Despite seeming more like a modern-day invention, the dog leash has been around for centuries, the first rudimentary examples dating as far back as the ancient Roman empire. Even then, owners needed a device to keep their pets in control while still keeping them at a distance, and that’s how the leash was invented.
Later on in recorded history, it seems that the leashes that pets used to wear would reflect the social status of the owner, from dainty glittering chains in the case of the bourgeoisie and less obvious plain leather straps for middle-class pet owners.
The first recorded information on dog leashes, however, appears in 1908 in the United States. It offers detailed information on a patent for a leading device that featured many improvements in comparison with the improvised models that have been used before, such as a drum and spring to allow the owner to pay out the chain in stages.
Apparently, this patent appeared at the most favorable time, given the fact that the recent and unexpected industrialization of American towns had led to poor living conditions. Neighbourhoods became dirty and brutal, and the need for security and a more organized environment was reflected in the way people dealt with regulations on pets.
It was a time when society was wondering whether or not owning pets would be a good idea when living in the city and having a way to control and educate them made many individuals feel safer walking the streets of the big towns. In present times, it has become almost impossible to imagine walking through the streets of major cities without encountering countless pedestrians that are out walking their pets.
This way, it can be considered that the emergence of the leash as a modern patent was a milestone in terms of attitudes towards dogs as pets since dogs had been seen as more of a necessity to a countryside home than an apartment pet.
The Victorian period brings along much-needed refinement and fuelled the idea of the pampered pet. Dogs became a symbol of domestic family life and were starting to be counted as part of the family. This is around the time that the first pet stores appeared, meaning countless accessories and leash models flooded the markets.
However, somewhere in between, the emergence of the retractable dog leash marked a moment in pet history. First of all, it offered increased control over the pet’s movements while still allowing its own freedom and personal space, which was unprecedented. It’s a device specifically adapted to city life since, in the countryside, you couldn’t find any use for it.
The idea of the retractable leash only managed to become popular around the 1970s, and by that time dogs weren’t seen as a menace or a social concern of any kind but were accepted and considered part of the family. Apart from changing the way we control our pets, it managed to introduce a new kind of thinking, and a new way to look at pet ownership.