The Flexi Retractable Dog Leash: Dangerous or Convenient?

You may look at the retractable leash and think, wow what a great idea! My dog can roam around while we walk and I don’t have to worry about him pulling me or the leash getting tangled. I admit, I fell victim to this thought when we adopted our first dog many years ago.

But wow, was I wrong!!! The fact is, the retractable leash is dangerous. 

A retractable leash puts your DOG in control, NOT you. The purpose of a leash is to keep your dog under your control, not to give him free roaming rights while on your walk.

retractable leash danger
Who do you think is under control of this walk? The dog or human?

There is only one situation to use a flexi retractable leash, and that is when training a dog the recall. As long as it is used properly.

I realize there are plenty of people that use the retractable leash for daily walking. I personally know a few, and they love the freedom it gives their dog.

But your daily walk should be structured and not about your dog having the freedom to go and sniff every tree or dog that you walk by. Your walk should be about you and your dog building a relationship, a strong bond between pack leader and her dog. That bond is not created at the end of a 20-30 foot leash!

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Why are Flexi Retractable Leashes Dangerous?

  1. The thin cord of most retractable leashes can break, especially if you have a strong dog. Even if your dog is only 30 lbs. and he takes off at full speed, the cord can break. You now have a dog that is off leash and you’ve been injured with a cord that snapped back at you.
  2. It’s been reported that owners have gotten tangled up in the cord of a retractable leash as the dog walks around them, causing them to trip, get rope burn, or cuts on their hands or legs.
  3. You have no control over your dogs actions. Putting him and every person and dog around him in danger.

A friend of mine recently took her dog out for a walk, she stepped outside and the dog saw a squirrel. The dog took off running while pulling the owner down the stairs. The woman ended up with broken ribs!

My personal story is about my daughter and I walking our dogs, Ginger and Bear. It was during our nightly walk when we had a very scary situation that I will never forget. We had our dogs on a 6ft LED light up leash because it was dark, when we noticed a couple walking their two dogs coming from the opposite direction.

With two dogs and two people, I would usually cross to the other side of the street, but this was off a busier street and there was no place to cross safely. So when the other couple moved off the side to let us pass, I figured it was safe to continue on and walk by. Umm, NO! Because of the dark, I didn’t see that they had their dogs on retractable leashes.

One of their dogs lunged and started to bark at us. I think it startled the lady as much as it us, but because the dog was on a retractable leash, she couldn’t pull her dog back. We froze, not knowing what to do. We panicked, she panicked, her husband was yelling at her to pull her dog back. The dog broke the leash and was now loose. Oh my it was a scary situation. Somehow the husband was finally able to grab the dog and we were able to continue to walk by. Looking back, we should have continued walking by instead of freezing. But in the heat of the moment, we were scared and didn’t know what to do. 

Hopefully, this is enough to convince you not to buy that retractable leash! But let’s continue…

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Before Choosing the Retractable Leash…

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Could you control your dog if he decided to go visit another dog walking by?
  • What happens if that other dog is fear aggressive?
  • Or he decides to run up and say hi to a pedestrian that is not paying attention or does not like dogs or a little kid that is afraid of dogs?
  • What if he sees a squirrel across the street and darts out as a car or bicyclist is passing by?

Long story short, you have absolutely NO CONTROL over your dog with a retractable leash. Even with a heavy duty retractable dog leash, there is no way you can pull your dog away from a dangerous situation quickly enough. 

Best Leather leash for dogs

What is the Best Kind of Dog Leash?

I always recommend getting high quality 6-foot leather leash. You will hopefully have your dog for the next 10-15 years so your leash is an investment.

We bought two leather leashes over 20 years ago and they both are still in great condition. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the leather leash has out-lived several of our dogs.

Yes, you can buy a designer leash with bright colors and patterns. But honestly, those nylon leashes will not last more than a year or so.

The leather leash will give you a nice comfortable feel when you walk your dog. They are extremely durable and will last a lifetime. This one from Leatherberg, even comes with a 100% lifetime guarantee, you won’t find that with any retractable leash or nylon leash!

Take the Leash in Your Own Hands…

Leave a comment below to tell me if you love or hate the flexi retractable leash. I always reply to comments, so let’s start a conversation… it could help someone else with the same problem or question. Then hit the share button to let your friends know!

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About the Author

Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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  1. I’m so weary of hearing how dangerous these retracting leashes are…TRAIN YOUR DOG, and PAY ATTENTION when walking. Conventional leashes with a loop handle are the opposite of ergonomic, wait until you have arthritis! Using the loop style handle crushes the hand any time your poorly trained dog lunges. I have been using retractable leashes for over 30 years, and I used to walk other people’s dogs for money. The best part of retractable is the speed and ease of having a SHORT leash. Only buy those leashes that coil up to the point where the fastener for the dog’s collar is right next to the ERGONOMIC AND COMFORTABLE molded handle. It is even better than having your hand on the dog’s collar. If you want to rail against a product, do so against smartphones and those dog harness that make it more efficient and comfortable for the dog to act like an idiot!

  2. Hi Debi,

    I have a rope type leash for my dog, she is an English bulldog, and this is the best type for her build I think.

    Sinde her neck is broader than her head, she will just pull out of a normal collar, so I have ended up losing her on numerous occasions. She is not a runner, so no real issues there, but not useful for quick corrections.

    Then I decided to have a look at a thick rope leash and we haven’t looked back since. It is wonderful and she cannot retract her head from it, so I have total control.
    As far as you can have total control with an English bulldog!

    Best regards from The Netherlands,
    Ellen and Roxy

  3. Hi Debi, first of all, thank you for your posts. I appreciate the useful information.

    I have been using a 15 foot retractable leash and hadn’t thought about the issue of control. I watch carefully and lock the leash in a shorter length when I pass people and dogs.

    I am definitely reconsidering its use. I do have fear that Roxy may dart after a bunny, bird, or squirrel. I give her plenty of freedom at the dog park…

    On another note, do you have suggestions on a dog restraint for car rides? I purchased a booster seat that I will be returning because it is not sturdy enough.

  4. Over the years, with dogs having high prey drive, I have discovered a great way to adapt my leash. I get one that’s a little long (8-10 ft) which can be knotted. I then make tight knots about every12-18 inches. These provide numerous “lengths” /stopgaps so I can vary the part of the leash I’m using & the control & closeness of my dog. If another dog is aggressively approaching, I can have her right next to me. If we are calmly walking, she has use of the approximately 6’ long leash. This gives me many options. I always have the loop on my wrist.

  5. Any leash is only as safe and useful as the handler at the other end. I have seen dogs on 3 foot leashes totally out of control. I have been using retractable for 20 years and not once have I been hurt, hurt a dog, had one break or lost control. The trick with ANY leash is to be aware of your surroundings, plan ahead and above all, know your dogs. My current pack has some challenges, namely when critters pop into the picture. I know them, their behavior, and I can keep one step ahead. Their response would be the same no matter how long the leash. As would mine. I have not had a single incident I was not in control of. With 3 or 4 in our pack at any given time, I’m able to walk /hike with all of them by myself – confidently. Considering they range from 45 to 75 pounds, I think we are doing pretty good 🙂
    I do agree that many people have no business using retractable leashes, but there are those of us out there that it works well for.

  6. I like the simple rope slip-leads for my dogs. There is direct control. Retractable leads should be banned in Public places. There are often people walking large powerful dogs here on the promenade in Spain on shoelace-thin retractable leads. It’s ridiculous. They have no control.

  7. Hate these leashes. I work in an animal hospital and clients don’t pay attention to their animal on the other end of the leash. They allow the dog to roam. You have to tell the owner to retract it. I have seen dog fights occur because of owners lack of control over their dog.

    1. Thanks for sharing Nikki. While we walked the 5K this past weekend there was one dog owner that ignored the no retractable leash rule and low and behold that was the only dog lunge/growl that I witnessed.

  8. A friend was holding on to one of my border collies while I ran another in flyball. She wasn’t familiar with the locking mechanism and when my pup became frantic ’cause mom and sister were running and she wasn’t – got tangled up and severely cut her muzzle. I threw away the flexi leashes the next day and my pup had muzzle scar to remind me of my stupidity.

  9. I have a love/hate relationship with retractable leashes. On one hand I love the freedom it gives dogs to explore when they’re young and have bad recall and on the second hand I hate that they’re long and hard to use. But if you’re a responsible owner you’d clip it when coming up to other dogs, people, birds and whatever else. I used one for six months, switched it out for a six foot rope leash and ended up going back to it a few months later. I use for it walks in large parks and the countryside and use the rope for street walks.

  10. I also feel that retractable leashes are dangerous but I see so many people using them that I thought maybe I was missing the point? But whenever I used one I never felt in control and whenever the dog would start running off my instinct would be to grab onto the cord which in turn gave me rope burn. So glad to hear that there’s other people who feel the same way I do.

  11. We are not huge fans of the retractable dog leashes either with one exception: we do have a retractable leash we use during training when working on recalls. We also use long lines when working on recalls, but the flexi can be a little easier since it retracts as your puppy (hopefully) returns to you. We like using our adjustable 4/6 foot leather training leash for most other activities.

    1. Great point Colby. I’ve heard other trainers say they use the retractable leash for recall work too. We use the long line, and it does get messy sometimes. Our long line has many knots in it from getting tangled.

  12. I’m so glad to see that somebody else shares the same view I have on retractible leashes! Its so refreshing to see. I hate the idea of them. My pup on leash tries to lead a charge, how would I ever get that to stop if I let her lead on a 30 foot leash where I have no control over her?! My first leash was a leash and harness all in one and as a first leash at a spur of the moment adoption event I don’t think it was that bad of a choice considering I could have walked out with a retractable leash and never knew what kind of mistake I was making!

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