Why dog trainers hate retractable (extendable) leads!

Do you want to know the thing that makes me groan internally when someone walks into class?  Is it the dog who is barking? No.  Is it the dog who pees everywhere?  No.  Is it the owner who arrives with a take away coffee?  No.

It’s a dog on an extendable lead!

I dislike them!  And I'm yet to meet a dog trainer who thinks they’re a good idea!  Don’t get me wrong, there are certain times, places and conditions which they work well for.  But NOT for training!

Why do I dislike them for training?

  • When you’re teaching your dog to walk nicely beside you, you already have the lead in one hand (with your clicker), treats in another and now you have to worry about a large plastic handle that needs to be fiddled with.  And if you don’t have to continually let the lead in and out, the dog is either on a fixed length (so why use an extendable) or has way too much freedom and will never understand what it means to walk beside mum or dad.
  • I’ve seen clients with cut fingers, rope burns and even one whose cord broke and the lead whipped back and hit them in the face causing a black eye.  So they can be painful when they go wrong.
  • They become scary, noisy things that chase dogs!  If you let the plastic handle go by mistake and it drops the dog now not only has the freedom to bolt, but they have a scary thing chasing them too!
  • Ever played tangle teaser with you dog?  Well these are great tools for tangle teaser.  You know, your dog’s lead gets tangled with another dog’s lead.  In all seriousness, this can lead to dogs panicking and then fighting which can lead to injuries in both the dogs and humans.
  • And the big one – lack of control.  If your dog is ahead of you and runs onto the road, you won’t be able to stop him from running into traffic. I’ve seen so many instances where owners are completely oblivious to their surroundings.  The person with their dog on a flexi who is looking at their phone!  (I don’t need to say anymore here really!)

So use them when you’re in a park or big open space.  Where the dog has freedom to sniff about but when you see another person or dog approaching, reel them in!

By the way, I suggest you get an extendable lead with tape rather than cord – the cord isn’t as sore on your hands if you do have an emergency situation when you have to grab the lead. 

ALWAYS have the lead locked when walking on a road where there is traffic.

Extendables (or retractables as they are also called) aren’t bad, they just have a bad reputation because sometimes they’re used as a ‘sticking plaster’ for a dog’s behaviour. Don’t use them instead of training your dog – spend a few hours on recall or loose lead walking rather than throwing money at equipment that doesn’t really work.

So yes, my heart drops when a client walks into the training studio with one, but once they’ve been through training and understand how to use them, there’s no reason why the extendable leads can’t be used in appropriate circumstances.

If you are interested in recall or loose lead walking training, get in touch with me.  I run recall and loose lead walking masterclasses.


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