Why This & Not That: Fixed vs. Flexible Leads

Mar 6, 2021|

Welcome to vid 2 dog lovers, this video and article talks about quite a popular question asked by newbie parents – but surprisingly very rarely asked by experienced parents.

Which one is better, the fixed length lead or the flexi lead?

Some of you are sitting there saying “ah, eh? What is a lead, does he mean a leash? I don’t “leash” my dog, I lead it, so I call it a lead…but you know, whatever floats your boat, right?

To kick off this comparison, let’s talk about the flexible lead first and the idea of it. Essentially, it’s a very convenient device that gives your dog “controlled freedom to roam”. You are keeping your dog on a lead, which is a legal requirement in many places, but at the same time are expanding the length of the lead in a nice convenient way to give your dog more chances to move around and explore and experience the great world we have. Sniff this, sniff that, pee on this, pee on that!

It’s a wonderful situation, I can honestly understand why so many people consider it! In reality however, it’s important to understand the significant issues with a flexible lead.

If you live out in the country-side, some of these problems are less of an issues, however for most of us, living in the city, it can be dangerous. For example:

Issue #1: Other pedestrians trip over the lead wire when your dog is darting back and forth across the footpath/sidewalk. The wire on these leads is thin, it’s hard to see, especially if someone is not looking directly at it. Serious injury can occur here, or even worse someone can fall out into the oncoming traffic.

Issue #2: It gets wrapped around telegraph poles and trees and the dog gets checked (corrected/punished) unintentionally, without any sort of rhyme or reason. I’ll discuss more about this later.

Issue #3 Dogs can run out onto the street before you can lock the mechanism, or they simply already have enough lead length to move in an arc out onto the road. The dangers of injury and death here are obvious.

Issue #4 On any dog over about 3kg the retraction power in the handle isn’t strong enough to bring the dog back in an emergency situation, so you end up pulling the tiny string back with your bare hands – imagine doing that with a 20kg dog, a 40kg dog? Your hands will likely get cut by the thin wire.

Issue #5 The dog breaks out at a run for some (one of many possible) reason, when it hits the end of the line, one of three things can happen:

  • The dog gets a horrendous correction when it hits the end of the lead. (More on that later)
  • The owner gets the handle ripped from their hands, which then means the dog is loose and in danger
  • The owner gets dragged down the street. I think everyone has seen “that guy” before and understands firstly how stupid they look, and how dangerous it can be. No one wants gravel rash face.

Beyond technical issues, now let’s take a moment to talk about the behavioural challenges of a flexible lead from a canine psychology perspective.

The reason why certified professional dog trainers do not recommend a flexi lead (unless they are getting paid to) is that it breaks down a dog’s ability to reliably predict the length of space they have when walking on the lead. Dogs thrive on predictability, just like humans do. In a nutshell, every time you lock the lead at an irregular length, this is essentially delivering a correction to the dog, the intensity of the correction is dictated by the speed at which the dog is travelling.

As I discussed in detail in my previous videos about reinforcement and punishment, if you are correcting or punishing your dog, it should only be in a very specific, very punctual, very structured and organised way to ensure your dog understands why it is being corrected. Random punishment dogs simply do not learn from and is inhumane.

Especially while working with your puppy initially, but also generally in life, building reliability and consistency into your daily walk creates a more confident, happier dog. Dogs that have to deal with the underlying stress that at a moment’s notice the rules are going to change, undermines any of the benefits of “freedom to roam”, and in many cases increases the likelihood of your dog developing the habit of pulling on the lead to get what they want.

On the flip side, what are the benefits of a fixed lead:

#1 They are stronger and last longer and I feel better value for money (and remember, I’m the guy that sells them)
#2 They are better in an emergency situation for control of your dog
#3 They are more consistent, providing more reliable outcomes, leading to more calm, more confident dogs
#4 They keep your dog safer overall, and when combine with good training, motivate your dog to be your best buddy, right there next to you at your side!

The biggest downsides of a fixed lead:

#1 You need to walk around with your dog more to let it explore more places. Exhausting, I know. This comes with the additional side-effects that you may also even feel better, lose weight and have a better relationship with your dog.

Alrighty folks, I hope this video provides some food for thought, and helps you make the right choice for your pup to keep it healthy happy and safe in China

Smash that like button and see you on the next installment of “why this and not that!”


Gotta watch this short video of stand up comedian Drew Lynch talking about retractable leash. It is HILARIOUSLY SPOT ON!

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