Editor’s Note: At Dogster HQ, we’re actually NOT fans of retractable leashes. But some of our writers are into them, and we’re keen on surfacing a variety of opinions. Are you into retractables? Let us know in the comments.
Retractable leashes get a bad rap. Yeah, I’ve actually had some vicious rope burns caused by that pesky cord. But now that the all-tape versions have come out, my two rescue dogs and I are all happier and safer campers. Granted, retractable leashes are not for everyone or every dog. But here’s why I risked the dangers of finger amputation and added retractable leashes to our collection, along with more traditional leads.
I love having the option of letting Daisy and Bud explore a little farther away from me during our walks while still maintaining control. The dogs seem to really like it as well. We don’t use the leashes in crowded areas or in situations where they might get tangled up with other dogs. But for a nice hike along the river or just a walk around the neighborhood, they work great.
They’re retractable -– I mean, it’s right there in the name — but really, how cool is that? It means I can just reel them on in when they’ve strayed a little too far. Then, when we’re done with the walk and I take them off, I just press a button and zip! Easy to store and no more tangled leashes.
Plus, not only are they light yet sturdy and easy to handle, they also come with a thumb brake — which locks. Genius. Though there are several manufacturers of retractable leashes, the most famous brand is Flexi, based and made in Hamburg, Germany.
The family-based business is run by founder and CEO Manfred Bogdahn, who posted the photo below of the 1972 prototype on the company’s website. Apparently he got the idea from a chain-saw starting mechanism.
If I tell my dogs to wait while I reel them in, most often that’s just what they’ll do. Also, on those rare occasions when a dog has sped up unexpectedly (yeah, I’m talking to you, squirrels!) instead of grabbing the tape, which can cause burning and cutting injuries, I just drop the whole leash. Usually, the sound of the plastic hitting the ground is a startling enough sensation and sound to get my dogs to stop and wait.
They leashes are pretty sturdy, too. I haven’t had one crack yet, and I’ve dropped them plenty of times.
Because I’m not really comfortable with the whole “dogs in clothing” look, I like to express our personal style with the choice of a chic collar and lead. The retractable leashes used to be pretty plain and boring –- red, black, and blue were the only choices. But now Flexi and other manufacturers have come out with some colorful new designs. There’s even a Flexi in leather.
How cute is this retractable?
The company’s latest, the Vario system, comes tricked out with a an adjustable handle and detachable accessories including a light and poop/treat box attachment. The Vario also allows you to attach different leads — there’s one that’s elasticized, one built for two dogs, and one with LED lighting. Sweet.
If you do try a retractable leash, you must follow the directions to the letter. The directions are long and detailed, and they’re there for a reason. There have been serious injuries –- even amputations -– reported when the cord got wrapped around a body part of the owner or even, God forbid, the dog. The newer tape versions reduce this risk, but they don’t eliminate it.
Again, they’re not for everyone. Your dog should be trained and able to walk calmly and nicely on a regular lead before you try the retractable leash. My dogs are medium size, but some larger breeds just require more control and a shorter leash. I wouldn’t let young children use retractable leashes -– kids are more likely to try and grab the tape and get injured, and they’re not designed for small hands.
Burns and cuts are the most common injuries, usually sustained when the cord comes in contact with your skin as it spooled out from the leash. This happened to me with the thin-cord version of the leash, and yeah, it hurt like hell.
You’ve also got to choose the right size for your dog. The leashes are rated by weight. The cheaper knock-offs are not. I’ve tried a couple of these, and they’re really flimsy. So if you’re going to invest in one, do it right and get one from a reputable manufacturer. Then give it a shot and see what you think. Your dog will definitely dig it.
What’s your experience with retractable leashes? Let us know in the comments.
About the author: Toni Perling of Atlanta writes mostly about dogs — hence her blogger name, Doggienista, and her two beautiful rescues, Daisy Jo and Bud Earl. She tweets for them at DaisyJoBudEarl and covers all the latest Hollywood dog scoop at her Celebrity Dog Blog. She’s also a longtime supporter of spay/neuter/rescue, and adopted her first dog, a sweet lovable mutt named Sophie, from an L.A. County shelter. Toni started out in Hollywood as a TV writer before transitioning to the web.