Red retractable dog leash
Looking for a leash that makes walking your curious canine more convenient? The retractable reel-type leash is an option that many people love, but before you run out and get one, make sure you know the risks and the product limitations.

Retractable leashes have many critics, and for good reason — the function that makes them so appealing, the easy unspooling and retracting — also creates many potential hazards. Some dogs have bitten people or other pets because they were too far away from their owners to be controlled easily. Other dogs have hurt themselves when they've kicked into a run and then found themselves jerked backward when the leash line runs out. (This is also pretty tough on the human holding the handle.) Among other issues, owners have been hurt when the leash itself comes undone from the pet and snaps back and hits the owner.

Consumer Reports has reported on risks of using retractable leashes and leash manufacturers feature critical safety information on their packages and websites.

So, when faced with so much concern, what are the rules for using a retractable leash? It's pretty simple:

  • The leash should not be used with an untrained dog. If your dog pulls on the leash, shoots off exploring at high speeds or refuses to come when called, look for another product.
  • The leash is less than ideal in crowded situations, as it is easy for you to get distracted and for the dog to get tangled up with another dog and owner.
  • Be aware of where the retractable line cord is and never, ever grab it with your bare hands. Also, be careful that the line doesn't wrap around fingers or legs — it can cut or burn if moving quickly.
  • Even if you do have a well-trained, dependable dog, make sure to read the safety information to be informed about the issues of using the leash.

There are many leash options, including the retractable leash, just do some research before deciding what is right for your pet.