    They are almost always in the possession of someone who pays zero attention to their yappy little dog. While they are talking on the phone, their dog reels out 40′ of leash running and barking towards my dog as I am trying to get away from their dog with mine.
    Inevitably the sidewalk just isn’t big enough for me to get a comfortable distance away, their dog gets aggressive with mine. Mine is 40 lbs bigger, he gives their dog a warning and THEN they notice whats going on and my dog is the “aggressive” one.
    I have a fairly short leash for my dog, he has no problems with it. It keeps him close to me, allows me to have complete control over him at all times and best of all won’t slice my fingers off.
    Tell me what reason is there for the flexi-lead?

  8. robdew2 says:

    since I there is no data on injuries from non-retractable leashes (as the article says), asserting that these are less safe is hardly credible.

    Out-of-control dogs hurt people and themselves. Stop blaming the manufacturer.

    • Ratty says:

      @robdew2: It’s really not hard to understand how these cause more injuries. You’re holding back a 100-lb dog with a 3/4 inch thick nylon leash, it’s going to pull a bit and jerk your arm, but the surface area of the leash in your hand is high. Do the same thing with the retractable leash that is with round, thin (couple of mm) wire, and suddenly all that force is being applied to a very small select part of your hand. it will cut you.

      You wouldn’t try and cut cheese with a wire as big around as an extension cord. You would with a thin wire or waxed and unflavord floss.

      • jimconsumer says:

        @Ratty: No, it’s still hard to understand, because you’re not supposed to be grabbing the frickin’ leash! That’s what the handle is for! What idiot is grabbing at the little rope when there is a nice big plastic handle IN THEIR HAND and a thumb brake that will stop the dog dead in it’s tracks? Just use the thing the way it’s intended and there are no problems.

        • Ratty says:

          @jimconsumer: What idiots are doing it? The kind that buy Flexi-leads and don’t actually lock the position like they’re supposed to. Which is a LOT of people.

    • Ibanez720 says:

      @robdew2: Here is some data


  9. David Brodbeck says:

    I’ve never really understood the purpose of these things. The point of a leash is to keep the dog nearby and under control. Having a leash that unreels to 30′ long kind of defeats the purpose. It’s like some kind of slapstick gag where the dog appears to be under sane control by its owner, but as soon as it starts running after you the leash gets longer and longer.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @David Brodbeck: It gives the dog more freedom to roam while still keeping him on leash. It’s a very nice concept and I love these. The problem you’re having with them is morons who don’t retract the leash and lock it short when others are around. If I’m walking past you on the sidewalk, rest assured my dog’s flexi-lead is locked to less than a foot long. When we pass you and are well away, I’ll let him out to roam a bit. He enjoys it, I enjoy it, and I’m careful to ensure he isn’t harassing anyone.

      • orlo says:

        @jimconsumer: I’ve never understood owners who keep their dogs on a short leash, pulling it forward at a brisk pace to prevent it from doing offensive things like sniffing. I don’t like the retractable ones too much either, but since it is illegal for dogs to walk freely, there is no good option.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am a dog owner and sliced my ankle open from this dang leash. My puppy wrapped his leash around my leg unbeknownst to me and then took off. I have the scar to prove it! No more retractables for me. Just like Cesar Milan says, a short $2 lead is the way to go!

    • Mari Walker says:

      @NorinePashosh: Same thing happened to me. It was my fault, though, because I dropped the handle and it was scaring my dog.

      Cesar Milan is a crock, though.

  11. balls187 says:

    Seems like you should better train your dog not to run off.

    • chuck0008 says:

      @balls187: It disturbs me that your question was so far down the page. It should have been the first thing anyone asked. I have a 2 1/2 yo lab/collie mix who people think is either part shepherd or part rot (he’s not, I know both his parents). I just had to move from the country in Colorado to Oakland, so I had to get a leash. I got a retractable so that I can set it to whatever length I want, not so that it can just run freeley up to the full length of the leash. You lock it in, and go. What is the difference between a 6′ leash and a retractable leash set to 6′? Nothing, excpet that I can change it when I want to. My dog is TRAINED tho. He doesn’t run off. My 20 month old nephew can walk him without incident. I’d say it’s time to sue for personal responisibility and time to take away pets from people who think a pet is just an upgrade from a stuffed animal and requires the same level of work and attention.

  12. David Brodbeck says:

    @balls187: Dogs run. It’s what they do. They turn into little snarling predators when they see something they want. That’s why they’re supposed to be on leashes to begin with.

  13. Copper says:

    @veronykah: I have two beagles and they really like their retractable leashes. When no one else is around us I let them use their 15 feet if they want because it allows them more freedom to track things. When people are around, I cinch them up close so they don’t bother anyone.

    I do know what you mean about people taking up too much of the sidewalk, but I’ve found that it’s not really people with retractable leashes, it’s people who don’t have manners.

  14. Corporate-Shill says:

    Try a retractable leash with the dog of my childhood:

    80 lbs of German Shepard who thought she was a Grey Hound. Give her 1′ of spare leash and a squirrel/cat/rodent/rabbit/another dog to chase and she would yank me off my feet.

  15. David Brodbeck says:

    @Copper (sorry, reply buttons are still broken): The problem I have is with people who leave these things unreeled while walking on sidewalks, trails, etc. Then when I come along their little pile of teeth and claws goes after me and there’s nothing they can do to reel them back in.

  16. iblamehistory says:

    I use one, but I keep it locked unless I have the dog in an open patch of grass where it’s safe for him to run around a bit. Just walking down the sidewalk, though, I keep it locked. He’s a 30 pound, terribly behaved but loving whippet mix. He’d run himself into a coma if given the chance, so I keep him near me. My husband keeps it unlocked and gets mad at me for locking it… I tell him he can come and apologize to me once the dog runs out into the street and gets hit by a car because the leash was unlocked. Luckily, with the thumb lock, it’s easy to stop him right away… he’s fast, but not too big.

  17. quail says:

    Dog trainers deplore retractable leashes. It’s a good way for your young dog to get into an accident. Add to that the brakes/locks for those things go bad all of the time. Want to give little Fifi more room to play? Consider getting a long training leash of 8ft. to 15ft. Coil the access around your left hand while you hold the end of it with your right. Gives you more control over any situation.

  18. GearheadGeek says:

    My 55-lb bull terrier and I go walking with a nylon-web leash that’s about an inch wide, 6 ft long. It has a loop down by the clip and a loop at the end, and typically she gets about half of its length to wander a bit, though she usually stays close. I’ve had a number of incidents with people whose unruly dog is coming up at full speed, unreeling the retractable leash while they yammer on their cell phone. My beastie gets irritable about dogs coming at her at full speed and I definitely get weird looks and worse when they realize that 55 lb. of muscle and teeth aren’t happy with their precious pooch rocketing toward her. I hate those retractable leashes.

  19. serreca says:

    At our training class a couple years ago they did not allow them. Our trainer said she saw someone’s Achille’s tendon get sliced open by one.

  20. PlasmaMachine says:

    I don’t get why you would need one of those retractable leashes anyway.. YOU are supposed to walk the dog, not the other way around. Just use a normal leash.

    • gnoswal says:


      What’s not to get? The leashes are great when the area you are in allows the dog to wander a little further then normal. You are still in control of the dog any time you need.

      Bottom line…if you aren’t in control of your dog at all times…whether you have three or fifteen feet of leash…you’re doing it wrong.

    • Gawd Dammit says:

      @PlasmaMachine: I use my retractable leash when I take my dog out for his pisstime. That way I don’t have to walk around alongside him when he does his business. He can just roam around and find his spot.

      For walks I use my good ol’ leather leash. But if we, let’s say, go in the forest, I want to give him some slack so he can explore while I walk around lazily. So I switch to the retractable.

      If your dog is properly trained and you’re properly regarded as the leader by your furry fellow, ANY leash will do. Just gotta whistle and tell him to heel and he will. If your leash is your only control over your dog, you have FAILED at your training and you are NOT the master.

      The leash isn’t there to prove anything to the dog (Unless you’re in training, it’s there to apply the choking correction.). When I use my leather leash, there’s always plenty of slack and he’s right next to me. I don’t have to pull or restrain. He will not pull either. It was an order. The leash is just there to make the cops and annoying grandmas happy.

  21. balthisar says:

    I swear by my retractable leash. But… I take the time to learn how to use it. I left my dog in the care of my mother one weekend, only to come home to a dog with a broken leg. She’d gotten tangled in the leash when trying to make a break for it. It was then that I realized that, yup, there are stupid people in the world that don’t have common sense about how to use the most obvious of devices properly. In that I’m saying that about my very own mother, don’t think that I’ll have sympathy for the other schmucks who can’t use them correctly. (I don’t love my mother any less as a result, but now I have to assume that nobody knows anything, ever.)

  22. MrEvil says:

    You can train a dog not to bolt like that no matter what might cross their path. However, you can’t train them for this with a retractable leash.

    The lady in this artcile really can’t be to blame here, she borrowed the retractable and wasn’t accustomed to the leash, and neither was her dog. They really aren’t appropriate for a 90lb animal.

    Use of a good leash and choke chain can straighten out most any dog that tries to walk you. The goal of a choke chain though isn’t to choke your dog into submission, but it’s supposed to get their attention when they get distracted.

    • Corporate-Shill says:


      Training only goes so far.

      My childhood German Shepherd discovered a bear. And no, we were not in a zoo.

      Figuratively the dog never moved so fast in her life. The dog weighed as much as me and I think I lifted her by the collar and threw her into the car. Everything happened so fast she didn’t have a chance to bark before the door was closed.

      We left the bear standing on the side of the road and the dog barking in the rear window saying “go back, I think I can take the bear”. Drove a good 30 miles before we stopped for the next roadside doggie trail visit.

      Like I said, training only goes so far. What would have happened if I had not responded as fast as I did? The dog trained to behave on the leash was going to defensively attack the bear. No question in my mind. Same response when a cat or squirrel startled her while walking the streets.

    • CFinWV says:

      @MrEvil: When choke chains fail (and they do… some dogs are just a little slower than others) get a double leash system with a face harness.

    • HarcourtArmstrong says:

      @MrEvil: “You can train a dog not to bolt like that no matter what might cross their path. However, you can’t train them for this with a retractable leash.”

      No, not with every dog. some hunting dogs will bolt no matter how much training they have. No amount of training will overcome thousands of years of breeding. In fact, many Invisible Fence manufacturers don’t recommend using their products with those types of dogs. Dogs with a strong “prey drive” will simply take the shock and keep on running.

  23. veronykah says:

    You have a bull terrier too!!!
    You describe the same situation I did upthread!
    I can’t stand the attitude I get from people when THEIR dog on THEIR flex-leash gets in my dogs face and he gives them fair warning to stay away.
    Its always *pick up an cuddle little doggie* and look of disgust that my “pit bull” dog is so mean.
    My dog has done obedience, agility and lives with a chihuahua and a malti-poo, he is definitely NOT mean or dog aggressive. I hate when other people make it seem as though he is by allowing their dogs to be RUDE.

  24. veronykah says:

    re: Copper
    If its a small sidewalk here in LA with apts on one side and a busy street on the other, a dog with 15′ of lead behind him can make it so I have NOWHERE to go but turn around while their dog unreels the rest of the lead.
    That and many people with retractable leads think its cute while their dog is running full speed at mine to “make friends” and do absolutely nothing to stop it.
    Never assume a dog is friendly or will like your particular dog.

  25. GearheadGeek says:

    @veronykah: Well, I won’t pretend that my bully is the best-behaved of dogs… she’s a bit dog-aggressive for the breed, though it’s generally a response rather than something she initiates. She can go from zero to “eat it!” pretty quickly when faced with a dog coming at her, and I intervene before I find out if she’d treat a dog coming at her the same way she treats her rope (which is to say she’d grip it in her teeth firmly enough to lift her off the ground with it.)

    A couple in my neighborhood who tend to walk their lab off-leash (!!) got pissy with me one day when I stepped in front of my dog and yelled at theirs when it came bounding up, saying “Oh, he’d never hurt your dog!” I pointed out that my dog wasn’t the likeliest to come out on the short end of it, but I didn’t feel like dealing with the fallout because they weren’t responsible enough to walk their dog on a leash.

  26. MadameX says:

    @veronykah: That’s because many people with small dogs don’t take the time to teach them any sort of acceptable behavior. When I first got my two boxers, I was walking them one night (on 6 foot leashes–don’t believe in retractable either) and a chihuahua came bolting across the street, getting in the face of the female, barking incessantly. My dogs came from a rescue and at the time, the female did NOT like other dogs. It was all I could do to keep her from making a snack out of that chihuahua. The owners were sitting out on their front porch and did nothing until I said, “You MIGHT want to come and get your dog!”

  27. MyPetFly says:

    “Mmmm… Snausages!!!”

  28. Syunikiss says:

    I’m one of the weird people that like to read manuals out of fun, and I know they mention countless upon countless of times (with pictures) how if the leash is used improperly it could cause amputation.

    I love those leashes, but I would never have used them on my bigger dogs. Now I live in an apartment with a little pug and have absolutely no problem with it. Because of the apartment I have to walk him often throughout the day so he doesn’t poop on the carpet, so those leashes are very handy. I can let him roam around when he needs to find the right spot to do his business, especially since he likes to go in the thin line of small trees and bushes that he can get in easily, but I can’t. But I always keep him locked up close to me around other people/dogs, even though he’s super friendly and just want to play. Other people or dogs might not want to play. Sadly, he doesn’t understand this. I would not give up my leash for anything.

  29. damitaimee says:

    i hate those things.
    i’ve never needed one.

    my neighbor on the other hand swears by it.
    i’ll walk by her apartment and their dog will be hanging out on it’s bed. it’ll see me and start chasing me. the leash goes far enough that the dog can get into the parking lot from the front door.

    when you walk by her apartment to get the mail you have to be at a good long distance (somewhere in the parking lot) from the apartment which is right next to the sidewalk.

  30. Lindsi Boyer says:

    I LOVE my retractable leash because it keeps the leash from getting wrapped under the dog or around his legs, he’s very spazzy, stopping and going and hopping around constantly. He’s under 10 lbs and I think these leashes are best for small dogs. I do make sure to keep him close when other people walk by though, it’s just courteous and I think the leash only goes 6ish feet.

  31. Marshfield says:

    I like my retractable leash. For all y’all who don’t know the advantages, here it is for me: Dogs love to stop and sniff, walk, run, stop and sniff. I like to walk. With the retractable leash, I can walk a more or less steady pace and the dog can lag behind and bound ahead, and then stop and sniff while I keep going at my steady pace.

    Yeah, they have disadvantages, and I did make the mistake of grabbing the cord once and got a dandy rope burn, but that was once in many years.

    I like it.

    • ZManGT says:

      @Marshfield: In case you don’t get it, because you don’t… you are one of the people everyone is complaining about. Your dog should not walk you, it should not lag behind, it should not be ahead of you, it should not be “bounding” around while you go at a steady pace. Pay attention to your dog, and train it so it walks with you. Both you and the dog will be much happier.

      Though I’m sure this will fall on deaf ears.

      • balthisar says:

        @ZManGT: Not necessarily. Take things in context. A well trained dog can do both. For merely walking on a suburban street with the dog at your side (or in any disciplined context), a retractable least makes little sense. When you get to a more open expanse where you still can’t loose your dog, the extended range gives you the ability to semi-loose your dog so he can have some fun without becoming entangled. I do both with my dog, and she’s happier for it. All the same, she is well trained, and understands the context. And yes, I use the same leash for both circumstances. Why do people not understand that these leashes have brakes (I don’t mean the latch; those are evil).

  32. jwissick says:

    They make retractables which do not use string, but a wide band instead. It does not dangerous like the string ones.

  33. missdona says:

    I’ve used string-retractables on my dogs for as long as I can remember with no problems at all. I love the flexibility. I can let all of the slack out of it and let Bowzer go crazy off the patio, but when I’m walking with the other dog people I hold him close.

    He doesn’t mind it either way.

  34. gnoswal says:

    Ok…I don’t know what kind of retractable leashes you guys are using, but the line never comes in contact with my hand. And as far as letting too much leash out for the dog…well that’s just common sense. You can be an ignorant prick with any leash if you don’t keep you dog under control.

    I use a retractable leash with my 90 pound dog and have never had a problem. Mind you, I actually pay attention to the dog during the walk. Too many people don’t. I think that’s the big problem here, not the leashes. Don’t blame the product, blame the inattentive owners.

  35. Chad Cloman says:

    @Matt Wiggins: Agreed. If you want to stop the dog, you engage the brake and use your arm to add some flex (so the dog doesn’t get hurt). If you’re holding the leash itself, or if it’s wrapped around your hand/fingers, then you’re doing it wrong. I think the people in question here had problems because they were used to the old-style leashes.

  36. feralparakeet says:

    My retractable is ideal for dealing with a beagle, since I don’t live in too heavily populated an area. However, when I once kept a friend’s dog, I made the mistake of taking them both out with retractables while wearing shorts. They went in different directions, one thing led to another…

    Suffice it to say, it took a couple of weeks for the REALLY nasty rope burn on the soft parts in the back of both my knees to heal up.

  37. Corporate-Shill says:

    As a kid I would walk my dog in the city with 30′ of chain. There were some green spaces she could stroll through while I stood on the sidewall. Pretty cool for dog and owner

    But walking down the street? 3′ of leash. 1′ if I could get away with it. Just too many stupid people with cats and yappy fur balls running loose.

    Big dog, no matter how well trained, sees yappy fur balls running (even friendly) towards the big dog is going to be greated with suspicion and the instant defensive posture.

    I suspect most big dogs are going to win those battles before they even get started well. I only saw her attack once. A squirrel came around the tree trunk and didn’t see her until the dog saw the squirrel. Dog on the end of 30′ of loosely held chain. Dog won.

  38. layton59 says:

    A good title for this article: DOG LEASHES GET THE FINGER. I have used the kind with a nylon flat belt for over 13 years. My dogs (Labs and Goldies) average close to 100 pounds. I was almost yanked out into on-coming traffic once. That taught me never to take my dog to the mailbox or walk near traffic. I always use the button brake rather than grabbing the flat cord. I wonder how many accidents occur with just regular non-retracting leases. My guess is quite a few. Life has dangers, even working in a cotton-ball factory.

  39. Rebecca Brown says:

    I loved the retractable leash I had with my collie. She occasionally would get a burst of energy that would pull a regular leash either out of my hand or too tight around it. The retractable one’s handle was easy to hang onto.

    I did have an unfortunate incident where she slipped out of her collar and the collar and leash flew back and hit me, but that wasn’t the leash’s fault. I can’t understand how you could be seriously injured by those leashes, if you’re using them properly.

  40. CFinWV says:

    The only time I ever see these leashes is when they’re trailing on the ground while being dragged by my neighbor’s ankle biter mutt. I don’t understand why she has trouble controlling a dog smaller than my cat.

  41. Gawd Dammit says:

    It’s written as a warning on the leash. Don’t wrap it around your fingers. Don’t wrap it around your legs. Hold the HANDLE.

    It’s a safe product, you just have to use your brain.

  42. shepd says:

    I’ll probably keep using them. I might even be stupid enough to hold the rope (done that plenty). But then again, the animal at the non-human end is a cat. :)

    And yes, it doesn’t mind at all, even when I put the harness on (wish I could find one more suited to cats, though; he manages to choke himself on it if he acts stupid so you have to keep an eye out). I also wish I could train the thing to actually walk. It plays in the water, plays fetch and brings us gifts (no, not dead mice, but candy [seriously] and garbage that managed to sneak its way under the bed) so I figure it’s possible.

  43. CyrusOpeth says:

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    • p75hmsa says:

      @CyrusOpeth: I never understood disemvoweling. They say if you “try” you can read the comment and it’s not offensive to people just scrolling by. I can only make out a few words of the above. No idea what’s going on. Why not just take the comment out instead of teasing?

  44. trixare4kids says:

    “@jimconsumer: I’ve never understood owners who keep their dogs on a short leash, pulling it forward at a brisk pace to prevent it from doing offensive things like sniffing. I don’t like the retractable ones too much either, but since it is illegal for dogs to walk freely, there is no good option.”

    Try not to be so judgmental. I believe the people who are walking their dog that way are doing their dogs a service.

    My dog gets to sniff and pee until we get to the end of the (long) block. After that, he must heel beside me and focus on the walk. This is time for exercise for both of us, it’s not time to stop and sniff every little thing. It’s also good practice for him to focus on on walking beside me without pulling away for every thing he wants to sniff, including other people. He also must sit when we stop at the crosswalk. See, my dog has a tendency to try and take over. Letting him run around sniffing, pulling, deciding which direction to go in and walking in front of me is letting him be the leader in the situation. He needs to know that I am in charge at all times, not his cute self and this is one of the best ways of reinforcing that. Once we started having focused, disciplined walks vs. walks where he got to sniff the entire time, his behavior issues melted away.

    That said, he does get time to play. We walk in the mornings but every single evening we go the dog park for an hour or more where he gets to sniff, play, run, wrestle, and go crazy to his heart’s content. Walks = exercise, mental focus and discipline. Dog Park = play.

  45. Mari Walker says:

    Erm, retractable leashes have warnings on them that say that. Keep the rope away from your fingers, and make sure you use the brake.

    Last summer, my dog’s retractable wrapped around my ankle and pulled off very quickly; as I result, I had one nasty rope burn and a four-inch scar on my ankle.

  46. MailBoss says:

    I am a dog owner and sliced my ankle open from this dang leash. My puppy wrapped his leash around my leg unbeknownst to me and then took off. I have the scar to prove it! No more retractables for me. Just like Cesar Milan says, a short $2 lead is the way to go!