Retract That!

June 14, 2012

Those of us fortunate enough to work in veterinary medicine love our clients. And we love their dogs. We are thrilled to see a wiggly, happy dog burst through our front door, dragging a client behind them. We are even glad to accept slobbery dog kisses from said patients. What we don’t like to see, however, is a dog on a retractable leash.

Retractable leashes are the bane of veterinarians and veterinary technicians alike. These leashes allow very limited control over dogs, which can be a safety hazard when a 100-pound goofy Labrador is on the end of the line. They frequently develop knots, which prevent full retraction back into the leash handle. Retractable leash safety locks often break, preventing the leash from being “secured” at a reasonably short length. There are even reports of retractable leashes causing injury to owners’ hands and fingers.

Most concerning, retractable leashes give owners a false sense of security when walking their dogs. If Fido is at the end of a 10-foot leash, and he sees a pigeon across the street and goes sprinting after it, it may be hard to retract and lock the leash quickly enough to prevent Fido from getting hit by a car. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen with a few patients over the years. I’ve also sewn up more than a few dogs who got into dog fights despite being on a retractable leash, since the owners were unable to retract the leash in time to avoid a confrontation.  

We are always happy to see Fido at our animal hospital. For his safety, we would much prefer Fido be on a traditional nylon or leather leash when giving us sweet doggy kisses. A controlled dog is a safe dog. And it makes for a happy vet!