Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Great Debate...Regular Leash Or Retractable?

Dogs have always been a part of my life. Growing up, we had dogs. In my adult years, I've almost always had a fur-kid. Of course, with having a fur-kid as part of the family, comes the responsibility of taking them out to do their business, walks and the occasional day trip to the lake. Back in the day, collars and leashes were your typical run-of-the-mill and geared more towards functionality than style. Over the years, that has changed.

I didn't own a retractable leash until about 10 years ago. It was love at first walk. My fur-kid, at the time, weighed about 35 pounds. The retractable leash allowed her to have more freedom and with the thumb brake, I felt I had more control if an urgent situation should arise. Which, thankfully, never happened.

Shortly after, we had another addition to the family. Big pup...about 100 pounds. He responded well to voice commands. Most times. This became selective when strangers and other dogs were involved. He yanked hard. If the retractable leash was fully extended, one of us got tangled in all of the excitement. If I walked towards him too quickly, that made matters worse.

On several occasions, I was the recipient of the infamous leash burn. And, more than once, a fierce bolt on his end left my elbows and wrists in pain for days. I feared that once of these days, either would break and I would lose grip on the leash.

That was the beginning of my retractable leash hiatus. I didn't resume until a few years ago when we adopted Coco. He weighed 19 pounds. Underweight. A retractable leash seemed ideal at the time and for about a year, that's what we used. Coco put on some much needed weight. After he made a full recovery from the situation prior to us adopting him, we discovered he had a few triggers where a retractable leash seemed less than ideal.

Although we have a fenced in yard, he stays on a leash during his outdoor time. He could easily get over the fence if determined enough. He's part Jack Russell. Enough said. When a human approaches our fence or if he spots another pup nearby, he becomes over stimulated and wants to bolt. At that point, no amount of experience with a retractable leash could prepare us for the onset of his hyper demeanor. Running this way and that. Jumping. Hyper.

Long story short, we donated our retractable leash. 

Over the past couple of years, retractable leashes have increasingly been getting a bad rap. I've come across dozens of articles supporting why these type of leashes should not be used. Last summer, Dr. Karen Becker published an article in Healthy Pets expressing why she doesn't recommend retractable leashes. Other articles highlighting the dangers of retractable leashes were published by The Dogington Post, Pet Adviser and the Sarah Wilson Dog Expert site.

On the other end of the stick, there are people who love retractable leashes and dispute these articles and firmly believe the pet parent is at fault. After all, if you're fur-kid is fully trained and responds impeccably to voice commands, a retractable leash shouldn't be an issue, right? There are some who are adamant in their beliefs that human error is to fully blame for any danger, injury or other mishaps from retractable leashes.

Like with most things, the pros and cons can be debated indefinitely. I stand in the middle. I've had both positive and negative experiences with retractable leashes. At this point in time, it's a personal choice not to use one...the operative word being "personal choice." I would hate to think those in favor of retractable leashes would criticize my ability to handle our fur-kids.

What type of leash do YOU prefer?

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