Retractable (Flexi) leashes and the illusion of control

It is a stand up comedy clip, but most of them are based on real life experiences and here he makes some really good points while making us all laugh :)

Before we get into it, I need to make a few things clear; I am NOT against the responsible use of retractable leashes. In some training exercises (again, I am stressing TRAINING) they can even be a brilliant tool to help you achieve some remarkable results and they can also be useful while your dog is recovering from illness or similar. However, it all depends on *your dog being trained to begin with*!

Most owners think that they are being kind using a retractable leash, (also commonly known under the famous brand name "Flexi", who invented the retractable leash) and I can understand its charm; it gives the owners of the dogs a sense of allowing their dog greater freedom while still on a leash and, which I'll argue against, being under control. In fact, the idea of the Flexi was invented by a dog owner who wanted to have control over her dog while in heat. I'll copy and paste a quote here from Flexis' own website:

"I have always had dogs at home. Although I loved them all, I do have one who stands above the others. Purzel! She was my pride and joy. She was an explorer, always out and about investigating the world around us, which became a problem while she was on heat. One afternoon, it was a warm sommer day in 1972, I was taking her for a walk when suddenly an idea struck me like a flash of lightening. I rushed home and started ... Freedom on the leash began in 1972 with the conversion of a power saw starting mechanism." (quote from

"Freedom on the leash", there you have it. Isn't that a wonderful way to sell a product? Never mind the "warm sommer (sic) day" to set the mood properly for you.

Have you ever heard of the expression "Keeping someone on a short leash?" or "Kept on a tight leash?" It is a very commonly used idiom which describes how we (should) control something or someone that is unreliable. unpredictable and perhaps even volatile. There's a good reason for that, namely that what is close to you is far easier and faster to get under control, than that of 30 feet away!

So lets look at some scenarios where a Flexi (or other rectractable brand) is being incorrectly, even dangerously:

At 2.36 watch the man on the left and his dog. Sensitive viewers BE WARNED. That is just one example, if you search on YouTube there are (unfortunately) many, many more incidents. I believe this has become more commonly captured as people are using dash cams.

How about the dog that lunges or escalates in speed rapidly, making you drop the retractable leash? Have you ever seen this happen? The retractable falls to the ground and starts to *chase* the already excitable dog: Now this guy is lucky he is in a safe area, but what if he was next to a road?

You also have the out of control dogs that uses the entire leash to run around bushes/trees and gets caught or worse; run around people and trip them over or cause burn damage and/or flesh wounds.

Then, you also have the people who quickly "grab the leash", to stop the dog running off; not realising that it is a very fast, thin line, quickly adding friction to your skin. I know from first hand experience that it is not a very pleasant feeling!

Lets go back to the original maker of the retractable; her wish was to be able to walk her female dog in heat, without her being able to escape and still able to enjoy some freedom. I think we all know that although you may have a highly trained female who will respond while in heat, not everyone has an equally trained, intact male, that will respond as well. If you've ever seen a mating and how quick they can happen, you'll understand why having your female 30-ish foot away is a very bad idea!

The Flexi does come with instructions and some do's and don'ts. Hands in the air: How many of my readers chuck instructions in a pile "until needed"? *raises hand*

This video is a promotion from Flexi, a few seconds of it shows a dog on a Flexi, in the woods.

Now compare that video to this one, a video from PetCo who's a very famous brand/store in America who normally get a bad reputation for their lack of knowledge of other tools, a bit like Pets4you here in the UK and I have to admit it;The PetCo video is brilliant. If you're going to use a retractable, read my notes above AND watch this video! The Flexi website does offer some instructions and guidelines, found here: The MOST IMPORTANT information however, is a one liner:

Walk the dog to heel when other persons or animals approach or are around (such as livestock), using the "Lock" function, or when in an environment that could be harmful for your dog.

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