The injuries aren't always to the human. Dog owners have also reported severe lacerations and burns on their dogs' legs and bodies, some requiring veterinary attention. Others have reported accidentally dropping the lead and their dogs taking off at a dead run, trying to break free from heavy retractable leash handle they are dragging behind them.
Jamie Damato, a certified dog trainer and behavioral consultant from Chicago, said she banned all forms of retractable leashes from her classes when she opened her dog training business, Animal Sense, in 2000. In the beginning, she kept photos of injuries on hand to show owners who were insistent on using them.
"As I learned more about training and behavior … it became clear to me that they are not as magical as they claim to be," she said.
She also carries a personal reminder in the form of a scar on her leg where she got burned by a leash cord more than 10 years ago.
One of the few benefits of the leashes, Damato said, is that they allow owners to work on their dogs' recall skills in large open areas without leaving the dogs untethered altogether.
Damato said it's not just the injury factor that drove her away from retractable leashes. Letting a dog roam too far, especially when training, allows the dog to find all sorts of trouble. Some owners, she said, have watched in horror as their dogs darted into traffic while on a retractable leash while they fumbled with the lock.
"If your dog is 16 to 18 feet in front of you … it's almost impossible to have the response you want," she said.