Martingale collars have been indispensable to greyhound people for ages, but in the recent past, they’ve become even more popular among dog owners of all types. The martingale is a type of collar that keeps dogs safely on their leads without choking them.
Read on to learn all about martingale collars: what they are, what kind of dogs benefit from using them, and how to choose and fit one to your dog.
What is a martingale collar?
Martingale collars, also called no-slip or limited-slip collars, are a type of dog collar that provides more control than a typical flat collar, and prevent dogs from backing or slipping out. They look similar to a flat collar, but about 1/3 of the length of the collar is actually a smaller loop of fabric with a D-ring attached (see image above). On some martingale collars, the smaller loop is made from chain instead of fabric.
The collar works by constricting when the dog pulls on the lead. Tension on the lead causes the smaller loop to tighten, which in turn pulls the larger loop tighter—but not too tight! Martingale collars are adjustable, and should not tighten past the width of the dog’s neck. They offer comfortable security without harming your dog.
What’s the difference between Martingale collars and choke collars?
On the surface, Martingale collars may seem similar to choke collars because they tighten when the lead is tense. However, properly-fitted martingale collars do not choke dogs. Because of the way it’s constructed, the martingale collar can only tighten to a certain degree. This differs from chain choke collars, which do not have a limit to how tightly they can constrict.
Choke collars have long been considered inhumane and dangerous for dogs. Martingales are a safe alternative. As long as the martingale is properly adjusted, it will tighten just to the size of the dog’s neck, preventing them from backing out of their collar without choking them.
What breeds should use Martingale collars?
Martingale collars are sometimes called “greyhound collars” because they’re designed for dogs whose heads are more narrow than their necks. They’re very popular among owners of greyhounds, whippets, Salukis, and other slim-headed breeds.
However, Martingale collars aren’t limited to sighthounds! They’re a good choice for any dog who tends to back out of their collar, or for people who want a little more control of the lead without putting their dog in harm’s way. In fact, many rescue groups use martingales as “back-up collars,” placing them alongside flat collars for extra security on walks.
How to choose and fit a martingale collar for your dog
Martingale collars come in different widths for different dogs. Many dogs will do well with a simple 2.5cm (1in) wide martingale collar. But for narrow-headed dogs like greyhound and their cousins, a wider, padded martingale offers greater security and comfort. In fact, you can search for “greyhound collar” to find martingales specifically designed for graceful greyhound necks.
Whatever style of martingale collar you choose, it’s important to purchase one that fits well. To find the right size, measure around the base of your dog’s skull just behind the ears. This measurement is the same as the collar when it’s fully tightened or closed. The above guide serves as a good example, choose the smallest collar that will comfortably fit your dog.
Once you’ve found the right size martingale collar, you’ll need to adjust the fit to your dog. First, slip the collar over your dog’s neck and pull it up to the spot just behind their ears. Then, pull up on the smaller loop and watch the metal slides on either side. According to UK collar maker Doggy Boho, a well-fitted martingale collar will have approximately two finger width’s distance between the two slides to ensure appropriate tightening when pulled.
How to safely use a martingale collar
Martingale collars are best for safely walking dogs who may otherwise slip or back out of a traditional collar. They’re not meant as a walking aid for dogs who pull. After all, if your dog pulls nonstop, they’ll have a constantly-tight collar; even though martingale collars are safe, constant tightness is uncomfortable for your dog. If your dog pulls nonstop, it may be more useful to work on loose-lead walking skills.
Professional dog trainers recommend using martingale collars only on walks, and removing them while at home. Although martingale collars are safe, the loose design an dangling ring does have a higher chance of getting caught on things. For that reason, dogs should always be supervised while wearing martingale collars.