Some dogs have a knack for slipping out of traditional flat collars. It’s an unsettling moment when you’re left holding a leash attached to a collar and no dog.
It might be a dog putting on the brakes and pulling in the opposite direction, a dog that has mastered the art of backing out, or even a dog with a build that makes it easy for collars to slip off (think smaller heads than necks like sighthounds and greyhounds).
Harnesses are one path to take for those dogs who seem to magically escape their collars (or “houdini” dogs). However, martingales can be a great alternative for people wanting to stick with a collar.
Let's take a closer look at what they are, how they work, and how to fit them properly.
What is a Martingale Collar?
At first glance, martingale collars look similar to a traditional flat collar. Looking closer, a short section of the collar is actually a smaller loop of either webbing or a chain with a leash attachment point. When clipped into a leash, it uses a limited amount of cinching to keep a dog from backing out of their collar.
You’ll sometimes hear them called no-slip collars, limited-slip collars, and even greyhound collars. “Greyhound collars” comes from the early inspiration for the design. Dogs whose heads are more narrow than their necks – like greyhounds and whippets – have a harder time slipping out of a martingale collar than they would a traditional flat collar.
They've grown in popularity among more than just slim-headed dog breeds. Any dog who has a knack for backing out of a regular collar can benefit from a martingale.
[Above: An example of a webbing martingale where the leash attachment point is on a webbing loop.]
How does a martingale collar work?
When a dog either stops, backs up, or tries to slip its head out of the collar by putting tension on the leash, the collar cinches a limited amount, preventing the dog from slipping out when fit properly.
We hear the question, "Are martingale collars safe?" quite a bit. The tightening action makes it easy to confuse martingale collars with choke collars, which tighten an infinite amount.
Martingales are a safer alternative to a choke collar. By design, martingale collars only tighten a small amount and then stop (see image below). That built-in limit works in tandem with a proper fit to tighten just enough to keep your dog from slipping their collar while minimizing the potential for harm from the collar tightening or squeezing.
[Above: A webbing martingale fully cinched, showing the two O-rings meeting and preventing further cinching.]
How do I properly fit a martingale collar for my dog?
A martingale should be adjusted to fit so that when the collar’s cinch is fully tightened, the collar fits snug around your dog’s neck. That way, it's loose when there's no tension on the leash or collar, but then tightens just enough to prevent your dog from backing out of their collar when they pull on the leash.
Should I get a martingale collar for my dog?
If your dog slips out of or backs out of their collar, you may consider getting a martingale collar. Sometimes, being on a leash is a matter of safety for your dog (on a busy trail, near a busy road), so slipping out of a collar could be problematic. Martingales are a great option for keeping you and your pup connected when on-leash.
What kind of martingale collars does Ruffwear make?
The Web Reaction™ Collar is a martingale collar with a buckle for easy on/off and reflective Tubelok™ webbing. The limited-cinch martingale function is popular among dogs who have a knack for backing out of traditional collars. The Web Reaction is packed full of Ruffwear’s signature collar features: separate ID tag attachment point, a silicone tag silencer, and strong and comfortable webbing that holds its color.
The Chain Reaction™ Collar is a martingale collar with a chain. It combines reflective Tubelok™ webbing with a short section of stainless steel chain and slides on over the dog's head. The limited-cinch martingale design is popular among dogs who have a knack for slipping out of traditional collars. Packed full of Ruffwear’s signature collar features: separate ID tag attachment point, a silicone tag silencer, and strong and comfortable webbing that holds its color.