Why I Hate Flexi-Leads
Thanks to my friend Jill who inspired this.
The flexi-lead or retractable leash, is a tool that is enormously popular with dog owners — and hated by many dog trainers.
When a client shows up at my place with one, I tell them that they’ll have to give it up while they’re working with me. When they ask why, I give them a few of the top eight reasons why I hate flexi-leads:
Because of the dozens of times I’ve been in big box pet stores and seen Fido in aisle two urinating on products, ‘shop-lifting’ treats or snarking at customers and their dogs – while his owner stands utterly clueless in aisle three chatting with a friend. Or the hundreds of times I’ve been accosted in parks and on sidewalks by a lunging beast who’s owner either grins inanely at me (as if I think this is fun) or pointedly avoids eye contact (after all, she can’t interfere with her dog’s fun).
Flexi-leads lend many owners a false sense of security. They assume that simply being attached to their dog is an adequate substitute for paying attention to it. This typically leads to a pattern where the owner (securely attached to his dog) ignores the dog as it repeatedly engages in inappropriate, self-rewarding behavior thereby allowing the dog to train himself to behave badly in nearly every situation when he is out in public.
Because the flexi-lead appears to have been specifically – and nearly perfectly – designed to teach dogs to pull. Dog pulls – dog gets REWARDED with more space and freedom. Dog stops pulling and dog gets PUNISHED by leash and collar pulling back on him.
This represents the most nearly flawless schedule of reward and punishment seen in the dog training world as the leash is NEVER loose in between the dog pulling on the leash/owner and the leash pulling back on the dog.Unless you are a skilled dog trainer (or [gasp!]) use an electronic training collar), it is impossible to teach a dog to walk politely on a loose leash using a flexi-lead.
Because freedom is something that should be earned, not given. Would you give your car keys to a 14-year-old child so he could ‘enjoy his freedom’? Would you let the same child go “say hi” to the stranger he met on an interweb chat room because the stranger (or the guy with him) assured you that, “It’s OK, I’m friendly”? Of course not (I hope).
There’s a reason toddlers stay in play pens, young children play outdoors when supervised and preteens get their first tastes of freedom only when their parents have a very good idea of where they’ll be, who they’ll be with and what they’ll be doing. — It gives them a chance to learn rules and boundaries while they mature so that they can make good decisions on their own when the proper time comes.
Letting a dog that hasn’t yet been given proper guidance and training on the rules and boundaries for the society it lives in doesn’t make sense either – and it’s confusing for the dog.
Because it puts the handler in a position of constantly being reactive instead of proactive on the walk. The dog is given nearly unlimited freedom – until he annoys or worries the owner - then the owner reacts to the dog by taking space back from him (or trying to). If the dog is regularly allowed to take all the initiative on the walk and never has to earn the freedom of space to explore, he’ll never appreciate it. He’ll see it as his God-given right.
A dog that thinks that he makes decisions AND that he is entitled to unlimited space and freedom is a dog that will never recognize his owner as a leader. He is therefore much more likely to challenge the owner for freedom (and other resources) and to resent the owner when he doesn’t get it.
And we haven’t even gotten to the safety issues yet. Dog owners don’t seem to be aware that there is danger associated with the use of this tool — even though the manufacturer makes a point of informing uses of this in the packaging and on their website.
Dangers include burns on human and canine body parts when the cord or webbing of the lead gets wrapped around body parts. When this happens (and it happens a lot), at best you have a nasty tangle of line wrapped around an excited dog. In a less fortunate situation a two- or four-legger will trip and fall or the line or get a rope burn. The worse case scenario is amputation or strangulation. Not things any sane person wants to risk.
In Which Zip tries (unsuccessfully) to kill Audie
Other dangers include potential hazards to a dog who has moved ten to twenty-five feet beyond an unattentive owner. Being hit by a car, attacked by another dog, smacked or pepper-sprayed by a person who doesn’t welcome his advances or eating something toxic without his owner realizing it are just a few of the ugly possibilities.
And then there are those pesky leash laws. Most of them specify that a dog be on a leash that is six-feet or less in length. Most flexi-leads, when fully extended (as they usually are) won’t comply. Leash laws also typically require that the dog be “under control” and, all too often, this is not the case when an owner substitutes physical attachment for control (see number 1).
Then there are those gawd-awful, awkward handles on the dratted things. Even if you are a conscientious dog owner who pays attention to your dog, it can be darn near impossible to take control of him with a hand brake from 15-feet away. And - if you drop the handle as your dog bolts away, he may run even faster as he is startled by the sound of the hard plastic handle bouncing along behind him.
For more information on flexi-leads see: Glock or Flexi – Which Would You Rather Carry