I have to say it out loud, there are some situations where a retractable leash can't be beat. There is so much negative press about the retractable leash that I figured I would write a "how to" guide on using them PROPERLY.
#1. YOUR DOG NEEDS TO KNOW HOW to walk on a regular leash if you want to use a retractable leash. Period. If they can't walk on a 6 foot leash, it is unrealistic to think they will walk better by tripling the length of the leash. If your dog is constantly getting caught around telephone poles and bushes on a 6 foot leash, the same will happen with the retractable leash.
#2. DO NOT USE A RETRACTABLE LEASH in a building. This includes the vet, the pet store, the doggy daycare and the groomer. Use a regular leash. Controlling your dog means being close enough to intervene if a situation arises, which cannot happen if your dog is 26 feet away from you !
#3. DO NOT USE A RETRACTABLE LEASH on the sidewalk. Your dog can (and will) get wrapped around almost everything, including other dogs and people.
#4. THE RETRACTABLE LEASH IS IDEAL for walking privately in areas that are open, like fields and seldom used trails. You can allow your dog some freedom, while maintaining some control.
#5. USE THE LOCK. When you have decided on a length you want your leash, LOCK IT. This prevents the dog from rushing further ahead than you have anticipated, AND allows the leash to slack when your dog is walking nicely. The retractable leash will NOT keep tension on the collar IF IT IS LOCKED. If it is not locked, there will always be tension on the collar and you will encourage pulling.
#6. Be aware of your surroundings. You should be doing this on your walks regardless of what type of leash you use. Recognize things that your dog may be more interested in, or places your dog can get wrapped around. This is no different than using a regular leash or long line.
I use a retractable leash whenever we go for a hike in a new area. I can use my retractable leash as a 26' long line, a 12' leash or a 4' leash depending on the situation, which is so much easier than carrying multiple leashes of varying lengths. I don't have to contstantly worry about leashes getting caught between legs or dragging through mud puddles when I can change the length with a press of a button. I always remember to lock the leash when I have it at the length I am happy with.
Danielle LeFort, RVT