Should I Use A Retractable Leash With My Puppy?

An essential aspect of being a puppy parent is to ensure that your puppy gets plenty of regular exercise. Like children, puppies have an incredible amount of energy, and exercise helps them burn that energy off, stay calm-ish and sleep through the night.

There are, to be sure, a variety of different ways you can play with a puppy. When they’re very young, playing with a small toy works great, or just using your hands. (Watch out for those sharp puppy teeth!)

However, as your puppy gets older, you will undoubtedly desire to leave your house and explore the great outdoors. If you have a backyard, it’s relatively easy to let them do that.

Many folks, however, don’t have the luxury of a backyard or even a front yard. For them, taking their puppy out usually means going to a park, a dog park, or a walk around the block.

Whatever your choices are, it’s good to keep your puppy on a leash when you go out into the world. That way, you can ensure they don’t run off or dart into traffic. That leads me to today’s question, should I use a retractable leash with my puppy?

The answer, surprisingly, is that no, retractable leashes aren’t recommended for use with puppies. The biggest reason is that it teaches them that pulling on their leash is a good thing. (It’s not.) 

Here’s why: retractable leashes will extend (if you let them) when pulled. Not knowing it’s a bad choice, many new puppy owners allow their puppy to pull as much as they want and lengthen the retractable leash every time.

Ironically, a retractable leash teaches your puppy exactly the opposite of what you need to teach them, which is to not pull on their leash. For that main reason, it’s not recommended.

Now that you know that you shouldn’t use a retractable leash with your puppy, you might have more questions about retractable leashes in other situations. What’s bad about retractable leashes, for example, and what kind of leash is best for a puppy? 

If so, please keep reading as I’ve got the answers to those questions, and several more, below. Also, lots of great advice and tips to help you be a better pet parent.

What’s Bad About Retractable Leashes?

Besides the fact that they teach your puppy the opposite of what they need to learn (i.e., not pull on their leash), retractable leashes are also rather dangerous to use.

For example, many people have tripped, fallen, and received rope burns on their legs after being wrapped up by a retractable leash. Unfortunately, the thin rope used for retractable leashes can cause rope burns quite easily.

Many dog owners report that when two dogs on retractable leashes play, they can get tangled quite easily and injure each other if they start running in different directions.

Using a retractable leash in a busy area where, for example, skateboarders, cyclists, and walkers are all enjoying the outdoors together can be very problematic. Retractable leashes have been known to trip people, tangle them up, and have caused many injuries.

There’s also a substantial risk of choking injury when, for example, a puppy or dog runs off at full speed and suddenly reaches the end of their retractable leash.

One of the worst examples of how badly things can go wrong with retractable leashes is when a puppy is far ahead of their pet parent. If something scares or attracts them, the pup can suddenly be out in the street, and their parent won’t be able to pull them back quickly enough.

What Kind of Leash is Best for a Puppy?

Veterinarians recommend a standard, 6-foot leash for puppies, especially during training. There are several reasons why, including the fact that your puppy can’t get too far away from you with only six feet of leash available.

The biggest concern with young puppies is that they pull on their leash constantly since they haven’t been fully trained yet. That’s why a retractable leash isn’t a good idea because it gives them too much freedom and teaches them, as I mentioned earlier, the exact opposite of what they need to learn.

A non-retractable, standard leash allows you to have the most control over your puppy and also keeps them safe. Your pup won’t be able to walk too far ahead of you and become tangled around other people or dogs.

When is it OK to Use a Retractable Leash?

The best thing about a retractable leash is that it allows you to give a well-trained dog more freedom when you’re out walking. As I’ve discussed already, the problem is that it can sometimes give puppies too much freedom and cause problems, accidents, and injuries.

That’s why it’s always best to use a retractable leash after your puppy has been trained and has decent leash manners. They need to be under your voice control and listen well so that, if a situation arises, your commands will make them stop immediately.

For many puppies, a high amount of voice and leash control is difficult to achieve because, as you might have guessed, they’re still immature.  Again, it’s imperative you have a well-trained dog when using a retractable leash. Most puppies simply don’t fall under the category of “well-trained.” 

However, retractable leashes can be quite helpful if you have a deaf dog. They give more freedom to both of you when walking, with less risk your dog will injure themselves or blindly (no pun intended) runoff. 

Suppose you’re traveling or taking your puppy out at night to go potty. In that case, a retractable leash can also be helpful if there are predator animals around, including coyotes, foxes, and alligators. 

Should You Train your Dog with a Retractable Leash?

Practically every dog expert and veterinarian I’ve talked with over the years has said that you shouldn’t train your puppy or dog with a retractable leash.

Most agree that retractable leashes are “an accident waiting to happen.”  They also point out that leashes are designed to give you more control over your puppy or dog, but retractable leashes actually do the opposite and give you less control.

The thin cord most retractable leashes are made with is also much easier to fray and break. If this happens when your puppy sees a cat, squirrel, or other animal and takes off, it could lead to disaster.

One of the best arguments against retractable leashes is that if your puppy is 10, 15, or even 25 ft ahead of you, the likelihood that they will listen to your commands and obey them is significantly reduced.

For that reason, and several others, most veterinarians and dog trainers recommend training your puppy with a standard 6-foot leash.

Final Thoughts

No, you shouldn’t use a retractable leash with your puppy, as we’ve seen today. Most puppies simply don’t have the voice and leash control necessary to walk with a retractable leash safely. 

Plus, retractable leashes defeat the purpose of a leash, which is to give pet parents more control over their puppy’s actions.  Retractable leashes are even worse if you’re trying to train a puppy for the reason I just mentioned, the lack of control.

Did you enjoy today’s blog about using a retractable leash with your puppy? I hope you did, and all of your questions have now been answered. Please see my other blogs if you have more questions or want to learn more about being a pet parent. All are filled with interesting, informative, and essential information you need to raise a healthy, happy and well-adjusted dog.