Columns Home & Style Pets — 05 August 2011

The retractable leash is the bane of my existence. Between the bulky handles, the painfully long, skinny cords and the tedious winding mechanism, the retractable leash is an accident waiting to happen.

The concept behind the retractable leash is its greatest flaw. It allows your dog freedom, which could mean trouble when on a walk.

Picture this: Youre strolling together in your neighborhood. The retractable leash is unlocked, and your dog is happily sniffing his usual spots. Youre deep in thought, but before you know it, a large dog rounds the corner and barks at the sight of you and your pup. Your little Napoleon darts after the larger dog before you can lock the mechanism. As such, youre left 20 feet away from your dog, unable to protect him and completely powerless as he feverishly pulls away.

As you work to reel your pup back in, your shoulder screams from the emphatic yank and the awkward rotation you hope will bring your dog back by your side. A few minutes later, youve finally managed to contain your pet and bring him closer to you. Thankfully, the larger dog is no longer in sight.

What a relief! Thank goodness nothing happened, right? Youd think you had learned your lesson, but instead, you cross the street and unlock the winding mechanism all over again.

Maybe next time your dog will pull away from you and into oncoming traffic. Maybe your dog will find something delicious in his path and decide to take a bite, and youll be too far back to pull him out of yucks way. Or maybe you will get there just in time to remove a decaying animal, half-eaten chicken bone or stinky poop from your dogs mouth. It could be worse, though; you could get there just in time to watch your dog swallow the mysterious object and get sick.

Setting the possible dangers aside, lets consider the simple inconvenience of the retractable leash. Your dog walks away from you to go potty. You see him in position, lock the retractable leash and walk toward him with bag in hand. You get there and cant for the life of you find your dogs business. You walk around in circles, looking down and searching for the poop while your dog pulls you, annoyed that youre taking so long. Now youre feeling like a fool, and your neighbors are wondering if you need professional help.

The greatest gluttons for punishment are those of you who use retractable leashes for multiple dogs. You juggle the bulky handles as your dogs cross each other and get all tangled up. You stop repeatedly to lift paws and correct the leash that has found its way under your dogs belly, only to realize your other dog has managed to do the same thing. And you struggle to balance yourself when picking up after one dog while the other pulls you in the opposite direction.

Listen stubborn humans: The dog walk is your chance to establish yourself as your dogs leader. Seize the opportunity by using a standard 6-foot leash and giving your dogs approximately 3 to 4 feet of slack. Using a standard leash instead of a retractable leash will allow you to teach your dog to heel, keep your pet out of harms way and maintain your sanity.

Life is tough enough as it is, people. Stop torturing yourselves with a tool that is inconvenient, uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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