Why Veterinarians Hate Retractable Leashes

When you’re out walking your dog, a leash is more than just a simple tool; it’s a vital part of ensuring their safety and the safety of others. In this article, we’re exploring a specific type of leash that often raises concerns among veterinarians: the retractable leash. We aim to share insights about why many veterinarians, including our team at Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital in Amesbury, Maine, advise against their use. If you have questions or need further advice about supplies for your pet, feel free to call us at (978) 388-3074. We’re here to help you make the best choices for your pet’s safety and care.

why veterinarians hate retractable leashes in amesbury ma

How They Work: The Mechanics and Risks of Retractable Leashes

Retractable leashes are a popular choice among dog owners. They consist of a cord or belt that retracts into a plastic handle. This design allows the leash to extend and retract as your dog moves, theoretically giving them more freedom while on walks.

Safety Concerns with Retractable Leashes

However, the perceived freedom allowed by the retractable leash comes with various risks. The mechanics of retractable leashes can lead to dangerous situations for the dog and the owner. For instance, if a dog suddenly runs, the leash can extend quickly, potentially causing the owner to lose control. This scenario can be frightening not just for the pet, but for the owner and bystanders as well.

Injuries Related to Retractable Leashes

Retractable leashes can cause various injuries to dogs. If a dog runs to the end of an extended leash, they can experience a sudden jolt, potentially leading to neck injuries or tracheal damage. Also, if the leash gets tangled, it can cause cuts or burns on the legs.

The risks posed by retractable leashes extend to owners and other people, too. The cord of a retractable leash can wrap around fingers, hands, or even legs, leading to burns, cuts, or, in extremely severe cases, amputations. Moreover, if a dog charges toward a person or another animal, the extended leash can trip bystanders, posing a risk of falls and related injuries.

Behavioral Concerns and Training Challenges Associated with Retractable Leashes

Using a retractable leash can also hinder a dog’s training and behavior. These leashes can encourage pulling, as dogs learn that pulling extends the leash, allowing them to explore further, against their owner’s wishes. This habit can make it challenging to teach your dog to walk calmly by your side.

Lack of Control

The design of retractable leashes offers less control compared to traditional leashes. In situations where quick action is needed to move your pet to safety, such as avoiding a dangerous animal or a busy street, retracting the leash quickly can be difficult, increasing the risk of accidents.

Alternatives to Retractable Leashes

We hope the information we’ve provided so far gives you a better understanding of the risks posed by retractable leashes. There are better options available!

Traditional, Fixed-Length Leashes

A better option for most dogs and owners is a traditional, fixed-length leash. These leashes are much sturdier and provide more control and predictability, making walks safer for everyone involved. They also aid in effective training, as they don’t encourage dogs to pull as much. Furthermore, a fixed-length leash, which should be no more than 6 feet in length, allows for better control and handling of your dog. 


For dogs that pull or have respiratory issues, a harness can be a great alternative. Harnesses distribute pressure more evenly around the dog’s body, reducing strain on the neck and trachea.

We Can Help You Make an Informed Decision for Your Pet

Choosing the right leash is an essential aspect of pet ownership. While retractable leashes might seem convenient, the risks they pose can far outweigh their benefits. At Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital, we recommend discussing leash options with a veterinarian who can provide guidance based on your dog’s specific needs and behavior.

If you’re in the Amesbury area and have concerns or questions about what leash is best for your dog, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital. Call us at (978) 388-3074 for more information or to schedule an appointment. Your pet’s safety is our top priority, and we’re here to support you in making the best choices for their care.

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About Us

Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital had humble beginnings in 1968. Dr. Walter Brown opened the animal hospital in a garage next to his home near the current hospital and operated out of this small space until the current building was built in 1969.