Let's Talk: Do You Use Retractable Leashes, or Do You Think They're Completely Lame and Dangerous?

Fabulosa Dogster Managing Editor Janine Kahn gave Jake something the other day for review purposes. It's a new take on retractable leashes, and, as luck...

 |  Jan 12th 2012  |   345 Contributions


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A blessing for man and beast, or a potential finger guillotine? How do you feel about retractable leashes? (Photo from the Flexi leash website)

Fabulosa Dogster Managing Editor Janine Kahn gave Jake something the other day for review purposes. It's a new take on retractable leashes, and, as luck would have it for Jake, it is a pretty shade of pink, with cursive writing front and center. Jake has been wearing girly things all his life because he's a member of a household where girl humans outnumber boy humans, and it seems his reputation has now spread to Dogster HQ.

Jake sighed when I showed him the LeashLocket; he's a dog resigned to forever breaking the gender barrier despite his best intentions. The LeashLocket's slogan — "Let Your Dog Carry His Leash for a Change" — sounded interesting. I snapped it onto an attachment I had put on his deep-pink Ed Hardy collar and he looked so ... well, so pretty. (Sorry Jake.) Perhaps a little wary as well.

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Jake modeling the LeashLocket in its "dormant state." He's so pretty in pink, and it matches his nose.

He didn't seem to even notice it was there when he ran around in his usual blissed-out state. It weighs only four ounces, and has a six-foot retractable leash inside. It's far smaller and lighter than any retractable leash we've ever used. In its "dormant" state, it's about the size of a fat dog tag on major steroids. Here's what it looks like when you unsnap it from its superstrong magnetic attachment and use it as a leash.

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The LeashLocket in extended mode. It's a tape leash, but you can't tell in this picture. Jake is checking it out and can see it's tape, not string..

It's a handy contraption, but I don't mind holding his regular leash or retractable leash, so I will be giving it to a friend who is always losing track of her dog's leash at the dog park. She has a beagle, so I hope this leash doesn't take up too much neck room. My friend gets positively giddy over devices like this. And her dog is female, which is probably a better choice for this color.

When Janine gave me the LeashLocket, we got into a conversation about retractable leashes. I frequently use one with Jake. He's not a big puller anymore, and I like to give him a little freedom on our walks in spacious parks where he can't be off leash. It allows him to sniff around and enjoy life without me having to traipse into the bushes or whatnot as he does so. We've never had a problem with a retractable leash in our nine years together.

But it turns out that Janine and some others in the office are not fans. This is mostly because retractable leashes can be rather dangerous. I read the instructions and safety info when I bought Jake's Flexi leash, but chalked it up to an overzealous legal department protecting the product from lawsuits just in case. Here's the stark language with which it begins:

To avoid the risk of eye or face injury and cuts, burns, and amputations to your body or the body of another person from the leash cord/tape or all belt and hook, read and follow these Warnings and Directions for Use before using your Flexi leash.

I've compiled some of the visual warnings from the Flexi site.

Oof! Okay, you may have chuckled at a couple of these because when they're happening to this hapless stick figure it has a comic-book humor. But in real life, these things are not cool.

If you've never had a problem with a retractable leash, you may be interested in this story I found on the Consumer Reports website.

Heather Todd didnt bring a leash with her the day she took her pooch Penny to a pond near Boston in 2005. So she borrowed a retractable dog leash to help keep her Labrador retriever in check. But it didnt. The 90-pound dog suddenly took off running and dragged Todd across the sand.

When she came to a stop and recovered her wits, she spotted something lying on the sand. With horror, she realized it was a human index finger; with greater horror, she realized it was her own. The cord of the retractable leash had looped around her finger and pulled taut when Penny bolted.

It just cut it off like a sharp knife, Todd says.

Horrible! Imagine seeing a finger on the ground and then realizing it's yours. This woman — a nursing student — took her finger and drove to the emergency room (!) but doctors could not reattach it.

The article goes on to cite Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics of 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes in the previous year. Nearly a quarter were finger injuries. The leashes aren't broken down by type, but as the article states, such amputations were likely the result of retractable leashes.

I had little idea retractable leashes were potentially so dangerous. Many people who commented on the Consumer Reports article were adamant the leashes should be banned. But I've been using them with Jake for nine years and with my previous dog, Joe, for 13, and not once have I had a problem. So unless I can't get the image of that poor woman's finger out of my head, I will continue to use the leash in wide-open parklands we've been going to forever. (Some caveats, though; I would not use it around traffic or where there are lots of people. That's probably where things start to get a little dicey. And I use the all-tape (no cord) Flexi, which makes a very durable leash.)

How about you, Dogsters? Are you okay with retractables, at least in certain situations? Or do you think they are far too dangerous to be on the market?

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