Why I'm not a Fan of Retractable Leashes

Do you use a fixed-length leash or a retractable leash? There is a reason Bullett is currently attached to the fixed-length here (also our neighborhood is not aesthetically pleasing right now)

Do you use a fixed-length leash or a retractable leash? There is a reason Bullett is currently attached to the fixed-length here (also our neighborhood is not aesthetically pleasing right now)

If you’re a dog owner on the internet that spends any time in dog or pet-related groups on sites like Facebook or Reddit, then you know that retractable leashes--also known as flexi leads--are a hot topic.

I’ll get right to it and mention that my opinions about this are not in favor of retractable leashes. I’m not a pet professional, veterinarian, or dog trainer, but I can offer my perspective and opinion as an average pet owner. Here are a few reasons why I personally do not think retractable leashes are a good idea:

  1. No leash awareness: Because of the adjustable length of these leashes, the dog may feel as though it is connected to nothing and has no awareness that he is on a lead. Sure, you can lock them and have a fixed length, but I’m guessing the appeal to these leashes is that the length can vary as the dog walks. It’s smart to train your dog to be off leash in places like the dog park where they can have more freedom, but the point of a leash is to control your dog and keep them close. If your dog feels like they have freedom everytime they are outside, they are more likely to not listen to your commands because they associate being off leash with fewer commands from you. If your dog knows the difference between being on and off leash, you will see better behavioral results overall, especially when on a lead. If your dog is a puller, this leash will do nothing but encourage that behavior because they have no idea that they’re attached to that annoying plastic box you’re holding in your hand.

  2. You’ll have less control over your dog, because the leash can vary in length and you’re holding this clunky, plastic box. Let’s say your dog sees another dog and gets way too excited, and you need to get control of him. To do this with a retractable leash you need to cut the slack, lock it, and get a strong grip on the lead. With a regular leash, you already have a fixed length and your hand is already in contact with it. If getting control over your dog requires quick reaction time, then it seems likely that you can maintain control quicker with a regular leash. In addition, retractable leashes can get really long. If your dog is way far ahead and more or less out-of-sight and out-of-mind, you cannot control him from a distance like that. Especially if they cross paths with another dog or person before you’re able to pull him from that situation. Some of these leashes are as long as 20 feet...why would you ever want your dog further away than 20 feet while walking? A 20 foot lead is only good when your dog is tied out in a yard without a fence (and of course, you are supervising them).

  3. They can be dangerous: Here’s a scenario I hope none of you ever deal with. Let’s say you take your dog for a walk as you do, and he sees a rabbit that runs into the street. What do you think most dogs would do? Of course, they would run towards the rabbit and into the street...and they could cross paths with a car that could kill them. If your dog is on a retractable leash with no slack, this can happen quicker than you can recover your dog from the situation. No one wants to lose their dog that way. If your dog is in that situation and your leash is a regular leash with a fixed length, you already have control of your dog and can quickly pull them towards you without fidgeting with the other functions on a flexi lead. Not to mention, that these leashes are known for breaking. If your dog lunges with all his strength at things, the leash will experience regular wear and tear and can snap and break from the box. See how that might be problematic and potentially dangerous? Your fancy retractable leash isn’t worth your dog getting into bad situations where you lose control.

If you have a dog that is high-strung, prey-driven, and/or reactive towards other dogs, your dog should especially not be on this leash. Really though, no dog’s training will be so amazing that their good behavior warrants using a retractable leash. Dogs are animals and you never know what may provoke or spook them. Keep other dogs, humans, animals, your dog, and yourself safe and under control.

Check out this video where a retractable leash goes wrong. The dog is okay, but it could have not been okay:

I use a handmade cotton rope leash with Bullett. They’re strong, washable, and don’t cause rope burn as the material you’re gripping is very soft. You can find many leashes like this in Etsy shops such as RugersRopes. Not to mention, the hand-dyed ombre is beautiful. Bullett is definitely a strong dog that has a tendency to pull, and I know that I have a good hold of him when using our leash. There isn’t a day where he doesn’t get excited and doesn’t try running towards another dog or rabbit. When we go hiking, we clip this to his harness in case he would slip on a steep hillside because we know we have a secure hold on him and are able to pull him to safety.

Bullett on a walk with our cotton rope lead. He doesn't like being still for pictures :-p

Bullett on a walk with our cotton rope lead. He doesn't like being still for pictures :-p

I’m not trying to cause arguments and be on Team Regular Leash vs Team Flexi Leash...why risk putting your dog or others in an unsafe situation because of how cool and convenient your leash is?


~The Girl in the Unicorn Pajamas

PS: If I can’t convince you, perhaps Drew Lynch and Stella can: