Martingales for Dogs

Martingales were invented for sight hounds with small heads, such as this whippet.
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Historical records show that dogs were wearing collars in ancient Egyptian times. Some were working collars, while others were ornamental and indicated the name and social standing of the dog's owner. Later, collars were used for training and control of the dog, as well as protection from wolves. Modern collars come in all shapes and sizes, and the martingale is a commonly used collar for training purposes as well as giving pet owners cruelty-free control at all times.

History of the Martingale

The martingale collar was originally designed for sight hounds such as whippets, greyhounds, Borzoi and Salukis. These breeds have small heads compared with the thickness of their necks, and this makes it possible for them to slip their heads out of traditional collars. The alternative was the choke chain, which is widely considered to be cruel for dogs. Handlers of sight hounds needed a training collar that would combine the flexibility of the choke chain with a more humane aspect than choking the dog into submission, and so the martingale was created.

How Martingales Work

Martingale collars are made of a nylon webbing band that fits approximately three quarters of the way around the front of the dog’s neck. This is the “adjustment loop,” and it is adjustable to fit the size of the dog’s neck. The two ends of this loop are connected by a “control loop” that is made from the same material as the collar. The leash fits onto a ring attached to the control loop, so that when the leash is tightened the collar also tightens around the dog’s neck. Once the tension on the leash is released, the collar immediately loosens.

Benefits of Martingales

The handler has the same control over the dog that he would have with a choke chain, and the dog is unable to pull its head out of the collar as it tightens when tension is applied to the leash. The soft band around the dog’s throat does not damage its fur in the same way as the choke chain does, and the gentle pressure against the trachea is far less dangerous than the pressure from an inflexible chain when pulled taught.

When to Use a Martingale Collar

The primary use of martingales is for training purposes. Only non-corrective dog collars are permitted during American Kennel Club shows, so the collars may not be used in the ring. However, the martingale is ideal for teaching a show dog what is expected from it during showing. In the book “Positive Training for Show Dogs: Building a Relationship for Success,” author and trainer Vicki Ronchette recommends these collars for beginners, as they are less threatening. The martingale also is useful simply for controlling your pet dog while walking on a sidewalk or or in a park.