Friday, September 3, 2010

What is a Martingale Collar?

By Linda Cole

I was searching for a new collar for one of my dogs awhile back and ran across an odd looking one I’d never seen before. I had no idea how it even went on the dog, so I hung it back up and continued my search. Recently, I learned what it was – a Martingale collar – and why it's one I need to consider. What is a Martingale collar, and what makes it better than some of the other choices we've had in the past?

What threw me when I saw the Martingale collar was the little loop on the back that appeared to have no function that I could see. However, that loop is what makes the collar a more humane one over the chain choke collar I've been using on my dogs.

I had a female Siberian Husky who kept escaping from her buckle collar. After so many times of chasing her down the street and screaming her name in vain as she raced away, I decided I needed a collar she couldn't wiggle out of. She always came back, but that's beside the point. I sure could have used a Martingale collar back then, but at that time, my only choice was a chain choke collar.

Choke collars are controversial for good reason. They were made for training purposes and aren't supposed to be used as a regular collar for a dog. However, many owners find them useful in controlling their dog or as a collar for dogs like mine who wiggle out of a buckle collar. They should be used with extreme care though. If used incorrectly or by an overly aggressive owner, a choke chain can be very harmful to dogs.

A choke chain does exactly what the name implies. It can also damage the dog's soft muscle tissues and  trachea, and can cause injuries to a dog's spine, especially if the collar is put on wrong. The skin can easily be pulled through the metal ring of the collar or pinch the skin. Worn incorrectly, the choke chain won't function properly during training sessions and the dog becomes confused as to what's expected of him. He did what was asked, but if the chain doesn't release its tension, the dog thinks he's still being corrected. This type of collar should never be used on any small breed dog or on puppies.

A Martingale collar works in a similar way as the choke collar, but it can't be pulled so tight it chokes the dog or causes injury to the neck. It tightens just enough to get the dog's attention and releases the tension when the leash is relaxed.

This collar was originally designed for dogs with heads smaller than their necks, mainly the sight hounds like the Greyhound or Saluki. However, this is a good collar for any dog owner who has a wiggly dog who can escape a buckle collar or a larger breed that's harder to handle and likes to pull on his leash. When the dog pulls on his leash, the Martingale collar will tighten just enough to keep the dog from backing out of it. Once the dog relaxes and stops pulling, the collar loosens on his neck. It's also called a limited slip collar or Greyhound collar.

The proper fit of a Martingale collar is gauged by the two metal rings on the back of the collar holding the little loop that's attached to a leash. When the collar tightens, the two rings should never meet. If they do, the collar is too big and the dog will be able to back out of or wiggle out of this collar. The purpose of the rings is to allow the collar to tighten just enough to keep the dog secure. Once you have the correct fit, it can be taken on and off the dog without having to readjust it.

A Martingale collar is not a half-check collar. It looks similar, but the Martingale is made entirely of nylon which reduces the chance of the dog's hair or skin getting caught in chain. They're sold in narrow or wider widths for better control. You can find Martingale collars with the little loop made out of chain.

It can be used as your dog's regular collar, but the small loop can get caught on things, so it's highly recommended to remove the Martingale collar anytime the dog is left unattended or allowed to wander on his own, especially while hiking. Put a regular buckle collar on your dog as his main collar and use the Martingale when he's on a leash for safer control for you and him.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Sounds like something my sly girl might want to get used to!

  2. I would rather use a type of harness on a husky, just to take stress off of the neck since they pull so much. Still, martingales are good too!

    1. Harnesses work for some dogs, but for most working dogs it can encourage pulling since it was designed to evenly disburse the weight of a load that the dog is pulling..


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