Hate is a strong word, but in this case, I really think I do hate them, both me using them and when other people use them. I will openly admit I am a touch jealous when other people use them. In my mind I think, wow, you trust your dog enough to be able to essentially go where they want when they want as if they're off leash with little to know ability to prevent potential dangerous situations, man, you're dog must be awesome! If I liked retractable leashes Scout would be a good candidate for one because absolutely nothing fazes him. But I then realize, you're dog probably isn't that well behaved and perhaps you just never made the effort to train them to walk politely on leash and your fed up with their constant pulling so this makes you both happy, or rather happier. Whenever I see dogs on retractable leashes they are usually a good 5 or so feet in front of the walker, suggesting to me they don't actually respect their walker enough to walk beside or behind them, or have no value for being in that position.
I personally hate them because of their lack of control. I may be out of practice with them but I hate the little slide button thing and that that is the only thing preventing your dog from taking off. They just seem so flimsy to me. I always get my timing wrong when locking and unlocking them meaning I either have too short a leash or let way too much out and have no real way of reeling back in because there is no "rewind" option.
I've used one on Kobi a couple of times when walking in On Leash parks but when I wanted him to have more range than 6ft. This usually ended up being harder and more of a pain. Kobi would full out run then get snapped back when the leash ran out, he would get tangled around trees and when people walked by trying to shorten the leash was a nightmare. So for me, unless your dog already walks politely in almost all situations and never jumps on people or reacts to dogs, then I wouldn't use one. As I said before, Scout would be great with one. Scout isn't the greatest off leash anymore because his sight and hearing are going and he gets lost easily, so the retractable leash might be a great way of keep him from wandering and getting lost but still allow more range of motion.
What spurred this desire to explain my hate of retractable leashes was an incident that took place last night when I had Kobi out on his walk. This is the second time it has happened and it happened in the exact same way. Kobi and I were walking along well when a lab and man walked down the street. Kobi has been doing excellent lately and wasn't barking or pulling harshly towards them, so I decided it was okay for them to meet. I walked Kobi up with a hand full of treats to reward him for not pulling, explained that Kobi was a puppy and learning to meet people properly. The man was holing his dog back who was lunging and jumping to say hi. Finally they did say hi and we chatted for a few seconds, then dogs do what they do! They did that little spin to smell each others butts. As soon as that happened the thin line of his retractable leash wrapped around Kobi back end which freaked him out, Kobi spun quickly in a circle wrapping himself up even more. Kobi then felt trapped and had this dog in his face so he became aggressive, barking and snarling. I explained to the man he's afraid because he's tangled in the dogs leash. I'm pulling Kobi up and away from this dog by his harness because the man wouldn't grab his dog and the dog kept lunging at Kobi. When the man finally dropped the end of his leash it landed right on Kobi's head, freaking him out more, I tried to untangle it but the big handle made that a pain. All the while the man stood there laughing himself to tears holding his dog by the collar, not making any effort to help and not trying to pull his dog away or unclipping the lead so I could get it untangled. Once I did get Kobi free I immediately pulled him into the road and away from them to move around them, I apologized even though neither of us did anything us. The man continued to laugh and just stood there instead of moving his dog along. It always amazes me when people see Kobi freaking out and I have explained why he is, and they just keep standing there. Please, just move along!
This is the second time Kobi got caught in a retractable leash but at least the time before the man walking that dog realized what happened and didn't act like it was the most hilarious thing he has ever seen.
I'm always reluctant to drop Kobi's leash when it gets tangled, but especially now with the Freedom Harness leash, if I were to drop it Kobi could potentially take off.
Thankfully Kobi was a champ and settle right back down as soon as we kept walking. Our walk wasn't destroyed, he still remained calm and focused on his walk and we even did some training on "whiplash turns". This shows me how much progress we're making because about a month ago an incident like this would have destroyed him for the rest of the walk.