Glock or Flexi – which would you rather carry?

July 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm 35 comments

nifty dog shirt via zazzle

You may be surprised to discover which is more likely to send you to the hospital…

Today’s post was inspired by a thought-provoking comment on FaceBook from Sarah Wilson who posted that:

Flexi lead has more, longer and more severe warnings for their product than say Glock by an extremely large margin.

This presented such a spectacularly delicious opportunity to pick on my least favorite dog training tool that I figured it couldn’t possibly be true. So I looked both documents up, and by golly she’s right. The Flexi lead’s product safety warning is over 1,400 words long. Glock’s is less than 250.

I understand that the number of words (or scary pictures) published in a product safety warning isn’t necessarily a fair indication of how dangerous an item is, but since is it’s no secret that I hate the ubiquitous retractable leash I decided to do a little research on accident statistics to see if I could turn up anything interesting.

The results of my search were absolutely jaw-dropping.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 16,564 injuries associated with leashes required hospital treatment in 2007.

While CPSC doesn’t break the leashes involved down by type, based on a couple of decades spent obsessively watching people walk their dogs in all kinds of situations I very strongly suspect that the lion’s share of these injuries were caused by retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. And data provided by Consumer Reports appears to support my suspicion.

According to Consumer Reports:

The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly paid out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.

The kinds of injuries described by Consumer Reports can only occur with retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. A good old-fashioned six foot long leather lead does not ‘pay out’ from a handle. It won’t give you rope burn and it doesn’t cut your hand when you  grab it. The kind of leather leads favored by obedience competitors and skilled dog trainers are not likely to hurt you in day to day use. The same obviously cannot be said for retractable leads.

But how dangerous is a Glock?

The Center for Disease Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) is an interactive database that allows the public to create customized reports of injury-related data. Because I think it is probably safe to assume that only a vanishingly small number of leash injuries are intentionally inflicted (and a quick google news search for garrotings committed with leashes turned up absolutely no results) I decided it would be most accurate to compare leash injuries to unintentional firearm injuries. Running the numbers I discovered that in 2007  15,698 Americans received unintentional non-fatal firearm injuries.

So there you have it. While no one is likely to actually murder you with a Flexi lead, based on 2007 data compiled by the Center for Disease Control – you are more likely to be seriously injured by a leash than by the unintentional discharge of a firearm.

Think about that for a minute.

A tool that millions of pet owners use every single day is as likely be involved in an accident that sends you to the hospital as a gun is.

To take this a step farther, let’s consider how many more unintentional nonfatal injuries might have been caused by Flexi leads than Glocks in 2007.

FlexiUSA reports an annual revenue of about $3,900,000. Leads typically sell for $15-20 each so let’s be conservative and divide that number by $10. That means that approximately 390,000 Flexi leads are sold in the US each year. We’ll assume that each lead lasts an average of five years putting approximately 1,950,000 Flexi leads in American hands.

According to Glock 2,500,000 Glock pistols have been sold in more than 100 countries over the last 20 years. The Small Arms Survey published by Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva states that civilians own approximately 650 million firearms worldwide and Americans own some 270 million of them. So if Americans own, on average, 41.5% of all firearms let’s just assume that they also own 41.5% of all brands putting approximately 1,040,000 Glocks in American hands. If accidental gun injury statistics are consistent with brand that would mean that only 6,515 Americans were injured by the accidental discharge of Glock firearms in 2007.

So according to my estimate in 2007: 1,950,000 Flexi leads sent 16,564 people to the hospital (or about 0.85% of all users); and the accidental discharge of 1,040,000 Glocks sent 6,515 people to the hospital (about 0.6% of all users). This means that you are about 50% more likely to be seriously injured by a Flexi lead than an accident involving a Glock!

Of course it’s patently ridiculous to say that a Glock is inherently less dangerous than a Flexi lead. The real problem is that a frightening number of Americans have convinced themselves that mindlessly holding onto a plastic handle attached to a dangerously convenient retractable cord is a perfectly acceptable alternative for mindful dog training.

And thus we end up with a disturbing number of people who are the Flexi lead holding equivalent of this on the street:

To paraphrase Plaxico “If you see a Flexi lead you leave that motha fucka alone! You go get a dog trainer, you go get some training…”

Entry filed under: dog obedience, dog training, dogs, safety. Tags: .

A Few Smart Things Delta sells its soul to Purina

35 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cyndi  |  July 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I don’t think a flexi lead can be considered a training tool. I use one for situations where control can be very relaxed; for example: a walk on the beach, after hours. I want my dog to be able to run, but don’t trust other people and their dogs.

  • 2. ruthcrisler  |  July 17, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    They are dangerous in virtually any context in my opinion, with the possible exception of a controlled recall exercise (I don’t use retractables for training, but will allow it is possible).

    I know a dog walker (and yeah, I really know him, saw him yesterday) whose lower leg was cut nearly to the bone as a result of a run in with an out-of-control-don’t-worry-he’s-friendly golden retriever on a retractable leash that decided to loop behind my friend before hightailing it back to his owner.

    One thing working with horses taught me is to be hyper-aware of what equipment and conditions could leave you either dead or badly injured. Don’t wrap that lead rope around your hand (good way to lose a finger) and stay the hell away from retractable leashes.

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  July 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    If people would treat them with the same kind of sober and mindful respect one should bring to carrying a loaded weapon – they wouldn’t be a problem. Sadly a pretty plastic and nylon cord toy does little to engender this kind of attitude.

  • 4. Linda Medero  |  July 17, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Then there is the issue of accidently dropping the stupid thing while walking your dog…. At that point the noise startles the dog and he begins to run. The big, bad, monster thingy is ooohhhh….!! fast and smart enough to keep up with your dog no matter how fast he runs!!!, which adds to the panic and speed of the dog, who at this point, won’t listen to any commands or pleading from you to STOP!!! Each clank of the plastic handle on the sidewalk escalates this chase of the damned with you running behind both of them hoping neither of you will get hit by a car in the chaos.

  • 5. bluntobject  |  July 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    “I’m just tryin’ to help the kids!”

    That video’s been cracking me up since it was first released.

    (No, I don’t have anything substantive to add; why do you ask?)

    Next question: who’s professional enough to carry a Flexi lead?

  • 6. SmartDogs  |  July 17, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Well crap. Now I just want to re-write the whole end of this thing to include that freaking gorgeously illustrative video.

    That DEA dumbass is frighteningly reminiscent of a lot of newbie, wanna-be dog trainers….

  • 7. Paula G from Indiana  |  July 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    I’ve never liked Flexi leads. Not for myself, but because WAY too many people with no common sense use them. I learned early on NOT to grab the cord, it makes no sense to get burned, it makes no sense to let your wild crazy dog run on a 26 foot leash tangling with other crazy untrained dogs, it makes no sense to walk into a vet’s office with the dog on one, I could go on and on and on……. I have used them on trips in areas where there are NO dogs, away from traffic and then I am able to give the dog a bit more exercise out of the crate. (keeping my hands CLEAR OF THE CORD!!!!)

  • 8. Sarah Wilson  |  July 18, 2010 at 3:28 am

    I am honored. You sing it sister!

  • 9. Curtis Johnson  |  July 18, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Amen. Flexis are terrible!!!

  • 10. DVincent  |  July 18, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I walked a couple of dogs for an out of town for the day friend yesterday. I sorted through several “lead and colar/halter options to in McGyveresque fashin put together a couple of exceptable tools. By the end of a 20 minute walk with these two dogs whose owners complain about how hard they pull, they didn’t pull. Proper tools and perhaps more importantly consistent and proper techniques led to us all having a nice walk. Thankyou J. for teaching us.

    Reminds me of horsemanship teachers (as with dogs it’s the humans that need more training) Pat and Linda Parellis’ comments on all the bits and people who just keep moving to more and more severe bits. “The best bit is a bit of savvy.”

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melody Heber, Sarah Wilson. Sarah Wilson said: Which is more dangerous? Hand gun or retractable leash? You might be surprised… http://alturl.com/x9a7v [...]

  • 12. Toni Bailey  |  July 18, 2010 at 7:58 am

    I LOVE this! An aritlce on one of my bit pet peeves….I tell my students to “thow them in the river”….YOU take on a little bit Stronger suggestion! :-) Thanks! Am fwding this to my classes!

  • 13. Eleanor Herrick  |  July 18, 2010 at 8:27 am

    The very first dog I actually trained was trained on a flexi. Achieved off lead reliability in the city, so didn’t do too badly. I got really good at hitting that button.

    Fast forward many years and many dogs, and I don’t even own one. And I confess, if I see a dog on a flexi coming at me, I automatically cringe inwardly. When I’m out walking my dogs or training my dogs, I just want to be left alone to do my thing. The flexi is a sure sign my parade is about to be rained on.

  • 14. Viatecio  |  July 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

    This post, I love it.

    Also read your “Why I hate Flexi leads” post too and love it as well!

    I have two new linkies in my bookmark folders!

    I pretty much despise anything I see on a Flexi (both ends of the leash!), and don’t get me started on Flexi/training collar, Flexi/no-pull harness or Flexi/headcollar combinations. Sure, there are few uses where it might be OK…but it is definitely NOT a substitute for some solid obedience training. Unfortunately, that’s all it is for some people.

  • 15. LabRat  |  July 18, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Well crap. Now I just want to re-write the whole end of this thing to include that freaking gorgeously illustrative video.

    Compromise. Add an Edited-to-Add footnote.

    I love that video, though my favorite bit is the part at the end where he asks for the rifle and the kids nearly riot. “PUT IT DOWN!!!”…

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Diana L Guerrero, Janeen. Janeen said: Glock or Flexi – which would you rather carry?: http://wp.me/p7sOv-2de [...]

  • 17. H. Houlahan  |  July 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Once again I entreat the assembled multitudes — can anyone think of any alternate uses/hacks for the piles of confiscated flexi-leads I now possess?

    On the farm, I’m always improvising and making things out of other things, re-purposing found objects and junk, etc. (See my coming blog post on junk-part hay rack.)

    I am convinced that there is some whizz-bang use for these gizmos, but am at a loss as to what.

  • 18. Stingray  |  July 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    “I am convinced that there is some whizz-bang use for these gizmos, but am at a loss as to what.”

    Retractable clothesline.

  • 19. Toni Bailey  |  July 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I carry a “malfunctioning” one in my training bag, and use it as an “example” of what can happen with these “weapons.” But I am SURE there MUST be another use for the stash of them that you have! Maybe a game….Or, yes, a clothesline for travelling…

  • 20. SmartDogs  |  July 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    “I am convinced that there is some whizz-bang use for these gizmos, but am at a loss as to what.”

    Attach one to a fearful foster, stretch it all the way out, lock it fully open – and turn loose in the pasture when it’s time to slaughter the meat birds.

  • 21. SmartDogs  |  July 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Hey Dave – you are *officially* the 2,000th commenter here!

  • 22. H. Houlahan  |  July 20, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Thought of the clothesline thing. Mine is the trolley kind, so I don’t have a lot of use for a retractable style, much less a dozen or so of them.

    I’m considering now ways to employ flexis to hoist things into the rafters in the barn to store them out of the way, but I’m not seeing any functional advantage over using utility rope, and several disadvantages.

    I’d never subject my good-natured meat chickies to such a horrible death by garrotte.

    The turkeys, on the other hand …

  • 23. Ed  |  July 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I can’t use a flexi (or drive a manual transmission) so you’ve made me feel much better. Part of my flexi-rage comes from my love of a loose leash. How is a dog supposed to know what you want with half-tension?

    I’ve never hurt anyone or myself with a long line (or a lounge line, for that matter.) (Or a gun.)

  • [...] retractable leashes. Which product has a longer safety warning? According to our pal Janeen over at SmartDogs, the answer may surprise you. The Flexi lead’s product safety warning is over 1,400 words long. [...]

  • 25. This Week in Dog News | Dogged Dogdom  |  July 23, 2010 at 7:41 am

    [...] if I could turn up anything interesting. The results of my search were absolutely jaw-dropping. >>Glock or Flexi – which would you rather carry? [...]

  • 26. Lori brown  |  July 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Laughing on the floor….thank you for posting this. I have worked in the pet store industry for years and I tell people to not bother with these all the time. awwww he/she is soooo little I want them to walk free and greet everyone….nope you don’t i say what if out of now where a big dog comes running up to your FeeFee then what he is 10 ft from you????? they buy it anyway and months later they are returning it or coming in to buy a regular leash because it has either stopped locking or is more trouble than it is worth.
    Or the little girl that got 19 stitches and a concussion from being tripped by a running dog on a fully extended flexi. OMG ared you serious to put a big dog on one of these paaleeease that is a joke it would be safer for all to just let it off leash.
    THANK YOU FOR THIS I WILL BE SHARING IT WITH THE MASSES I TOUCH DAILY.

  • 27. Karen Friesecke  |  July 27, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I’m still LMAO at the video! *nice* touch! I’ve never liked those damn flexi-leads and thanks to your smart investigation, I know realize why. Know what else isn’t a treat to use? Wacky Walkers. That stupid rubber tube on the leash gives you ZERO control over a dog.

  • 28. Viatecio  |  July 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I’ve never heard of those, Karen, but if it’s what I’m thinking of, then I’ve no high opinion of those either. In fact, suffice to say that I don’t understand “stretchy” leashes at all. They just feel WRONG, never mind the intention behind them.

    One of the students in the training class I’m auditing (as an intern, that is) uses something like that Wacky Walker thing. I helped her with her dog once, and it gave ZERO correction, not to mention that I can’t hold it normally since it’s all tube-y and rubbery, not flat or supple like a leather lead. Plus, it’s only a 2-foot version, so there goes any opportunity for getting more than 2-ft away from the dog during sit/down exercises…

  • 29. Dr. Jo  |  August 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

    “I am convinced that there is some whizz-bang use for these gizmos, but am at a loss as to what.”

    Chicken coop door lifter/lowerer.

  • 30. K9 Coach  |  August 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    That was fabulous! Especially the last line :)

  • 31. October is Pet Safety Month  |  October 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    [...] 6. Always keep your dog on a leash, preferably a nice 6 foot long one, not the retractable ones (like the flexi) which are known to cause serious injury. [...]

  • 32. Joanie Loch  |  October 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Sitting here day one of week five with a severely broken ankle! Talus fracture, only happens at a high rate of speed which is what happened when the lab I was walking took off and reached the end of his retractable leash. I will be non weight bearing for at least 8 weeks, and this is IF I don’t have to have surgery :( Throw it away!

  • 33. SmartDogs  |  October 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Ouch! I’m sorry to hear about your accident but want to thank you for posting this first-hand warning.

    Best wishes for a full and fast recovery.

  • 34. Boredom Busters - Diary of a Dog Walker  |  April 29, 2013 at 2:44 am

    [...] has, we bring our own, it’s not a problem. I’ve recently read a couple of blogs where a dog trainer has done some research and compared them to guns (only in America!), and a blogger who works his [...]

  • […] Just Google “flexi lead dangers” and peruse the 706,000 search results that pop up or read this article, that states; “You are more likely to be seriously injured by a leash than by the unintentional […]

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