Are Retractable Leashes Dangerous?

After a few days of shoveling ourselves out from the recent snowstorm, my husband and I decided to venture out in the velvety dark winter evening for dinner.  The snow was piled at least 3 feet high alongside the driveway, creating a narrow chute to the street.  The town plow had been through a couple of times, so the piles of snow along the road topped 4 feet.

Putting the car into reverse, we slowly maneuvered down the driveway, careful not to disturb the walls of snow on either side.  Looking behind us, I caught sight of the upper half of a neighbor out in the street near my mailbox.  Oddly enough, he was twitching frantically – as if attached with invisible strings to a puppeteer gone mad.

Puzzled, I continued to watch as my husband reached the end of the driveway and backed into the street.  The neighbor stopped suddenly and resumed his trek down the snow clogged street.  It was then that I had a complete rear view of the man and a small dog ricocheting in random directions through the snow at the end of a retractable leash.

I realized the little dog had been directly in the path of our rear wheels – and the neighbor’s antics were a desperate attempt to jerk the dog out of harm’s way.

A Beautiful Summer Day, Nearly Ruined

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this.  One beautiful, summer Sunday, Zelda and I went up to a large wooded park with a lake in our town for an afternoon walk – along with a crowd of families, kids, couples and dogs.

As we were leaving, I noticed a family of 3 piling into their car not far from the trail entrance after completing their walk.  Coming out of the trail was a woman with her face up to the sun, walking with a darling little Yorkie that was trotting well ahead of her at the end of a retractable leash.

It was like watching it in slow motion.  The family man started the car and looked both ways behind him.  The woman with her face to the sun was a safe distance from the rear passenger side of the car, but the leash was extended across the full width of the car and was too low to be visible to the man.  The Yorkie was just beside the rear wheel on the driver’s side.  And then the car started into reverse.

The Yorkie’s scream was terrible.  I snapped my eyes shut, sick to my stomach at the possibility that this poor little thing had been crushed to death in front of a parking lot full of kids.

The man stopped the car immediately, jumped out, and started working feverishly to free the frightened little Yorkie from the leash.  Fortunately, the wheel had caught the leash about a foot from the end, jerking the Yorkie into the side of the wheel.  His wife was out of the car, comforting the very distraught woman who only moments before was walking her dog in the sun.

Am I Biased?
I realize that I may be biased when it comes to retractable leashes.  I have always had big dogs – Newfoundlands and Berners – who were equal to my stature, nearly my weight, and 4 times stronger than me.  And I’ve learned some hard lessons about keeping them under control.  But I’ve always worked hard at it – because it could mean their safety.

Would you agree that it’s every bit as important to keep a small dog under control, and that a retractable leash is not the way to do it?

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