Retractable Dog Leads


Dog trainers generally dislike them while dog families love them, so should you use one? In this article, we try to lay out the pros and cons of using retractable dog leads.

We have two main leads for walking PB’s Polly Dog and are used depending on the walk we are going on. A standard lead clipped to her collar for close walking on pavements or roads where there is likely to be a lot of people or traffic. And a retractable lead which is used more on walks where there is less distraction, more space for free movement, but a dog on a lead is a requirement. A retractable lead generally allows for more of a fun time together and is the basis on this article so let’s jump straight in!


Using Retractable Dog Leads.


You can easily find a ton of dire warnings on the internet about why you should not use one ranging from out of control dogs to rope burns and possible amputations. But, as with any tool, if used properly, a retractable lead is safe to use and gives you and your dog a lot more freedom so let’s break it down.


Used Properly.


Don’t just buy one and use it. A retractable lead is a far more advanced tool than a standard dog lead. For a start, you are in control of 3 or 4+ metres length of lead which is some length. So before you use a retractable lead train your dog to walk on a standard lead first, so they don’t pull. Retractable dog leads are not suitable for training if you are having difficulty training your dog to walk to heel then look to a dog trainer for help. It may take a little time and plenty of treats but will pay you back in bucket loads later, honest!

Select a word that is to be used to stop your dog, such as “stop” or “wait” and ensure your dog understands what this word means (more treats required here). Being able to stop your dog on command has benefits as you will see later in this article.

Know how the lead works before you go out with your dog and have a little play around with the release and lock catch.

Use only a standard flat buckle/clip collar, DO NOT use chock, slip or other kinds of collars that tighten and release as these can be dangerous for your dog when using a retractable lead.

Start by giving yourself and your dog some training on how to use the lead together. Walk your dog on a standard lead to a quiet space like an open field with minimal distractions such as other dogs, people, trees and bushes before you clip on the retractable lead to practice. Generally, if your dog walks well on a standard lead, they will soon get to understand they need to pull a little on the lead and find the limits of their freedom. Remember this is a training session, not fun time just yet.

Remove the standard lead and clip on the retractable one. Let your dog pull out the lead and roam around. Keep an eye on your dog and ensure they don’t run to the full length of the lead; otherwise, this could hurt your arm or shoulder and your dog. Use your command to get them to stop.

Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to move onto the second phase.


Practice Makes Perfect.


Head back to your quiet spot, clip the lead on and practice using the lock and release catch along with the “stop” or “wait” command. The more you practice this with your dog, the better as it will help prevent getting into a tangle with the lead wrapped around you.

One of the biggest gripes with retractable leads is when the lead is in a locked state it becomes slack as you near your dog. Now if you’re in a large open area with no one else around that’s not too much of an issue because you can just simply flick the catch and reel in the slack. However, what if you are, say, on the street and the lead was unlocked, meaning your dog could pull ahead and potentially wander into the road for example? Reeling in a retractable lead is easily accomplished but may take a bit of practice.

First off, some retractable leads have a three-function button system with Pause where you press and hold to lock. You can then use the “pause” function rather than locking/releasing the lead. Whichever method you use Pause or lock/release the motion is the same. As you walk, swing your arm back with the lead in the lock position. Quickly release the lead while moving your arm forward in a swinging motion, so the lead retracts. Now with your arm extended in front of you, lock the lead and swing your arm back. By swinging your arm back with the lead in the lock position then forward with it released gradually it retracts the lead back each time. It’s as simple as that!


All This Training and Practice, Is It Worth It?


MOST DEFINITELY! A retractable lead, when used correctly, makes for a much more relaxed fun time for you both. Your dog has time to go ahead and find something interesting to sniff while you leisurely walk by. It allows your dog to jog past you to find the next unique smell. A retractable lead provides your dog with a bit more freedom to roam while still offering you a measure of control through more than just commands. Also, some dogs prefer a little privacy away from you when going to do their business. While being in control of 3+ metres of lead, you still have to be watchful where your dog is going keeping an eye out for trees or bushes to get tangled up in, other people, joggers, cyclists and of course other dogs. Still, you will find having that extra freedom well worth the effort.


There are two types of retractable DOG leads.



This is a thin string-like nylon rope with thickness depending on the strength rating. These are the original retractable leads and while not absolutely tangle-free, are more unlikely to tangle when retracting. They are strong and can take rubbing against tresses etc., and price-wise usually a little cheaper than tape leads.


The tape version is generally more robust as it is wider than the cord version. The added width definitely has benefits in that if you get tangled up you are less likely to get any rope burns which the cord version is notorious for. Tape leads have the potential to tangle, but they generally come with a tangle-free mechanism which reduces the chance of this happening.

If you’re going to give a retractable lead a try; pick your lead, pick your length, pick your strength and happy walking!