Best Retractable Dog Leashes (2017)

These leashes are durable and give your dog more freedom

Retractable leashes are controversial (see below for more information) - but in the right situations they can provide a more interesting walk for your dog. In this article, Richard Cross lists his top picks for the best retractable dog leash.

We review five of the best retractable dog leashes

The Bottom Line...

My top pick is the TaoTronics

If you understand the risks of a retractable leash and still want one for your pet, the TaoTronics is my top pick. It's a durable option that feels comfortable to hold, which is important on long walks. The tape-style design reduces the chance of a nasty injury, while the extra poop-bag holder is a bonus. I also think it provides great value for money.

If you want to give your dog more freedom without being off-leash, a retractable harness can be a useful tool.

A regular leash forces a dog to walk at your pace. Extendable leashes, on the other hand, allow your dog to sniff and explore his surroundings. For this reason, they are popular amongst owners who want to provide a more interesting walk.

Before we go any further though, I need to admit something: I'm not a huge fan of retractable leashes. I have safety concerns about this type of leash - for both the owner and dog. From a training perspective, I also find you have much less control, and it's easy to accidentally reinforce bad behaviours.

Even so, I still occasionally use one - and I can see why many owners like them. If I don't trust a dog's recall, for example, they are great for open spaces where I know there are no people, dogs or other dangers.

Whatever you plan to use it for, it's vital to buy a high-quality, durable and reliable retractable leash. Poor-quality options might be cheaper, but they are more likely to break or snap. This can cause injury or allow your dog to escape. It's also essential to understand the safety risks.

To help you get the right option for your pet, I've put together this list of the best retractable dog leashes. Each is designed to be strong and durable, while providing good value for money. Before I get to the recommendations though, let's talk a bit about the safety of a retractable leash.

Are Retractable Leashes Safe?

If you research retractable leashes online, it's clear there are two camps. The first is largely made up of professional dog walkers, trainers and other experts - and they tend to dislike retractable leashes. The other group is mainly dog owners who love the extra freedom.

But why do these groups disagree?

​There are several reasons many professionals don't like using a retractable leash. The first is safety. There are plenty of horror stories about people losing fingers when their dog suddenly runs off and the cable is wrapped around an extremity. The potential for "spring back" has also caused injuries if the harness or buckle fails. In one particularly bad case, the metal clasp on a retractable leash snapped, leaving a 12-year old girl with permanent eye damage.

Retractable leashes also aren't great for training. If you give your dog more leash whenever he pulls, this can create a rewarding behaviour that encourages pulling. Then, when you need to keep him on a short leash, your dog thinks pulling is going to get him more freedom.

An issue I've had with retractable leashes is that it can be difficult for dogs to know the length of the cord. This can lead to over-excited dogs sprinting full-pelt to the end of the line, resulting in a nasty jolt - and potentially pulling the handle from your hand. This is dangerous near roads and the jolt can potentially cause spine or tracheal injuries.​ Most dogs quickly learn the limits, but they might forget if there's something exciting (such as a squirrel or cat).

Another problem is that ​retractable leashes can have slack if you use the "lock" option. If you suddenly need control of your dog, such as if a car is approaching, then you need to wait for the leash to recoil. Even this short delay can be dangerous.

With all these issues, you might be wondering why anyone buys a retractable dog leash. The biggest advantage is they provide more freedom for your dog without him being off-leash.  For many owners, this outweighs the potential risks - especially if the dog doesn't have reliable recall.

There are also things you can do to improve the safety of a retractable leash. These include:

  • Understand that retractable leashes are not suitable for every dog. If your dog is highly excitable and likely to sprint before you can lock the leash, a retractable probably isn't the best option. Instead, opt for a fixed length leash.
  • Don't grab the cable/cord. Injuries to fingers are often caused when an owner panics and grabs the extending cable rather than the thumb control. Make sure you practice using the thumb control so it comes naturally when you need it.
  • Lock the leash on a short setting when near roads or other dangers. Accidents often occur because the owner can't get control of the dog on a long leash quickly enough. Whenever you're near a potential danger, such as a road, lock the leash on a short setting so your dog is close to you and under control.
  • Keep your dog on a short leash when meeting other dogs. It's common for dogs to circle each other when meeting, which can cause them to become tangled if on a long leash. This doesn't just increase the chances of a dog fight - a cord wrapped around legs can cause severe burns.
  • Get a leash with a ribbon-style lead rather than a thin band. Many injuries caused by a retractable leash are due to the thin band, which can cause deep cuts and even amputations. Flat ribbons, on the other hand, usually aren't as dangerous.
  • If your dog pulls, attach the leash to a harness. While collars are fine for sedate dogs, pullers should wear a harness. This protects the neck and back, and can prevent injuries to the trachea (we also have guides for small dog breed harnesses and running/jogging harnesses).

Even if you follow these tips, a retractable dog leash isn't as safe as a fixed-length alternative. So make sure you're aware of the risks.

How to Choose a Retractable Leash

If you still want a retractable leash, it's important to buy one that minimises safety issues. Here's what I recommend looking for:

  • Flat ribbon-style leash. In response to injuries caused by thin bands, leash manufacturers started to use flat ribbons instead. These can still cause damage, but the wider design makes injuries less likely. There are still some high-quality band-style leashes, but I usually recommend ribbons.
  • Strong and durable. Retractable leashes provide more freedom - but this means the dog may pull or run at higher speeds. For this reason, an extendable leash must be highly durable. You should also check the maximum weight and make sure your dog is comfortably below it. If in doubt, always choose the stronger option.
  • Shorter Maximum Length. The length of a lead varies depending on the brand. Most leashes typically have a maximum length of around 15 feet, but the longest can go up to 25 feet or more. While longer leashes provide more freedom, they also increase the chances of getting tangled, "jerking" at full sprint and problems with control. There are reasons for getting a longer leash, such as if you're walking a well-trained dog in an open field, but for most dogs I recommend getting one that's no more than 15 feet long.
  • Comfortable Handle. Retractable leashes have larger plastic handles than fixed-length alternatives. As you're going to be holding it for extended periods, look for an ergonomic handle that's comfortable to carry.
  • Optional Extras. The most important considerations when buying a retractable leash are the strength, length and type of band. But there are extra features you might find useful, such as bag holders or flashlights. Reflective strips or a neon band can also increase night visibility (although for maximum visibility check out our list of the best lighted dog collars).

5 Best Retractable Pet Leash Reviews

Now you know about the safety risks of a retractable dog leash and what to look for, here are my top five recommendations. As I mentioned above, I've focused on flat ribbon-style leads (with a couple of exceptions), as these are safer. Make sure you read the mini-reviews, as not all leashes are suitable for every dog.

Note: I've included the maximum weight for each leash. This is the maximum weight of the strongest version of each leash though - so make sure you choose the right option for your pet.

 ImageNameMax. LengthMax. Dog WeightPriceView Price
#1TaoTronics Retractable Leash16 feet110lbs$$View Price
#2Flexi Giant Tape Leash26 feet110lbs$$$View Price
#3BC Retail Leash With Flashlight15 feet50lbs$View Price
#4Flexi New Neon Leash16 feet110lbs$$View Price
#5Triton Retractable Leash16 feetNot listed - small/medium dogs only$$View Price

Best All-Round Retractable Pet Leash

The TaoTronics is an excellent leash

1. TaoTronics Retractable Leash

My top pick for an extendable dog leash is the excellent TaoTronics. It's not the most advanced leash on the market, but with its strong nylon tape, durable plastic handle and low price-tag, it's a great choice for most dog owners.

The TaoTronics is made from plastic ABS casing for extra durability. It has a comfortable ergonomic grip, along with a thumb-activated break button for when you need to limit the leash length. You can also lock the leash at a specific length by pushing the thumb button forward.

One of the great things about the TaoTronics is the strong nylon ribbon. This can handle dogs of up to 110lbs due to its fray-proof design, so it's unlikely your dog will be able to break it. The retracting mechanism is also designed to work in all weathers and temperatures.

The biggest downside to the TaoTronics is that it's not reflective. If you're going to be doing lots of night walks, then the Flexi New Neon listed below might be the better choice.

Despite this drawback, the TaoTronics is a popular retractable leash that's one of the best on the market. It even comes with a bone-shaped bag holder and some free plastic bags, which is a welcome bonus.

Quick Summary: The TaoTronics combines a ribbon-style lead, comfortable grip and durable design into a product that's very reasonably priced. For this reason, it's my top pick for a retractable lead - as long as you don't need a reflective design.

  • ​Max. Length: 16 feet
  • Max. Dog Weight (Strongest Version): 110lbs
  • Price Range: $$
  • Strong and heavy-duty design
  • Nylon ribbon
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Not reflective

Best Retractable Leash for Large Dogs

The Giant is a long leash that's great for big dogs

2. Flexi Giant Tape Leash

If you need an ultra-robust retractable dog leash for a big and strong dog, then the Flexi Giant is one of the best choices. It's a long 26 feet leash - which may not be a good thing depending on where you use it - and is built from durable materials and a smooth nylon belt.

Flexi is a German company with a reputation for producing high-quality leashes. They produce a range of excellent retractable models, and the Giant is specifically designed for larger dog breeds. This means it's much better suited to dealing with strong dogs that pull - especially compared to models with thin cords.

As I mentioned, it's a 26 feet retractable leash. This provides more freedom for your dog - but also increases the chances of getting tangled around bushes. A bonus is that the tape is neon-colored. This helps to increase visibility in low light conditions, which is important on night walks. 

The two biggest drawbacks of the Giant are the price and weight. It's an expensive model - especially if you get the extra large version. The Giant is also heavier than many other leashes, although this is to be expected from such a durable and strong option.

Quick Summary: If you're looking for the best retractable leash for a big dog, then the Flexi Giant is a great choice. It's highly durable - mainly due to the strong nylon ribbon - and has a long 26 feet maximum length. The biggest drawback is the price, but it's worth it if you need a rugged leash.

  • ​Max. Length: 26 feet
  • Max Dog Weight (Strongest Version): 110lbs (the XL may be stronger but the maximum weight isn't listed)
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Highly durable
  • Great for big dogs
  • Neon ribbon leash for greater visibility
  • Expensive

Best Retractable Leash with Flashlight

The BC Retail comes with an LED light and bag dispenser

3. BC Retail Retractable Dog Leash

One of the most common "extras" owners want with a retractable leash is a flashlight, so I wanted to include one on this list. My top pick is the BC Retail, which comes with an LED light and poop bag holder. It's not the strongest or most durable leash, but it's great for small/medium dogs and for night walks.

Let's start with the flashlight. The BC Retail has an LED light for illuminating the road or path ahead, which is great for walking in the dark. It fixes to the top of the leash and is powered by AAA batteries. 

Aside from the light, I also like the ribbon-style leash rather than a band. It's only capable of handling dogs of up to 50lbs though, so it's not suitable for the biggest breeds. 

The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty if it breaks, which shows they have confidence in the product. Even so, if you don't need a flashlight then I recommend getting one of the other leashes on this list - as the BC Retail isn't as durable or smooth. For short night walks, however, it's a decent choice.

Quick Summary: For night walks, the BC Retail is a great choice due to its LED flashlight. It's not the most durable option though and isn't suitable for larger dogs - so for regular walking one of the others on this list is a better choice.

  • ​Max. Length: 15 feet
  • Max Dog Weight (Strongest Version): 50lbs
  • Price Range: $
  • Bright LED flashlight
  • Great for night walks
  • Ribbon-style design
  • Questionable durability
  • Retracting isn't as smooth as others

Other Great Leashes

The Flexi New Neon has a tape design

4. Flexi New Neon Leash

The second Flexi leash on this list only narrowly missed out on the top spot, as it's a fantastic product. Unlike the Giant, it's made for small or medium-size dogs, and has plenty of reflective components for better night visibility.

Like the Giant, it's made with a ribbon-style tape rather than a band. This reduces the chance of injury, as the band doesn't have the same ability to "cut." Additionally, the tape is neon-colored, which helps improve the visibility of your dog even more.

One of the best things about the Flexi New Neon is how smooth it is. The ribbon moves in and out of the casing easily and doesn't catch. It's also strong and durable, so it'll survive even if your dog jerks the end of the leash.

A minor downside is that the brake button is shallower and more difficult to press than the TaoTronics. Once you get used to it, however, the Flexi is a joy to use and one of the best retractable dog leashes.

​Note: The Flexi New Neon comes in three sizes - extra small, small and medium. The extra small is only 10 feet long, while the other two sizes have a maximum length of 16 feet.

Quick Summary: The Flexi New Neon is one of the best retractable leashes on the market. It's strong, has a smooth retracting action and is comfortable to hold. The only reason it didn't get our top spot was because it's marginally more expensive than the TaoTronics and has a less convenient button.

  • ​Max. Length: 16 feet (10 feet for XS)
  • Max Dog Weight (Strongest Version): 110lbs
  • Price Range: $$
  • High visibility reflective panels and neon ribbon
  • Smooth when retracting
  • Durable
  • Slightly more expensive than the TaoTronics (at the time of writing)
  • Button is shallower and more difficult to use than other options
The Triton is a popular leash with an attractive white color scheme

5. Triton Retractable Leash

Another excellent retractable leash is the Triton. It's a 15 foot leash that's built with a stainless steel clip, durable nylon ribbon and anti-slip handle. The manufacturer also offers a lifetime guarantee, which provides extra peace of mind.

Like all the best leashes, the Triton is designed to be durable - although it's only suitable for small or medium-size dogs. It features a simple button for locking the leash at a certain length, along with an ergonomic handle and lightweight design.

I also like the appearance of the Triton. The white design is much more stylish than many leashes - although it's likely to show dirt faster.

The biggest drawback of the Triton is that it's not suitable for larger dogs. It also doesn't have a reflective design. For small or medium breeds, however, it's a comfortable and compact option.

Quick Summary: The Triton is a great alternative to the other options on this list for small or medium-size dogs. It's not durable enough for the biggest breeds, and it's not reflective, but it's a lightweight option that feels comfortable to hold.

  • ​Max. Length: 16 feet
  • Max Dog Weight (Strongest Version): Not listed - but recommended only for small/medium dogs
  • Price Range: $$
  • Comfortable ergonomic grip
  • Durable design
  • Anti-slip handle
  • Not suitable for large dogs
  • Not reflective

Summary

Retractable dog leashes are controversial. There are legitimate safety concerns for both the owner and dog when using them, and they may also reinforce bad behaviors such as pulling. If you know the risks and make sure you minimise them, however, they can be useful for providing more freedom in certain situations.

My top recommendation is the TaoTronics retractable leash. It's a solid option that's durable, comfortable to hold and easy to use - plus it's available for a great price. For big dogs, the Flexi Giant is an excellent alternative.

Do you have questions about choosing the best retractable dog leash for your pet? Or are you concerned about the safety of this type of leash? Let me know in the comments.