How can it be good?
How can it not be bad?
There is, of course, no easy answer to that question. It depends upon the type of dog, the type of leash, the type of owners, the type of leash used, and, perhaps more importantly than that, the level of obedience required.
But there are some things, though, that are known to be safe. All the good stuff.
Why are retractable leashes “bad”?
As a general rule, the short answer is that they are unsafe and are not good. And the long answer is this:
The short answer does not need to be “safe.” All dogs need to be “good”—even if they cannot use their “good” abilities to their advantage. There are a number of things that dogs can do (and the “bad” dogs need to learn!) that are actually quite useful: barking, sniffing, pointing, etc. But if the dog is doing it because the owner doesn’t like the noise, or it is an unpleasant experience for the owner, it’s not a good idea.
The long answer is more complicated, of course. Dogs have specific capabilities that are “good” and which cannot be used by a misbehaving dog—but can be used by a misbehaving dog. These capabilities are called behavioral attributes and can be taught easily and safely by any dog owner. For example, if a dog has a good sense of smell and knows what your cat is doing, he can find her by looking. Likewise, your dog can look for you or, if he is properly trained, follow you around—even if he has to bite in order to do so; the fact that he is following you probably has no effect on whether you are in trouble.
Most people who have had the misfortune to encounter a dog behaving badly will know what I mean, even if you don’t. Dogs are not always the smartest, most sensitive or most social animal imaginable. As a result, some of them will behave inappropriately. Others will act erratically. And some of them will do nothing at all—especially by accident. It is this unfortunate “black box” of behavior that is called a retractable leash, which essentially prevents the behavior from occurring on purpose.
It’s an “open ended” system of dog behavior and it is not perfect. Dogs have certain predispositions that make them more inclined than others to engage in behaviors that
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