Regular readers know that I am no fan of retractable dog leads (see 3 Good Reasons to Throw Away Your Retractable Leash). Now granted, once in a while, I’m wrong, and when I am, I’m not too proud to admit it, but I’m standing by my opinion on retractable leashes. I’ll never use one. That said, I know that a lot of people swear by retractable dog leads, so if you are bound and determined that they are right for you and your dog, you should at least choose from the “best” ones available. There are several “best retractable dog leads” reviews out there, and often, it seems to me that your choice is between “bad” and “less bad.”
I suppose I’ve probably made my position known by putting “best” in quotes. That said, what can’t be ignored, I suppose, is that many dogs just can’t wait to get outside when they’re being taken on their daily walk. I don’t have that problem with Janice and Leroy, because I have made it a point to train them never to rush me at the door. If this is a problem for you, then perhaps a retractable leash would be good to use in the short term, just to circumvent this problem while you work on positive reinforcement techniques designed to keep them from trying to be the boss and getting you out the door on their terms instead of yours.
The theory behind using one of the best retractable dog leads, according to the reviews, is that this type of device allows your dog to choose the speed at which he will walk, and you can recall him when he goes too far without having to use a command. He can explore without hauling you around.
From where I sit, this is a bad practice. What happens if the leash breaks and your dog doesn’t know that he’s supposed to come back when you call him? He could run into traffic or some other sort of danger. So again, I am in no way advocating the long-term use of retractable leads, no matter what the reviews say. With that in mind, in a bit, I will tell you about four retractable dog leads that I can at least stand, based on a number of “best retractable dog leads” reviews that I have read. First, though, let’s talk about what you should look for in a retractable lead, if you are hell-bent on using one.
I don’t believe that any retractable lead is ever really safe. However, the “best retractable dog leads” reviews all agree on several points that you should consider when choosing a lead.
A retractable lead has two components that regular leashes do not have: a handle, and a housing that contains the leash itself. The handle and housing should both be sturdy and solidly-built, particularly if you have a large, muscular dog like my Boxers, or Neila’s Rottweilers.
The handle needs to be thick and solid, because you will not want to wrap your hand around the cord. Doing so is one of the better ways I can think of to lose fingers, not that there are any good ways to lose fingers. Holding onto the cord also means that you could end up with a nasty cut on your hand (and to continue the theme, I’m pretty sure that there are no “good” cuts you could inflict on yourself).
So again, make sure that the handle is very sturdy, and always hold onto it – never the cord. Sometimes, if your dog is particularly rambunctious, your hand might end up, through no volition of your own, in contact with the cord. So, for this reason, you should also choose a retractable dog lead that has a flat belt as opposed to a cord – it will be less likely to become entangled in things and won’t hurt you nearly as badly if you have to snap it back.
I have put the word “reliable” in quotes because I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a lock mechanism on retractable dog leads that is ever going to be truly reliable, reviews notwithstanding.
That said, though, the locking mechanism will usually give you a bit of control over your dog. It works to prevent the leash from unreeling, and in that way, it is intended to give you the same sort of control as a regular leash. If you need to keep your dog close to you, such as when you are in close quarters with other dogs or humans, you should lock the lead and keep it locked so that the retractable lead works, as much as possible, like a regular leash.
Again, though, you should not use this as a substitute for effective training. Keep in mind, too, that if a poorly trained dog sees something that it wants to go after (another dog, or a squirrel, for instance), you are going to need pretty fast reflexes to use the locking mechanism quickly enough to prevent your dog from taking off. Also, the locking mechanism may not be strong enough to bring the dog back under control if he’s pretty much at the end of the lead.
I know I keep yammering on about this, but any dog, on any type of leash, should know how to stay close to his human, and come when called. I don’t want anyone to end up being hurt, be it a dog who runs into traffic, another dog that is approaching with his human, or the human himself.
Okay, since I’ve been harping on training, before I tell you about the next suggestion in the best retractable dog leads reviews, I’d like to talk a bit more about the dangers of using a retractable leash as a substitute for training.
The main danger, from my perspective, is that your dog is going to be prone to pulling on the leash if he is not trained to walk properly with you. It’s one thing if the dog is pulling against a six-foot or eight-foot leash. If he’s at the end of a 20-foot retractable lead, you are going to have so much less control.
Straining against any type of leash can cause injury to a dog’s neck, but at the end of a long retractable lead, where the dog has so much more control than you have, the injuries can be even more serious. Also, if you are at the dog park, and in contact with other dogs, those other dogs could perceive the straining as aggression. This is because a dog straining on a lead will typically have his head held high, his tail up and his body rigid – all signs that, in “dog body language” mean “I want a piece of you!” You could end up trying to break up a dog fight that’s happening 20 feet away from you.
Then, if the leash breaks, as it very well could, you are (pardon my language) royally screwed. Your dog, the other dog in the conflict, and that dog’s human are also probably royally screwed. You’re going to end up with leashes around your legs, dogs snapping and biting at one another, and maybe biting at you as well.
Now, back to what you should look for in a retractable leash.
From the foregoing, you can no doubt tell that you should buy the strongest retractable leash that you can get. What this means, basically, is that if you have a dog that weighs under 20 pounds, buy a retractable lead that is rated for dogs 40 pounds and under. If you have a Labrador retriever or a Rottweiler, buy a retractable lead that is approved for an English Mastiff. You get the idea.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and any leash is only as good as its clip. If the clip on the leash you are considering looks flimsy, don’t even think about it. Look for another leash with a clip you think you can rely on.
Ideally, if you must use a retractable leash, you should only do so with a fully trained dog.
Now, as promised, here are the four best retractable leashes that the reviews I have considered recommend.
In the best retractable dog leads reviews, the Tao Tronics 16-foot retractable comes off very favorably. It is well built and has a solid casing with an ergonomic handle, and a recall button that is easy to reach. This is a belt-type leash, and the belt is fairly lightweight so that it is unlikely to cut your hands when you need to retract. It is rated for dogs up to 90 pounds (remember, though, that you should always choose a leash that is rated for a dog much heavier than yours).
As you could tell from what I said previously, I’m not overly partial to long retractable dog leads, the reviews notwithstanding. This one extends to 26 feet. However, I’m including it in this list because it’s rated for dogs up to 110 pounds. If I were one to use retractable leashes, I would choose this one for my Boxers.
The only real problem I have with the Flexi Explore leash (outside of the basic fact that it is a retractable leash) is that the recall mechanism is slow. I’d only use this leash on a well-trained dog.
If you have a smaller dog (it’s rated for up to 45 pounds, so I really wouldn’t use it on a dog more than 30 pounds), this might be a good retractable leash. It extends to a manageable 13 feet, and has a large, no-slip handle. It’s also a belt leash, so you’re not likely to suffer the injuries that are commonly associated with cords. If you’re a “dog park person,” as I am, this is the best of the retractable leashes for smaller dogs.
The advantage to this retractable dog leash is that it’s highly visible, with a reflective cord and housing. Flexi represents this leash as being visible to oncoming cars from up to 160 yards, so if you like to walk your dog at night, you should definitely consider this leash.
The Flexi Neon also comes in large, medium and small sizes. The downside to the small size is that it has a cord – the medium and large have belts. The thing is, even a small dog, pulling hard on a lead, can inflict a nasty injury to your hand. So no matter what the “best retractable dog leads” reviews say, if I had a small dog, I’d still go with a medium lead.
There have also been reports in the best retractable dog leads reviews of the belts on the medium and large size leads fraying and breaking. With that in mind, although I do like the visibility factor for this lead, I don’t think I would consider using it on a large, or even a medium sized dog.
Just in case you haven’t gotten the point already, I don’t like retractable dog leads. The reviews are often positive, but I just don’t see them as being a safe alternative to a solid leather or nylon leash with a good clip, a competent handler on one end and a well-trained dog on the other. However, if you want to use retractable dog leads, the reviews I have looked at would seem to suggest that these four are among the better choices.