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By Dawn Celapino
November 12, 2011 (San Diego) -- You see it all of the time at a very busy dog event, farmers market, or walking event; people are using retractable leashes on their dog.  The person’s dog is roaming all over the place, the leash is at full length, and it trips somebody or worst cuts their leg.
Retractable leashes are dangerous and should never be used at a busy event.  If the dog starts running and somebody grabs the leash, a dangerous cut or worse a finger amputation could happen and it has, many times.
In 2007, there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes, according to Consumer Union's analysis of statistics collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Of those, about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger.  The CPSC's data does not parse the leashes into types but it's likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.
The person holding the leash does not realize that they really do not have control over their dog; even if the leash is “locked”—the cord is in no way going to control the dog.  There are many reports of dogs dashing into the street or running after another animal, and the owner can not react fast enough to reel in their dog or worse—the cord breaks.   There have been many reports of deaths and injuries, to the dog and/or owners, which have resulted from just this issue.
With a regular leash, you can grab the leash closer to the dog if you need to control the dog.  This cannot be done with a retractable leash or you will hurt your hand.  With a regular leash, you also know the distance your dog can be away from you; with a retractable, it is hard to know how far your dog can wander.  Many retractable leashes even come with a warning disclaimer about the possible dangers.
There is a time and place for everything.  If you are walking your dog in an open area or working on recall skills, then maybe a retractable leash is acceptable.  It will allow your dog a little more freedom than a regular 6’ leash. However, they are not safe in an environment with kids, other dogs, other people or distractions where the leash can cause tripping, cutting or other serious injuries.
In conclusion, if you are at a crowded event, please be responsible and use a regular 6’ leash made of nylon, leather, cloth or any other material where you can have complete control of your dog and leave the retractable at home.

-Dawn Celapino is a personal trainer who created Leash Your Fitness, a workout program for you and your dog 


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