Confessions from a Dog Trainer – Flexi Leads


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This blog series is going to touch on some “hot topics” in the dog world. My goal is to express my opinions on each topic and my thought process behind how I developed my opinion.

Today we’re going to focus on Flexi Leads (also known as Retractable Leashes). Has there ever been a more polarizing leash? Probably not. Some people LOVE them, other people despise them! I sit right in the middle. I don’t LOVE them, but I also despise them most of the time. Here’s the confession part…I use Flexi Leads! There I said it! I am a user of the Devil’s Leash!!!

Pros for Using a Flexi Lead

I can’t think of to many pros to using a Flexi Lead. Most people love these leashes because it allows their dogs more range while on a walk to explore more. Therefore, they believe their dog gets more exercise. I can get behind that, to an extent, only but in certain circumstances. My mother uses a Flexi to take her dog to her front yard to relieve himself, since it is easier than going downstairs to let him out in the fenced in backyard. I think this is a perfectly acceptable use of a Flexi, especially if there is inclement weather. Some people use these leashes in Scent Work or for training some competition obedience exercises.

Cons for Using a Flexi Lead

This requires a bullet point list:

  • Teaches your dog to pull on a leash. A dog must push through the minor resistance to make the leash extend.
  • The lock/break mechanism can break. Because this mechanism is within the casing of the leash, it is impossible to know if it is in working order or broken prior to using it.
    • It is VERY dangerous to grab the cord/ribbon to stop the leash in the event the locking mechanism breaks. There are reports of traumatic finger amputations and excruciating burns caused by these leashes. I have been the victim of these rope burns multiple times throughout my life.
    • Since everything is contained in the casing, it is also difficult to inspect the rope/ribbon. Bio-growth and dry rotting can cause the rope/ribbon to suddenly snap. This can be a huge safety issue, especially if the dog is chasing something.
  • The handle can be awkward and difficult to keep a grip, especially if your dog is trying to chase after something.
    • If your dog decides to chase after something the sudden “stop” by getting to the end of the line or locking the leash can cause neck injuries to the dog.
    • If your dog decides to chase after something the leash can easily be pulled out of your hand.
      • I have seen dogs panic and RUN away from a Flexi Lead casing that was “chasing” him/her.
  • Dogs can get tangled in objects if the owner is not paying attention.
    • If a dog gets tangled it is possible for the dog to slip his/her collar to get “untangled.”
    • Its easy for dogs to get tangled into other dogs’ leashes. This can result in a dog fight.
  • Owners have little, to no, control over their dogs.

I’m sure there are many other cons of using a Flexi Lead, but these are all of the ones I have personally experienced. Because of these experiences, one might think “Why would you use this type of leash?”

Why Do I use a Flexi Lead?

With all of these cons and very few pros, I agree, it sounds crazy I would use “The Devil’s Leash”! Here’s the biggest reason I use one, Armada doesn’t like to poo near me when on leash. When we’re away at a dog show, I need him to potty in a timely manner, so this is our compromise. He promises to go potty, as long as I’m 15’+ away. My dogs are also used to having acres of land to run on every single day. They generally get to run as fast as they can, for as long as they want, multiple times a day. When we travel they do not have that opportunity. As you can imagine we end up with dogs with some pent up energy. They’re also used to off-leash hiking multiple times a week. Are you noticing a theme here? My dogs are very reliable off leash, but I’m not willing to allow them to run off-leash when we’re 6-8 hours away from home in “strange land.” Essentially, I only use Flexi leads for the two “pros” listed above, but only when we travel.

Appropriate Times to use a Flexi Lead

With most tools there is a time and place for its use. I feel the same way about Flexi leads. I feel strongly about only using Flexi Leads with dogs who meet the following criteria:

  • Have a reliable recall.
    • If the leash were to break or get pulled out of your hand, it is important for your dog to not end up in traffic, running up to another dog, or finding him/her self in some other type of danger.
  • Has been taught to Loose Leash Walking (LLW) on a regular leash.
    • A dog that can walk properly on leash is less likely to take off chasing something.
    • The little strain placed on the Flexi lead the longer it will last and it is less likely to have a catastrophic failure.
  • Is not dog/cat/animal reactive.
    • Dogs that are reactive can find themselves in a pickle if the leash malfunctions.
  • Does not have a neck or spinal injury.
    • These leashes can generate a lot of power, even when paired with a harness the sudden stopping can cause injury to your dog.

If your dog has a reliable recall, been taught LLW, isn’t reactive, and doesn’t have any neck/spinal injuries, when would be an appropriate time to use a Flexi? In my opinion, the only acceptable times to use these leashes are: FAR away from other people and domestic animals or in your yard or large grassy area where there is unlikely to be other people or animals. When hiking, keep an eye out for other people or dogs, reel your dog in and lock the leash close, so you don’t risk your dog getting tangled up with another dog, or accidentally injure another person. I highly recommend not allowing your dog to greet other dogs when using a Flexi leash. Leash greetings are generally frowned upon anyway, but it can be even more dangerous when a Flexi is involved.

Inappropriate Times to use a Flexi Lead

A Flexi should not be your “go to” leash. Your “go to” leash should be a 4-6′ leather or fabric leash. A 6′ fabric or leather leash allows your dog some range, but it is also easy to control your dog without much excess leash. Any place with gatherings of people and/or other domestic animals is not a great place to use a Flexi, even if you keep it “locked” at a short length.

Here is a quick list of places NOT to use a Flexi:

  • Veterinarian Office
  • Dog Training Classes (unless given permission by your trainer)
  • Groomer
  • Boarding Facility
  • Doggie Daycare
  • Walking in a Subdivision
  • Races (5k, 10k, Marathons, Mud Runs, etc. even as a spectator)
  • Pet Store (or other pet friendly stores or restaurants)
  • Heavily Used Trails

Basically, if there are people or domestic animals that COULD get wrapped up in a Flexi lead, don’t use it! When you are using a Flexi lead be extra cautious about the people, animals, and things around you!

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