Is A Retractable Dog Leash Safe?

by | Feb 9, 2021

lab on retractable leash

In the world of dog training, there are numerous schools of thought on whether a retractable dog leash should be used when walking or training your dog. With most trainers advocating against them, I personally believe that, with the right hands, retractable leashes can be safely integrated into your training arsenal.

As with any training tool, a retractable leash is completely safe to use with your dog as long as it is used correctly. Keeping the leash short when you are in an unfamiliar area or around potential safety hazards will help keep you and your pup safe while also having the freedom of a longer line.

There are many benefits that come with using retractable leashes as they allow your dog to have more area to explore while still being tethered to you. As always, safety comes first. To protect your dog, it is important to know how retractable leashes work and how to use them properly.

What Is A Retractable Leash?

Dog leashes come in a plethora of lengths and are made of an astounding variety of materials. Retractable leashes are longer than most traditional leather or nylon leashes as they consist of a housing that holds the corded leash. The leash itself is rolled up onto a spool and released as your dog walks farther away from you. The most common length for these types of leashes is from 10 to 20 feet long.

Since these leashes allow for your dog to roam farther from you, they also come with a locking mechanism that holds the leash in place at the desired length. To activate this feature, you simply push the brake button and flip it into the locked position. This will prevent the leash from rolling back in or out of the spool, keeping the leash at the selected length.

There are some retractable leashes that have an additional locking mechanism that allows you to select the length using a dial. The Dial A-Distance Retractable Dog Leash has settings for 1 to 15 feet long and will lock automatically at the selected length. Other leashes, such as FLEXI Classic Retractable Dog Leash, uses the traditional lock that clicks into place at the length of your choosing.

Altering your leash length to match the environment is the key to correctly choosing and using a retractable leash. If you are going to a park with a lot of space, opt for a longer leash length as this will allow your dog to explore and sniff to their heart’s content. If you’re going to be in a busier area, lock the leash at an appropriate length where you will continue to have control over your dog

How To Use A Retractable Leash Safely

Since retractable leashes are longer than most traditional leashes, safety hazards can arise if they are not used properly. So the question then comes, when is the right time to use a retractable leash versus a traditional 4 or 6 foot lead? Knowing the environment you will be walking in, the behavior of your dog, and your experience using retractable leashes are all important considerations before choosing this device for your walk.

In my experience, I prefer to use a retractable leash when I’m going on a trail or expansive park where I will remain a long distance away from other people or dogs. This allows my dogs to smell and move a bit faster than I want to go, letting them decompress and get some exercise. My dogs will also recall back to me if there is a distraction or danger so I feel confident that their distance won’t cause any issues.

In regards to pulling, it is essential never to use a retractable leash with a dog who will run to the end of the leash or pull dramatically. Larger dogs are especially guilty of this as when they throw their weight against the leash, the chances of the lock mechanism breaking or the leash coming completely unwound are much higher. In this case, it would be best to use a strong, 6 foot leash such as the Braided Leather Dog Training Leash to have overall better control over your dog.


All in all, use your best judgement if opting to use a retractable leash with your dog. There are many benefits including the option to train from a distance or letting your dog have more freedom to sniff around in the appropriate environment. For dogs that pull, are not yet leash trained, or will not reliably heel, using a traditional leash is a better option.

Canine Enrichment Products

Check out our collection of Snuffle Balls, Rope Toys, and Snuffle Mats in our shop. These toys are designed to bring your dog quality enrichment activities, all with top-notch quality in mind.


Leave a Reply