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.