Everyone expects that discussions of prong collars, choke chains, and shock collars will be fraught with debate between modern and traditional trainers. However, there is one seemingly innocuous piece of dog training equipment that is the subject of nearly as much heated debate as the previously mentioned tools. This very popular piece of equipment is the Flexi-Leash.
Pet owners love the flexi-leash. Flexis allow dog owners to keep the dog close at their side when more control is needed and also allow for more freedom when it is safe to offer this to the dog. Trainers tend to like Flexi leashes less, for a number of reasons which include:
- Safety risks to humans – on the Flexi website, a number of potential dangers are listed. These include: burns, amputations, eye and face injuries, falls, and injuries to bystanders.
- Safety risks to your dog – a dog can build up significant momentum running to the end of a fully retracted Flexi, which can cause injury or damage regardless of the type of harness or collar the lead is attached to. Attaching a Flexi leash to a choke collar is never advised! (I’m not a big fan of choke chains regardless of the type of lead they’re attached to, but they’re the WORST when combined with a Flexi.)
- Difficult to detach – there are situations when, for safety reasons, a handler may need to detach herself from her dog’s lead quickly. If you do need to drop your dog’s leash for any reason and have not first locked the retraction mechanism on the Flexi, it will retract up the tape or cord. This can scare your dog into running away from the Flexi as it bangs along behind her (and often, you as well) or may otherwise harm her. If your dog is attacked by another dog, it is far easier to split them up if you have a conventional leash. Flexible leashes tend to get tangled, mangled, and exacerbate the tension and danger in a scuffle or dog fight.
- Flexis teach dogs to pull on the leash! Dogs are very practical – they do what work. Any time the Flexi is not locked, the dog learns that not only does tension on the leash work to create forward movement, but it is a requirement for forward movement!
Despite all of these potential problems with Flexis, I admit there are times when I use mine and love them. I use them:
- with dogs that are already reliably trained to walk on a standard, six foot leash reliably amidst distractions
- in situations (like tromping through the creek with the pups) where a long line would likely get caught on rocks or in the brush. Note – if you use a Flexi to take your dog swimming, make sure to pull the leash fully out of its housing and lock it until the leash is dry before unlocking it and letting the leash back in the housing – who wants moldy, mildewy leash yuckiness? Not I, and not Mokie nor Cuba!
- in rural environments only (Flexi leashes are never to be used on city sidewalks!)
- in situations where I am able to devote my full attention to my dogs – no Flexis if I’m at the park watching a football (or better yet, field hockey!) game, chatting on my cell phone with a friend or client, or placing an order at the farmer’s market.
Please share your thoughts on Flexi leashes in the comments!