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Let's Talk About The Internet's Most Hated Leash: The Flexi

Updated: May 17



Today, we're talking about… Retractables! 😱 *insert screams of shock and horror*.


For a long time, I was pretty openly anti-flexi. Like many anti-flexi people, I’d had some pretty negative experiences with dogs on these types of leashes in the past. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I felt myself tensing up whenever I came upon an owner with a flexi on our morning walks.


However, over time my views on retractables have changed quite a bit. This is largely due to some amazing trainers and responsible owners who’ve been opening up the conversation on safe flexi use (@paws.andreflect being one of the most prominent that stands out my mind, as they’re always advocating #ResponsibleRetractables!). Once my dogs were at a good place (training-wise), I even bit the bullet and purchased my tape flexis for last year's camping trip. Many of you almost fell out of your chairs when I shared about this, and I completely understand why; The stigma with these leashes is ever present online. It’s honestly one of the reasons why my initial carousel post sat in my drafts for as long as it had.


My scenario is an example of how opinions can change with time, new knowledge, and exposure to viewpoints that you maybe haven’t considered before. At the end of the day, flexis aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Instead of virtually burning them at the stake, I think it’s important that we open up the conversation on proper use and responsible handling. So, let's talk about it!

Wait A Minute... Reel it In!

Retractable leashes are one of those things that people love to hate. After all, many owners have had a bad experience with a dog on a flexi that's left them feeling frustrated (myself included). But, we must remember that this frustration is partially because retractable leashes are made with convenience (not training) in mind.


Sometimes, Opposites Re-Tract

The real problem with retractable leashes isn't necessarily with the flexi itself, but with owners not understanding when to use them and how to use them properly. Like most things, this leash choice isn't inherently "bad", but we're left with a bad taste in our mouths due to frequent exposure to misuse and questionable designs (i.e rope flexis vs. tape flexis).


The real truth lies not in the leash, but in the handling.


The Difference Between...

Flexi

  • Self- Manages Slack

  • Often made with rope or fabric tape

  • Less grip (easier to drop/pull out of our hands)


Long Lead

  • Tension and slack are managed by Hand

  • Often made with sturdier materials (i.e. biothane)

  • Easier to hold on to (classic loop handles)

So... Why Is One Seen as "So Much" Worse?

Flexi "TERRIBLE"

  • More readily available

  • Often bought for owner convenience

  • Untrained dogs + flexis = recipe for disaster


Long Lead "ACCEPTED"

  • Less popular in urban areas.

  • Usually bought/utilized with training in mind

  • People are less likely to have a bad encounter due to less visibility


When Shouldn’t You Use Flexis?

  • If your dog is still working on loose-leash walking,  ditch the flexi. Build up your dog's leash skills first.

  • A flexi is not ideal in most city settings, as it's dangerous to let your dog wander off more than 4-6ft. Opt for a standard leash instead and keep your dog safe (and your community members happy).

  • On a play date with other dogs? Skip the retractable leashes. These can become easily tangled and tight around appendages.


So We Should All Go & Buy Flexis Now?!

No. Flexis can be great when used responsibly, but they're definitely not designed for every dog.


Flexis are popular because they're designed to give "control and freedom", but we must remember that there's always a trade-off with a tool like this. At the end of the day, Flexis don't provide the same level of safety and control as a regular flat leash.


As a result, Flexis can cause more problems than they can solve in certain scenarios. Defaulting to retractable leash walks (without training) can cause chaos when your dog isn't ready for the freedom provided.


Which Leash, When?

Regular leash (4-6ft Flat Lead): Great for training, walking a dog who still needs guidance & control, walking in busy areas, or in areas that both canine and handler are unfamiliar with. The perfect "every day" leash for trained & untrained dogs alike.


Long lead: Great option that gives dogs a semblance of "freedom" in situations where they cannot be let off-lead. Great for practicing recall in appropriate areas, and for decompression walks in rural settings. Generally impractical for city settings.


Flexi/retractable leashes: Can be used responsibly with trained dogs that can handle a little freedom within leash-required areas. Ideal for empty beaches, camping, and trail walking with dogs able to walk nicely and listen to verbal cues.


To Summarize...

Flexis are so readily available that we're not going to see them disappear anytime soon. As a result, talking about proper use and respectful handling is more valuable than virtually burning them at the stake.


TLDR: Flexis can have their time and place, despite being canceled by the internet. The key is proper handling and responsible use.


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4 Comments


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3 days ago

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I have no issues with flexi.

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