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How a Retractable Dog Lead Works? Extending Freedom

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Author: Jacob Kay

Have you ever experienced a dilemma wherein you want your dog to enjoy the playful walks or sunny beach times but also need to have them in control? Well then, a retractable lead is all that you need. As a paw parent, you must have heard of retractable lead but what might have confused you would be its functionality.

how a retractable lead lead works?

A retractable lead is one that you can extend to allow your dog some freedom to explore. But, have you ever wondered how a retractable lead works? What is the mechanism behind it? Let us explore it in detail and uncover some of its advantages as well as disadvantages.

What Is a Retractable Leash?

A retractable lead consists of a handle with a cord or tape that can extend and retract. The front clip is attached to the collar of the dog. The cord is generally made of nylon with a plastic handle. Retractable leads allow you to adjust the lead at your convenience.

A retractable lead can be a great tool for giving your dog the perfect amount of freedom on walks. However, it is important to understand how a retractable lead works since its misuse can harm your dog. Thus, you should have knowledge about its working mechanism before using it on the dog.

How a Retractable Dog Lead Works?

The extension and retraction in the lead are performed by a brake and a spring. The brake mechanism is located inside the handle of the lead. It comprises two metal plates that grip the cord and create friction. This friction prevents the cord from extending too far.

how does a retractable dog lead work?

The spring is located on the handle of the leash. When you pull on something, there is a force that acts to resist your pull. This force is called tension. Holding the handle and releasing the cord, the spring uncoils and creates tension. This tension is transferred to the cord, which extends outwards.

The tension in the cord of a retractable leash is created by two different mechanisms – a spring and a brake. The spring is what allows the cord to extend, while the brake is what prevents it from extending too far.

How to Use a Retractable Dog Lead Safely?

To use a retractable leash safely, your dog should be leash-trained. He must learn to avoid the pull behaviour.[1] Along with this, the dog should undergo the training of basic commands such as ‘stop‘, ‘no‘, ‘leave it‘ and ‘come back‘. This will ensure safety while your dog enjoys a little freedom.

According to the American Kennel Club, “If your dog starts pulling in the other direction, turn yourself into “a tree.” Stand very still and refuse to move until your dog comes back to you. Do not yank or jerk the leash, and do not drag your dog along with you.

When on a retractable leash, your dog might wander around in the park for exploration. However, he might also explore other animals or people in his way. For the safety of your pet as well as others, the dog should be comfortable, socialized and trained not to bark at others.

how to use a retractable dog lead?

One important thing is to extend the cord up to a certain required length. This is because a retractable lead is designed to offer a little freedom to your dog with all the control in your hand. Thus, too long lead means too much slack and eventually a lot of lead out of control.

Finally, you should know how to use a retractable lead as its usage is safe only if used efficiently. Thus, it is important to properly examine its functionality before trying it on your dog. Whenever your dog pulls the lead, the cord will extend up to its maximum length or until you apply the brakes. Therefore, you should first train your dog to walk on a loose leash.

However, the lead won’t run back into the handle unless there is slack. This is an important safety feature that stops owners from reeling back their dogs. Thus, when the dog is on lead, the only way to shorten the cord is to call them back.

Drawbacks of Using a Retractable Leash

With the advantages of using a retractable leash, there come some drawbacks too. One of the most obvious ones is that the leash becomes uncontrollable with large dogs. When large dogs get excited, it becomes difficult to handle them. They may also pull the leash out of your hand.

The cord extends up to 5 to 10 m in length. It gives freedom to your dog while being in your control. However, the long extended cord can wrap around the neck of children or other animals coming in its way. This could be dangerous and life-threatening.[2]

A retractable leash can also cause burns if the cord wraps around your skin. Thus, complete safety should be ensured while using a retractable leash for you, your dog as well as people around you.

The best retractable dog lead have safety features to prevent burns if the cord wraps around skin. However, they still require careful handling, especially with large, excited dogs

When Not to Use a Retractable Lead

There are a few cases where using a normal fixed-length lead is advisable rather than using a retractable lead. One of them is confined public places. In some places with a lot of public traffic, your dog must remain safe with you. A retractable dog leash should not be used when visiting a pet-friendly store, cafe, or restaurant.

Moreover, if you take your dog to the market, the city centre or places like crowded parks and beaches, then you should avoid using retractable lead at such places as they are often crowded and the lead can tangle into someone’s leg, either tripping the person or pulling the dog.

In crowded areas, a fixed length or double ended dog lead is safer than a retractable lead


Is a retractable leash good for dogs?

A retractable leash can work well if your dog is leash-trained and walks calmly and obediently. In addition, your dog must come reliably to you when you call him. For those dogs, retractable leashes can be useful in areas where you want them to offer a little freedom.

When should I use a retractable leash?

If you have a well-trained dog, a retractable leash can be a useful tool to utilize. It is also great for walks and training in open, quiet areas where no one else can get tangled in the leash.

What are the benefits of a retractable leash?

By using a retractable leash, you can give your dog more room to explore. A little exploration in the park lets your dog sniff and play around. This can also be a great chance to practice some basic commands in your personal space when no one is around.

Wrapping Up

A retractable dog lead consists of a handle with a cord or tape that extends and retracts. It can be a useful tool for giving the dog the perfect amount of freedom on walks, but it also requires careful attention and responsibility from the owner.

A retractable dog lead should be used in a safe, controlled environment, with the right size leash for the dog, and with proper training and communication. It can be a great way to enhance the bond between the owner and the dog, as long as it is used correctly and safely.

In general, retractable leads can be excellent tools if they are handled correctly. Don’t forget to select the appropriate color based on your dog’s requirements. What Do Different Color Dog Leads Mean? is a good resource for more information.


  1. LEASH ETIQUETTE. (n.d.). Centre for Shelter Dogs at Tufts University.
  2. Trash or Treasure: Keeping your pets healthy – Oklahoma State University.
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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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