Retractable leashes are popular – if slightly controversial – tools that allow your pooch to wander off a little bit more than conventional leashes do.
Although they present a few risks that traditional leashes do not, many owners find them helpful for giving dogs a little more room to roam.
Retractable leashes feature a lengthy lead and work through the use of a ratcheted, button-operated wheel inside a plastic housing. This wheel serves to collect and store any unused slack.
Below, we’ll explain some of the best situations in which you may want to consider using a retractable dog leash.
We’ll also talk about the things you should look for when picking out a product, and we’ll recommend six of the best retractable dog leashes on the market. We’ll wrap up with a few tips and tricks for using your retractable leash like a pro!
See our quick picks below, or keep reading for more info and detailed reviews!
Quick Picks: Six Best Retractable Dog Leashes
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Who Should Use a Retractable Dog Leash?
Retractable leashes are pretty helpful tools in many situations. Think of them as a fishing reel for your pooch.
You can let your dog run off a little bit to sniff a smelly shrub or chase after a squirrel, while still keeping her securely under your control. Then, once she’s lost interest in the distraction and returned to your side, you can take up the slack.
In fact, retractable dog leashes are wonderful for many situations, including:
Small, friendly dogs who walk familiar grounds. If you take your outgoing Boston terrier to the same park every day, and she behaves like a perfect lady on each trip, a retractable leash will allow her to visit old friends and make new ones, without requiring you to venture far off course.
Dogs who frequently tangle the leash. Some dogs just seem to have a knack for twisting their leash into knots. But because you can keep slack to a minimum with a retractable leash, they’ll help you avoid most twists and tangles.
High-energy dogs who are difficult to exhaust. It is important to get all dogs sufficient exercise, but this is easier with some breeds and individuals than others. If you struggle to get your husky or Dalmatian enough exercise, a retractable leash may provide your dog with more room to roam, which will help tucker her out a little quicker.
Walkers, runners, and joggers, who don’t like to stop. It can be difficult to keep your heart rate elevated if you’re constantly stopping so your dog can pee for the 54th But retractable leashes often provide enough slack to accommodate your dog’s need to tinkle, sniff and investigate, with your need to keep your legs moving.
On the other hand, there are some situations in which retractable leashes are not ideal. For example:
Owners who are unable to grip the leash securely. If you drop a retractable leash, it may “chase” your dog as it reels in the line. This can cause some pups to panic, which could obviously lead to a number of frightening possibilities that involve your dog bolting.
Owners living in congested areas. If you live in a densely populated urban area, your pup may get into trouble if she’s allowed to wander 16 feet or more in front of you. She could round a corner without your knowledge, allowing her to encounter any number of problems or threats.
Owners and dogs walking in unfamiliar areas. Using a retractable leash requires that you keep a good eye on your pup and that you preemptively avoid dangers. This is pretty easy to do while walking around your block, but essentially impossible when taking your pooch for a walk on a forested trail you’ve never explored.
Dogs who consistently pull on their leash. You won’t have as much control over your dog when using a retractable leash, so they aren’t ideally suited for dogs who treat every walk as the Iditarod.
Owners with really big hands. Some retractable dog leashes have relatively small handles, and it can be difficult for those with big mitts to fit their fingers through the handhold.
Features to Seek in a Retractable Dog Leash
While there are a number of retractable leashes on the market, they differ significantly in terms of features. Some bare-bones models feature nothing but the essentials, while others feature a variety of bells and whistles to help increase the tool’s value.
Nevertheless, you’ll want to consider the following features when picking a retractable leash, even if you want a no-frills model.
Many retractable dog leashes feature flashlights to help increase your visibility and help you to see where you’re going when walking at night.
There isn’t much of a downside to purchasing a leash with an attached flashlight, but you should make sure that you buy one that features a high-quality, high-powered flashlight, rather than a dollar-store-caliber product.
Note that a few companies manufacture add-on flashlights that are designed to attach to retractable leashes. For example, Flexi retractable leashes will work with their LED Lighting System.
Comfortable, No-Slip Grip
As explained above, it is imperative that you keep a good grip on your dog’s retractable leash. Accordingly, you’ll want to avoid any models that do not feature a comfortable grip. Bypass leashes that could become slick if your hands get sweaty or if it rains.
You probably can use two separate retractable leashes for walking two dogs at the same time, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have fun doing so. And trying to hold two retractable leashes at the same time will make it difficult to use your hands for anything else, such as answering your phone or fishing your keys out of your pocket. However, a few retractable leashes are designed to accommodate two dogs at once.
Reflective or High-Visibility Components
It is always wise to ensure motorists can see your dog – particularly if you tend to walk her in low-light situations. However, because of the increased distance retractable leashes allow between you and your dog, it is especially important to select models with high-visibility or reflective features.
Most standard retractable leashes feature a 16-foot-long lead, which is sufficient for most dogs and their owners. However, if you have a trustworthy pooch and live in a wide-open area, you may be able to allow your dog to stray a bit farther, while still staying out of trouble. Owners in such situations may want to opt for a longer lead, measuring 20 feet or more.
The Six Best Retractable Dog Leashes
There is no shortage of retractable leashes on the market, but you have to be careful to avoid cheaply made products which could quickly bust after a few uses.
The following six leashes are all well-built and safe products, and each provides different benefits to suit owners and dogs with varying needs.
1. Hertzko Heavy-Duty Retractable Leash
About: The Hertzko Heavy-Duty Retractable Leash is designed to give large-dog owners a chance to enjoy the benefits of a retractable leash. Appropriate for dogs weighing up to 110 pounds, the Hertzko Heavy-Duty Leash is well-made, features high-quality components and comes with all of the basic features other retractable leashes possess.
Features: Like most other retractable leashes, the Hertzko Retractable Leash comes with a locking metal leash connector and a comfortable handle grip.
It also features a silky-smooth belt feeder to prevent tangles and it allows you to control the brake with a single button. Hold the button down to momentarily lock the leash, or slide the button forward to lock it into place.
Despite being made with components suitable for large dogs, the Hertzko Heavy-Duty Retractable Leash only weighs 12 ounces, making it easy to carry during lengthy walks. This leash is backed by the manufacturer’s 30-day, money-back guarantee.
- FINALLY, WALKING YOUR DOG WILL BE A FUN EXPERIENCE! - Our Retractable Pet Leash has a Secure Locking...
- EASY TO BREAK AND LOCK BUTTON – Simply hold the Leash by the handle and the SMOOTH and DURABLE...
PROS: Most owners who tried the Hertzko Leash were very pleased with it. Several owners characterized it as safe, reliable and a good value. Several owners specifically reported that the leash was quite strong and held up where other leashes had failed.
CONS: Few owners had anything negative to say about the Hertzko Retractable Leash, but a few noted that the hole through which you put your fingers is a little tight. This may make the leash difficult to use for those with especially large hands.
2. Flexi Neon Leash
About: The Flexi Neon Leash is a high-visibility leash, which helps ensure motorists will see you and your pup, even in dim light. A German-made product, the Flexi Neon Leash is manufactured from premium components and designed with your dog’s safety in mind.
Features: Although a number of leashes feature high-visibility features, the Flexi Neon Leash surpasses most other options on the market. It is made primarily with neon-colored components, and it is also covered in reflective stickers to help catch the eye of passing drivers. According to the manufacturer, the leash is visible at up to 160 yards away.
The Flexi Neon Leash comes in three different sizes. The small version is appropriate for dogs up to 26 pounds, the medium version is suitable for dogs weighing up to 44 pounds, and the large version is designed for dogs weighing up to 110 pounds.
Two adjacent buttons allow you to apply the brake temporarily or lock it into place.
- Reflective 16 ft cord leash that helps increase safety for dogs and their owners - for dogs weighing...
- Reflective stickers and neon-colored components for better visibility
- Convenient handling thanks to single-handed use of the brake button and permanent stop feature
- 16 ft neon-colored cord offers plenty of freedom of movement
PROS: Most owners loved the Flexi Neon Leash and confirmed that it is easy to see – even at considerable distances. Most owners found that the leash worked as expected, and several stated that its quality seemed to exceed that which you would expect at this price point.
CONS: The Flexi Neon Leash was well-received by most owners, so very few owners had any problems to report. However, a few owners did note that the small and medium versions have relatively small grips, which may cause problems for owners with large hands.
3. Dial-A-Distance Retractable Dog Leash
About: The Dial-A-Distance Retractable Dog Leash is a relatively typical retractable leash, but it features one key difference: It allows owners to set a pre-determined distance that the leash will extend. In other words, you can allow your dog to wander off any given distance between 1 and 15 feet, by turning the included dial to the desired number.
Features: The Dial-A-Distance Leash features two primary controls: A large dial that allows you to determine the leash length and a push-button brake that enables you to stop your dog short of the distance set by the dial. This provides a bit of extra safety and allows you to stop your dog whenever necessary.
The Dial-A-Distance Leash is suitable for dogs up to 70 pounds. It features an ergonomic grip for comfort, a ribbon-style leash (rather than a cord), and it comes with an attached metal collar clip for attaching it to your dog.
- STRONG: NOW RATED FOR DOGS UP TO 70 LBS (Packaging may say 55 lbs) Dial-A-Distance is lightweight...
- THE RIGHT RANGE AT THE RIGHT TIME, EVERY TIME: Dial-A-Distance auto-brakes at the safe maximum...
PROS: Most owners found the Dial-A-Distance Leash to be sturdy, reliable, comfortable in the hand and well made. Most owners thoroughly enjoyed the convenience the leash provides and found that it allowed them to feel safer during walks. Several owners reported that they’d gladly buy the leash again, should the need arise.
CONS: A few owners found the leash a bit heavy, but that was the only common complaint. A small number of owners also took issue with the placement of the thumb brake, but this is a relatively minor concern, and most owners were able to operate the leash with ease.
4. Cool-Shop Retractable Dog Leash with 9 LED Detachable Flashlight
About: The Cool-Shop Retractable Leash is essentially a standard retractable leash, but it comes with an attached flashlight to help you see where you’re going (and what your dog is up to). This will also help to ensure passing motorists will see you and your dog, thereby keeping you both safer during nighttime walks.
Features: The Cool-Shop Retractable Dog Leash features an ergonomic grip, a high-quality metal collar latch and a 16-foot-long wear-resistant, tangle-free lead. A thumb-activated push button allows you to temporarily apply the brake or lock it down and keep the leash at a given length.
The Cool-Shop Dog Leash’s flashlight features nine LEDs and runs on three AAA batteries. It can be detached from the leash if you like so that you can hold it in your other hand. It also features a small hook on the underside of the handle for holding plastic bags or similar items.
The leash is backed by the manufacturer’s satisfaction guarantee.
- Designed to Keep Your Pet Safe & Give You Peace of Mind. We made sure each leash component was...
- Top Quality Leash Designed to Last - Impact resistant, sturdy casing is made of eco-friendly...
PROS: Most owners found that the Cool-Shop Retractable Leash worked exactly as they’d hoped, and most appreciated the included flashlight. Most owners also reported that the handle was comfortable and easy to grip during walks.
CONS: There weren’t many complaints about the Cool-Shop Retractable Leash, but a few owners found the graphics on the side of the leash unattractive and unnecessary.
5. Wigzi Dual Doggie Retractable Leash
About: The Wigzi Dual Dog Retractable Leash is designed to make it easier for owners to enjoy tangle-free walks, with two dogs at a time. This prevents you from having to purchase or use two separate leashes and makes walking multiple dogs a pleasure.
Features: The Wigzi Dual Dog Leash features two independent leads, which allow your dogs to move independently. Each leash is 10-feet-long and capable of accommodating dogs up to 50 pounds. Both leads are reflective, to help improve your visibility during walks.
Two separate thumb buttons are color-coded to match the different leashes and provide independent control of each leash. The spool features patented 360-degree spinning technology to prevent tangles and accommodate the movements of your dogs.
- 360 Degree automatically untangling technology allows you to comfortably walk two dogs at the same...
- Each dog may walk up to 10 feet in any distance while the leash spins automatically. Walk at night...
- Features orange and green leads that are color-coded to matching stop buttons, so you’ll always...
- The same weight as a normal retractable leash and less expensive than buying two retractable...
PROS: Most owners were pleased with the Wigzi Dual Doggie Leash and reported that it helped make walks much easier. It appears to work well for walking multiple dogs and includes most of the features you’d want in a retractable leash.
CONS: Most owners found that the Wigzi Dual Doggie Leash worked well, so complaints were relatively rare. However, a few reported that the spool did not spin as easily as they’d hoped. A few other owners also expressed the wish for the leads to extend a bit further.
6. Flexi Explore Retractable Dog Leash
About: The Flexi Explore Leash is another high-quality retractable leash from Flexi, but this one features a 26-foot-long lead, which enables your dog to wander a little farther than most other leashes allow. This is helpful for owners of especially energetic dogs, as well as those who walk their dog in wide open spaces.
Features: The Flexi Explore Leash is a German-made product, which features the same high-quality components and craftsmanship owners expect from the brand. The 26-foot-long, ribbon-style leash is suitable for dogs up to 110 pounds, and it comes with an attached metal collar clip.
One of the thumb buttons enables you to activate the brake momentarily, while the other allows you to lock the brake down and keep the leash at a given length. The leash is available in three colors (Blue, Black, and Red) and it is backed by the manufacturer’s limited warranty.
- Retractable Tape Dog Leash Extends up to 26 Feet
- Supports Dogs up to 110 Pounds
- Packaging Includes Safety Collar & Directions Pamphlet
- Made in Germany & Covered by Limited Manufacturer Warranty
PROS: Most of the owners who purchased the Flexi Explore Retractable Leash were pleased. Dogs and owners alike seemed to love the length of the leash and the freedom it provides. Several owners of large dogs (including German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Labrador retrievers) found the leash to be suitably strong for their pup.
CONS: A few owners reported that the retraction mechanism stopped working after extended use. However, most of these owners still found the product to be a good value, thanks to its reasonable price point.
Our Recommendation: Flexi Neon Leash
While you should be sure to select the retractable leash that includes the specific features and specifications that are appropriate for your dog, the Flexi Neon Leash is likely the best default choice for owners who do not require things like an extra-long lead, an attached flashlight or multi-dog capabilities.
The Flexi Neon Leash was well-reviewed by most owners, and there were very few reports of malfunctions. Additionally, it features high-visibility stickers and components, which provide you and your dog with additional safety.
Walking Your Dog with a Retractable Dog Leash: Tips, Tricks, and Safety Guidelines
Retractable leashes aren’t exactly rocket-science-caliber technology, but they work best when you embrace a few helpful tips and tricks.
While retractable leashes can keep your dog safe if properly used, you must be sure to employ good common-sense safety guidelines while taking your canine for a cruise around the neighborhood.
Don’t Allow Your Dog to Walk on the Opposite Side of the Road
You’d think this would be self-evident, but judging by the guy in my neighborhood who routinely lets his dachshunds wander across the street, some owners fail to see the danger in this practice. If a car flies down the road and hits the leash, your dog could be gravely injured (and you may get hurt too).
Practice Using the Leash in a Controlled Situation
While retractable leashes are fairly simple tools, flustered owners can panic and make mistakes. For example, you may hit the release button instead of the lock button, or you may completely freak out and grab the lead with your free hand. The former example may allow your dog to run into the street, while the latter will leave you with a nasty rope burn.
Keep the Slack Tidy
Retractable leashes are designed to keep slack to a minimum, and you’ll be wise to use this capability to your advantage. Allowing your dog too much slack all but ensures you will eventually find yourself (or your dog) tangled in the lead. This could easily cause you to fall, which may not only cause you to become injured, but it may cause you to drop the leash too.
Beware the Metal Clip
More than one owner has unhooked the clip from their dog’s collar, and suffered bruised knuckles from the metal clip, as it retracts at high speed. Just be careful unhooking your dog at the end of your walks and allow the leash to retract fully before unhooking your dog and you should be able to avoid these types of problems.
Keep the Leash Dry
It is important to keep the internal spooling mechanism of retractable leashes dry to ensure a long product life. Aside from using care to keep the handle dry during walks in the rain, you’ll want to unspool the leash all the way and let it dry completely before allowing it to re-spool.
Do you use a retractable leash? How has it worked for your pet? Do you find that it helps get your dog more exercise, or does it simply give her enough slack to get into trouble?
Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!