Alright, where do I even start… haha I could say there are situations in which retractable leads work but, if I’m completely honest, I don’t see any in which you couldn’t find better alternatives. I went from admiration and love for them to absolute beef, and now, unless you tell me you like to have it in case someone attacks you on your dog walk (even then… brick would be a better choice by far), I’ll genuinely advise you to get rid of them.
I remember absolutely adoring retractable leads and spending enormous money on newer, cooler, and bigger ones, I was obsessed! In my head, I was one of the “cool kids” because everyone was walking their dogs on these leads. It also seemed like it was giving my dog freedom to roam about and a piece of mind for me as I didn’t trust her recall that much. It, honestly, was revolutionary to me and I couldn’t understand why people would use “normal” boring leads. It was fun until it wasn’t. I stopped using them even before becoming a dog trainer and here are my reasons why.
RISK OF INJURIES ON RISK OF INJURIES
Leaving the training part for later, the risk of injuries is wild. If you haven’t burned your hands or dropped that brick in your hand yet, you’re lucky but it’s also just a matter of time. If your or another dog saying hi to yours hasn’t been all dangerously wrapped in a rope that can quite literally cut through things with enough pressure or it hasn’t snapped causing injuries to both parts of the lead yet, I’ll repeat – you are lucky. Yes, incidents can happen with any lead and to anyone but it’s like saying you’re going to cross the busy road with your eyes shut because, at the end of the day, you can die from food poisoning. Yes, you can, but also, please, don’t increase those chances by sleepwalking into the road.
"I USE IT BECAUSE MY DOG CAN'T WALK NICELY ON THE LEAD"
Now, onto my favourite part – the training aspect. I understand that most of us get retractable leads out of pure love for our pooches. We want to give them more freedom, yet be still able to control them and prevent dangerous situations. The problem is, you don’t have as much control as you’d hope. So many times I’ve seen people doing what I call “pup fishing” movement with one hand trying to contract the lead and get their dog closer because they’re about to run onto the road, jump on a person or approach another dog. You know what I’m talking about, the wee air circles you do. How much control is in that?
Secondly, it is, nicely put, a little bit unfair for us to expect our dog to know what smiling lead (a.k.a. loose lead) looks like if the lead literally never smiles. If there’s always tension on their neck (collar) or core (harness), even when you lock the lead and expect it to be loose, your dog might start looking for the same tension that they constantly feel during the walk and pull again. Changing the lead won’t solve the lack of engagement and training but it can massively help, and I wouldn’t be saying that if my clients or personal experience never confirmed it.
There might be a place and time for flexi’s but I just prefer a long line (5-10m flat lead) for those situations when you’re still working on recall but want to give your dog more space. Let’s not start with “I don’t like them because I get tangled up”, text me, I’ll teach you.
I know I might’ve sounded very strict there but, the truth is, I am! I discovered the peace with regular flat leads on my dog walks years ago and heard no argument convincing enough to go back to retractable ones, I’m sorry.