It’s true. I use a flexi lead a lot. I actually love my flexi lead. And I’m going to explain why.
Flexi leads, also known as retractable leads, are long lines where the lead extends out of a plastic handle as the dog walks away from you, and retracts as the dog comes closer again. They all come with a button that stops the lead from extending or retracting and a button to lock the stop down. The standard length is 5 metres but you can get 3m, 8m and 10m versions.
There are many many many people who don’t like flexi leads, to the point that there have been cries for the leads to be banned. Countless people have written blog posts and articles about the dangers of flexi leads, urging people not to use them.
The thing is I don’t dispute the claims. Flexi leads can cause injuries if they get wrapped around people or dogs. The brakes can fail on them. They can injure the dog if the dog runs to the end and is suddenly jerked to a stop. Dogs can wander into a road in front of a car if allowed to be so far away from an owner on a lead. They do teach a dog to pull.
But, with proper use, all of these things can be prevented and a flexi lead can be very very useful. Let me address some of the issues and then explain why I use them so much.
“Flexi leads are dangerous”
If you look through a lot of my photographs of walking with Guinness and Ash you’ll see Guinness on a flexi lead. I’ve had the same flexi lead for 6 years and I would only ever use one with a thick, wide lead. Although they can still be dangerous if wrapped around someone or something, they’re less dangerous than the thin, wire type ones that you see as the cause of some horrific injuries! Those are the ones that should be banned.
“Flexi leads teach your dog to pull”
They do, it’s true. The tension on a flexi lead is quite tough and requires the dog to put strain on the lead for it to extend. Therefore they shouldn’t be used for lead training. You should teach your dog to walk on a fixed lead and only once they have good walking manners should you begin to use a flexi lead. It’s important to alternative and ensure the dog keeps its lead manners. At the end of the day, the tension a dog feels from a flexi lead will be very different to a fixed lead, as the flexi lead will give with pressure unlike the fixed lead.
“You don’t have control over your dog”
This is debatable… and like everything, it all comes down to training. It’s vital that your dog has a recall, be it on a long line, off lead or on a flexi lead. If your dog is walking at the end of the flexi lead and an occasion occurs where you need your dog to be close to you then you should be able to recall them back. Teach your dog a “steady” command when they are getting close to the end of their flexi lead so that they don’t jerk to the end.
You should never let your dog approach another dog at the end of a flexi lead. If the dogs start trying to play, have a fight, or even just do naturally circling behaviour, they can quickly get tangled together and you won’t have control over your dog. Either don’t allow your dog to say hello, or lock then on a short lead and only let them greet for a few seconds nose to nose then separate.
So why do I love flexi leads?!
They are ideal for so many locations, such as areas that require dogs to be on lead by law, places that have drops or edges such as mountains and cliffs, and walking through farmers fields where you should remain on a path and may encounter livestock round the corner.
Guinness is brilliant on a flexi lead. He doesn’t charge around but instead trots ahead at a comfortable speed and has freedom to sniff around and explore. He knows when he is reaching the end of the lead and slows down. He recalls back to my side when asked. He can take the walk at his pace while staying on a lead and under control.
A retractable lead is much more practical than a long line as I don’t have to gather it up or have loads of lead trailing on the floor, and fingers crossed I’ve never had a problem with the brake failing.
Like all equipment, it’s how you use it. So don’t ban flexi leads, they do have a really good use… they just need to be used properly.