by Levi M.

Some dog breeds, such as the Greyhound, Saluki, Whippet, & Borzoi have heads that are smaller than their necks. This means that it is easier for them to slip out of "regular" flat collars than most dog breeds.

Martingale collars address this through clever design. Sometimes called "greyhound collars" or simply "martingales", these collars look similar to flat collars, but are designed to tighten when the dog pulls on the leash. The tightening effect prevents the collar from slipping over the dogs head, even if their head is very narrow. Martingale collars have been documented in use as dog training tools since before the turn of the 18th century, and, besides materials, the design has not changed much.

How A Martingale Collar Works

A martingale collar is made up of two loops, a bigger one and a smaller one. The bigger loop comprises about a third of the collar. The smaller loop, usually made of fabric or a metal chain, is attached to the bigger loop, pulling it tighter when the leash has no slack. The smaller loop usually has a D-ring where the leash is clipped onto.

Can You Use a Martingale Collar as a Regular Dog Collar?

Yes and no.

As martingale's only tighten when pulled, many people use them as a daily collar. However, if your dog were to get caught on something, the collar would tighten, making for a potentially dangerous situation. For that reason, puppies and young dogs should not wear martingale collars in lieu of a flat buckle collar.

Fitting a Martingale Collar

As with any other kind of collar, you need to buy a martingale that fits snugly on your dog. For sighthounds, however, a good fit is especially crucial to ensure that the collar does its purpose, and does not slip off your dog when you need it most.

One common trick to find the perfect fit for your dog is to measure around the base of your dog’s skull, right behind their ears. This measurement should be the same measurement of the Martingale collar when it is tightened or closed. As this is the narrowest part of your dogs neck, it will be impossible for the collar to slip over their heads when correctly adjusted.

After determining the right size for your dog, you should adjust it to fit your dog's neck. You can usually determine a good fit by a combination of looking at your dog and physically adjusting the collar.

  • Slip the collar over your dog’s neck.
  • Pull it up to the base of the skull, the same area that you measured to get the right size of the collar.
  • Pull on the smaller loop, watch how the slides (the connection between the smaller loop and the bigger loop) move closer as the collar tightens.
  • Adjust the collar until you can fit only 2 fingers between the collar and your dogs neck.

Anything smaller than 2 finger-widths of space between your dogs neck and the collar might be too tight and uncomfortable for your dog. Conversely, too much distance between the slides will make the collar too loose, and unable to serve its intended purpose.

Builds and Materials

There are a lot of different designs and materials that you can choose from. Basic designs are often made of nylon or polyester, but martingale collars can be very decorative, with some made of premium fabrics and embroidery.

Some collars use small metal chains instead of another ring for the collar to pass through. Although these collars might seem like they cause a harsh correction when pulled, they're actually designed to be more durable - and are even safer - as chain links tighten and loosen more quickly than those that are made with fabric.

A martingale collar is a great choice for a collar and is perhaps the only choice you have if you have a sighthound, or another breed of dog with a very small head. Still, as with any tool, it is better to also train your dog not to pull, and to respect your commands when out of the house, than to rely on the slip-action of the collar alone.