Much ado about retractables

Controversial POV: I’m a HUGE fan of flexis – so much so that I wish there was a 10 metre one in small, but unfortunately 8m is the longest that they make. I even walk my dog with a flexi AND a collar. In short, I’m one of those people who the Dog Internet loves to hate.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t agree that they are categorically dangerous – if someone is a crap dog owner with a flexi, there’s a good chance they are lacking in many areas of competent dog guardianship.

The reason I say that is I only use them in situations where I would either trust my dogs to be offleash anyway (but legally can’t, like a nature reserve) or my confidence level in their recall is 90% but the 10% is a significant risk (e.g. a road nearby) so it’s the last line of security.

I prefer them to a long leash because I want to give my dogs the experience of maximum freedom within safe limits – a long leash is much heavier (for my dogs, it’s relative) while flexi does not drag or weigh on them. This issue became really evident when Nell got older and wasn’t well – it was obvious the leash really bothered her when her patience was low anyway with chemo etc. I realised it probably always bothered her, but when she was well she tolerated it.

A long line is also constantly tangling in my dogs legs – it’s around a neck or a back leg in *seconds* and the dog is tripping over it. With 2 dogs it was absolutely impossible with one stopping to sniff 5 metres behind me and one 5 metres ahead or zigzagging so that one dog strangled the other once every 2 minutes…

The only things I have had entanglement, near strangulation and almost-tripping issues is long leads. No matter how much you reel them back and forth, it’s not enough with 2 dogs and only 2 hands – unless you have dogs whose preference is to walk straight, in which case… congratulations. Whiplash? Yep, with 2-3 metre leads because it’s too short for exploring.

Unless you have a really small, light dog, walking in a flexi requires some practice just like any other leash.

If you need to grip the handle or you know your dog has a tendency to lunge… don’t use a flexi. A rule of thumb could be that when your dog is well-trained in following voice cues and pays attention to you outdoors even without a leash you’ll probably find flexis a great way to offer your dog choice and maximum freedom within safe limits.

Cord too thin for your comfort? No problem, flexi also also do flat ones – I’d buy a neon yellow one next time if they had an 8 metre one. They also do the Giant line which is for heavier dogs – again, if your dog lunges and you need to constantly grip the lead, probably not right for you, but if you’re worried about snapping buy one weight size up! Flexi even now do an “xtreme” line with a bungee bit at the end which seems cool.

Handle falling on the ground? Sure, it’s happened sometimes – again, if your dog isn’t comfortably under voice control to call them to stop… flexi probably isn’t for you, but it doesn’t make *flexi* dangerous as such. Dogs are easily able to run into a road with a long lead – if you can’t reel a flexi in, you’re definitely way too slow to handle a long leash. It’s only as long as you let it be – it can also be just 3m, which is the same as a regular leash – it is, after all retract-able.

People also like to exaggerate the risk of the leash snapping or button locking. Tip: you can largely avoid that by buying the Real Thing, aka the flexi brand and anything else from The Internet is probably poor quality. I once bought this dual retractable lead and instantly realised the difference: the reel is stiff, the cord is poor quality and the buttons are not as good (it’s in the picture for illustration, not recommendation – it still hangs in our cupboard for some reason ).

The flexi brand ones, on the other hand, last 1-2 years* with daily use with no glitches or wear I’ve retired two leads in 4 years, as soon as I could feel the reel didn’t function as smoothly anymore (I also got evil eye from Lady Nell for the inconvenience this caused). I use them daily, so it’s safe to say that in around 300-500 uses the button hasn’t malfunctioned even once even though we really don’t look after our dog gear very well. If yours has, time to spend more money and buy a better quality one!

I honestly don’t care what people use – I’ve never heard negative comments when I’ve used them nor do many people ever see me use them because of where we walk. Use whatever suits your dog! And to be honest: outside of Dog Internet, I’ve never seen much of an issue with other people using retractables – no more than any other kind of leash. I’m sure they exist, but not convinced it’s the kind of major issue that we’d expect based on deliberately provocative, clickbaity social media content that makes black and white claims that are very loosely, if at all, based on facts and presents no nuance whatsoever – of course, that’s what the algorithm likes.

I bring this up because l’ve seen several accounts cautiously talk about flexis in the past year (clearly prepared to be viciously attacked for being such reckless dog owners) about how they tested flexis in certain contexts like hiking, we’re positively surprised and felt like they would have benefitted from trying them sooner if it hadn’t been for all the stigma. I’m not really any kind of influencer so this is just me largely talking to myself, but… hey, what’s one more anecdotal opinion on the internet 😄

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