Long Line vs Flexi Lead: Understanding the Pros and Cons for Dog Guardians

When it comes to walking our canine companions, the choice of leash is a critical decision that impacts not only the safety and security of our pets but also the enjoyment and effectiveness of their walks. Dog owners often face various options, with the long line and Flexi lead being two popular choices. The long line, favored by dog trainers for recall training and giving dogs a semblance of freedom while maintaining control, contrasts with the convenience of retractable leashes, also known as flexi leads, which provide a customizable range but require a careful hand to ensure complete control.

Choosing the correct type of leash depends on many factors, including the size and strength of the dog—be it a small dog or large dog—as well as the specific training goals and the environment in which the dog will be walked. The quest for the perfect leash thus becomes an intersection of functionality, safety, and the personal preference of the dog owner.

“Leash choice impacts safety, control, and walking enjoyment for dogs.”

Retractable Reflect Dog Leash (Tape)Usability: Easy to handleRisk Level: High RiskControl Of Dog: LowNotes: Deterioration not visibleCheck PriceBiothane LonglineUsability: Takes more focusRisk Level: Medium RiskControl Of Dog: HighNotes: Do not use along roadsideCheck Pricethis may be an affiliated link and I may earn a small comission, however this does not change my opinion in any way!

Types of Leashes and Their Features

1- Long Line Leashes

Long line leashes, also referred to as long leads, are a staple in the toolkit of any serious dog trainer. These non-retractable leads offer a fixed length, often ranging from 15 to 100 feet, allowing for a controlled environment conducive to practical dog training, especially in recall training. They are instrumental in teaching dogs to respond to commands at a distance without the dog feeling the constraint of an average lead. This is particularly useful for solid dogs that require a more durable and stable end of the leash to ensure the handler maintains complete control.

Flexi leashes shouldn’t be used in populated locations like this as there isn’t sufficient control

2- Retractable Leashes

Retractable leads, commonly recognized as flexi leads or flexi leashes, come with a plastic handle that houses a retractable mechanism, allowing the nylon cord to extend and retract as the dog moves. This type of leash can give a small or large dog the freedom to explore at their own pace, all while the handler holds on to the end of the leash. Many models have a locking mechanism to set the leash length as needed, which can be critical when walking in crowded areas or near traffic. While offering convenience and flexibility, dog owners need to use these leashes responsibly, as the sudden extension can sometimes lead to a lack of complete control, making them less ideal in specific training scenarios or for robust dogs that can overpower the mechanism.

Both long lines and retractable leads have distinct features that can benefit dog owners in different scenarios. The long line is best suited for training sessions and giving dogs a controlled taste of freedom. At the same time, Flexi leashes cater to casual walks where a dog can explore while still being under the watchful eye of their human companion. The right choice for a dog owner will ultimately depend on their specific needs, the dog’s training level, and the environment in which the leash will be used.

you’d be amazed how many dogs learn to pull because of flexi-leads

Considerations for Dog Owners

Choosing the correct type of leash is more than just a personal preference—it’s about finding the best way to balance safety, control, and your dog’s comfort. For dog walkers and owners alike, considering how the leash will work with a dog’s harness is crucial. Harnesses distribute pressure more evenly around the dog’s body, which can be especially beneficial for aggressive dogs or those that tend to pull. Loose lead walking is another consideration; the goal is to train the dog to walk without tugging on the leash, which requires a consistent and gentle approach.

The ergonomic design of the leash handle can be significant for the owner’s comfort, especially during long walks or if a dog is prone to sudden movements. A leash with a poorly designed handle can lead to hand fatigue or even injury over time. The type of leash chosen should also complement the training and walking style. For instance, a standard leash is typically suitable for a structured training session focused on loose leash walking. At the same time, a more robust and flexible option, like the flexi-retractable giant lead, might be reserved for open areas where a dog can safely explore.

Pros and Cons of Each Leash Type

Long Line/Traditional Lead

ProsStrongDurable VersatileLess dangerous than retractableConsAwkward to handleTrip hazardRope burn (depending)

Retractable/Flexi Lead 

ProsThe locking mechanism allows for adjustable length, giving the dog walker control over how far the dog can wander.A flexi-retractable giant lead is suitable for larger breeds, allowing them to roam while still being secured.The handle’s ergonomic design is often more comfortable to hold, especially with the high-tension pulling of bigger dogs.ConsCan encourage pulling if not used correctly, as the dog might learn that pulling extends the lead.Only sometimes, the best type of leash is for densely populated areas where control needs to be more immediate and precise.The locking mechanism can fail if not highly quality, potentially leading to dangerous situations.

When deciding between a traditional lead and a retractable lead, dog owners should weigh these pros and cons in the context of their specific situation. The choice should prioritize the safety and well-being of the dog and the handler while facilitating the desired style of walking and training.

Special Considerations

When selecting between a long line and a flexi lead, special considerations must be accounted for to ensure the safety and well-being of both the dog and the handler. Factors such as the potential for rope burn and friction burns from a nylon cord must be considered, especially with solid dogs that can move at full speed and may cause the line to run out quickly, putting both the dog’s neck and the handler’s hands at risk. Regular leashes typically do not pose this problem due to their short leash length, which offers better control but less freedom.

Additionally, leash laws may influence the type of leash you can use in public areas. These laws often require that dogs be kept on a short leash to prevent them from jumping on passersby or running into traffic. Dog owners must be aware of these laws to avoid legal issues and ensure public safety.

Another aspect to consider is the end of the line; a dog who knows their boundaries and has a strong recall may do well with the freedom of a retractable leash in appropriate settings. It allows them to explore at their own pace, benefiting their mental stimulation and physical exercise. However, while convenient for everyday use, the compact design of classic retractable leads sometimes disguises their limitations, especially in the hands of an inexperienced dog walker.

flexi leashes are great for young puppies to get some freedom or whilst you’re teaching recall

Making the Right Choice

To make the right choice, dog owners should consider the above scenario and assess which type of leash aligns with their daily routines, their dog’s recall reliability, and the specific environments in which they will be walking. If a dog is still mastering recall and tends to dash away when excited, a retractable dog leash might pose common problems. In contrast, a traditional, fixed-length lead could provide better control and safety.

The best Christmas toys and the best LEGO advent calendars, with their high demand and thoughtful designs, serve as a reminder that the best products are carefully selected to suit the individual needs of the user—or, in this case, the dog. No single toy serves every child, but no leash is perfect for every dog or situation. The new neon-colored leashes or those with trendy designs are less important than the functionality and safety features of the leash.

Ultimately, the best leash for everyday use accounts for the dog’s behavior, the handler’s comfort, and environmental factors. The right choice is the one that provides the necessary control, minimizes the risk of injury from burns or pulls, and allows the dog to enjoy their walks to the fullest extent possible within the bounds of safety and compliance with local regulations.

Additional Tips from Professionals

Tip 1 – Decompression walks

A great use of longlines or flexi leashes is in a decompression walk, which is essential for a dog’s mental and physical health. This type of walk allows dogs to explore and sniff, engaging in nose work that fulfills their instincts. A long leash is typically recommended for this activity to give the dog more freedom while still under the control of a responsible dog owner.

Tip 2 – Stay Safe!

For bigger dogs, selecting a leash that can handle their strength and size is crucial. A belt-lead style or a classic large leash with a strong, stainless steel snaphooks, or a climbing grade carabiner can provide the durability needed. If opting for an extendable lead, choose an instant-stop brake system to prevent sudden jerks that could cause neck injuries to the dog and the human hand, and you may want to include a bungee attachment to cushion impacts

i love using longlines for decompression activities like sniffaris!

Tip 3 – Avoid either of them during play

When visiting dog parks, where dogs run and play with each other, close attention must be paid to the type of leash used. longer leads can become tangled with other dogs or objects, leading to severe injuries. Reliable recalls are a big deal in such environments; therefore, ensuring your running dog has an excellent recall is essential before considering an off-leash experience.

And That’s Your Leash!

Personally, I’d always strongly recommend a long line, they’re safer in most instances but do come with a learning curve. You do have to keep your focus, but we should always be watching our dogs when they’re on walks with us! It’s how we stop issues from cropping up.

Want to know more about longlines? Check out Long Line (Training Leash) For Dogs: What You Need To Know Before You Buy One.

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Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.

Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!

Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!

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