Ultimate Guide to Martingale Collars

Filed in Dog Products, Dog Training on August 10, 2021

ultimate guide to martingale collars

Are you wanting to learn about Martingale collars?

These non-slip dog collars are a great option for many people and their dogs. They’re nearly escape-proof, very unlikely to hurt your dog, and can be helpful in training.

In this Ultimate Guide, I’ll tell you about Martingale collars in general, why they’re a good option, recommended ones to buy, and some tips about choosing the right one for your dog.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but I only recommend products I find trustworthy and you pay nothing extra.

What is a Martingale Collar?

A Martingale collar is a dog collar that gives more control over your dog who would otherwise slip out of a regular flat collar.

They’re also known as a limited-slip, no-slip or greyhound collar. They’re great for dogs with narrow heads especially when taking your dog outside.

The collar has a loop built into the main body, which allows it to tighten to a certain point but no further when pressure is applied.

They’re often not readily available at your local pet store, so many people are unaware of what they are. This is unfortunate since they’re very useful for a number of uses.

What Does a Martingale Collar Do?

PetSafe Martingale Collar on a white background

PetSafe Martingale Dog Collar with Quick Snap Buckle (see below under recommendations)

When fitted properly, Martingale collars tighten enough that the collar will not slip off your dog’s head.

However, they don’t tighten so much that they could choke your dog or injure their sensitive neck. They’re a great compromise between a standard collar and a slip collar.

They’re more humane than a choke collar and can be added to your arsenal for safety and training. If you’re looking for other humane training products, I also cover dog training collars that do not shock.

How is a Martingale Collar Different Than a Choke Collar?

A choke or slip collar is composed of one loop that tightens infinitely. The more pressure is applied, the tighter it is around your dog’s neck.

This kind of collar really can choke a dog who keeps putting pressure on it, hence the name. It also means that when a dog pulls suddenly, a great deal of pressure is abruptly put on the throat, which can injure a dog’s sensitive neck.

By contrast, a Martingale collar can only tighten to a certain point, no matter how much pressure is put on it. This means that a dog in a properly fit Martingale collar is unlikely to be able to choke or injure themselves.

Uses for Martingale Collars

dog with martingale collar

Martingale collars are great for any dog for whom it is safe to wear a collar. They’re a good general-purpose walking and training collar. However, Martingale collars should never be left on all of the time.

Because these collars have a looser fit than standard collars and also have a separate loop, they may be more likely to get snagged on something. This can make them a choking risk for your dog.

Therefore, Martingale collars should always be put on for walking and/or training and removed when your dog is not supervised.

1. Escape-Proof Collar For Escape-Prone Dogs

The Martingale is the ideal collar for dogs that may try to back out of a regular collar. Dogs that struggle and pull against a regular collar may be able to slip their heads out.

Many owners find this to be true even when they think they have adjusted the collar very tightly.

However, with a Martingale, even a dog who struggles vigorously won’t be able to slip out. Not only does this prevent escape, but it can train your dog not to keep trying to slip out of the collar.

2. Appropriate Collar for Dogs With a Head About the Same Size as Their Neck

The Martingale is the correct choice for dogs with either very slim heads or very thick necks.

These dogs may slip out of a regular collar even if they aren’t trying to do so, since there really isn’t anything keeping the collar on them besides their ears. The Martingale collar tightens enough that these dogs won’t be able to pull out of it.

3. For Dog Training

Martingale collars also work for dog training. A dog who pulls on the leash can feel the collar tighten. These signals tell your dog that they should relax pressure and stop pulling. The collars are quite loose when pressure is not applied. However, they tighten evenly around your dog’s entire neck when pressure is employed.

If you buy one with a chain in the design, they also make a very distinct clicking sound when they tighten. This can be an important asset in training. A light pull on a Martingale collar can be a cue for a dog to obey a command that has been given.

For instance, if you ask your dog to “sit” but they don’t seem to hear or be paying attention, a light pull on the collar can get their attention and remind them to sit without you having to repeat yourself.

I review some popular online dog training courses in another article if you’re looking for professional help.

What Breeds Should Use a Martingale Collar?

Dalmatians being trained by their owner.jpg

Any breed that can safely be restrained by the neck can wear a Martingale collar. They’re effective for smaller dogs all the way up to the largest breeds.

However, there are a couple of breeds for which these collars are standard. Martingales should always be used for these breeds if a neck lead collar is going to be used at all:

  • Sighthounds. Sighthounds like Greyhounds, Afghans, Salukis, etc. always should wear a Martingale. These dogs can easily slip out of a regular collar because their head is so narrow. For the safety of their delicate neck, it’s recommended that these dogs wear a wide Martingale collar.
  • Bully breeds. Pitbulls, Bull Terriers, Bulldogs, and other dogs with very thick necks benefit from a Martingale collar. Because their neck is as wide as their head, they may be able to easily slip out of a regular collar.
  • Gundogs. Many dogs in the gundog class, including Vizlas, Pointers, Springer Spaniels, and more tend to have narrow heads similar to a sighthound’s head. These dogs may be prone to pulling out of a regular collar and will benefit from a Martingale.
  • Dalmatians. Dalmatians have a narrow head compared to their neck and benefit from a Martingale.

How to Use a Martingale Collar

A Martingale collar can be used how you would use any other collar. Simply slip the collar over your dog’s head or latch it around their neck, adjust it, attach your leash to the D-ring and you’re good to go.

One important thing to keep in mind is that if you want to grab your dog by the collar, you need to grab them by the Martingale loop.

If you grab it by the main part of the collar, it will be loose enough to slip over your dog’s head. The loop needs to be used to cause the tightening function.

Here are a few specific ways to use a Martingale:

  • If your dog tries to back out. If your dog tries to back out of a Martingale collar, simply maintain constant pressure until they stop fighting the collar. Be careful not to pull back on the martingale as your dog pulls. Applying more pressure may prolong your dog’s resistance and won’t let them learn that when they stop fighting, the pressure lets up. Offer a high-value treat to encourage your dog to come to you and stop fighting the collar.
  • If your dog pulls. Whenever your dog pulls on the leash, stop or turn around, allowing the leash to tighten on the collar. Soon your dog will associate the tightening of the Martingale with having to stop or turn around, which isn’t what they want. In time, your dog will stop pulling when they feel the Martingale tighten.
  • To encourage obedience. If you have given a command that your dog is not complying with, lightly pulling on the Martingale will tighten the collar and cause a clink if you are using a chain collar. These sensations can remind your dog to pay attention and cause them to follow through on the command, at which point a reward can be given.

When to Start Using a Martingale Collar

A Martingale collar can be used at any time in your dog’s life, provided they’re cleared for the use of a neck restraint by your veterinarian. They’re appropriate for squirmy puppies along with adult dogs in training, plus all other dogs.

They’re also a good fit for older dogs that may have some tricks up their sleeve when it comes to pulling out of a collar.

Dogs who’ve previously been able to pull out of regular collars may fight the Martingale when they try the slip out and find that they can’t.

However, they’ll soon learn that they can no longer use their old tricks to slip out.

My Recommendations for Best Martingale Collar

Best Chain Version: Max and Neo Stainless Steel Chain Martingale Collar

$15.99
Amazon.com
as of September 23, 2021 3:59 pm

This sturdy collar is packed with features that make it an ideal choice for many people. The chain provides a distinct clinking sound when pressure is put on it. This sound can be very beneficial when training dogs.

When your dog hears the click, they’ll know the collar is getting tighter and will momentarily be slightly uncomfortable and stop their motion, which can prompt them to obey your command or stop pulling.

It comes in a range of great colors including bright options like orange and red to stand out and teal, pink, and purple to make your dog look their best.

Every color has reflective stitching for nighttime safety. You can feel great about buying this collar since a collar is donated to a dog rescue for every collar that is purchased.

  • Locking buckle that is easy to put on and take off but is very unlikely to come loose accidentally
  • Separate tab on the slider adjustment from which to hang your dog’s tags
  • Sturdy construction with 2 mm nylon, stainless steel chain, and two reflective stitching bands
  • Appropriate width for most dogs: ½ inch in the extra small size, ¾ inch in the small size, and 1 inch for other sizes

Best Slip Over Version: Blueberry Pet Essentials

$9.49
Amazon.com
as of September 23, 2021 3:59 pm

This straightforward collar comes at a very affordable price and in a range of great collars, 21 in all. This no-frills collar is nonetheless sturdy and will serve the needs of many dogs.

A matching leash, harness, and seat belt are also available if you want your dog to have a coordinated ensemble.

  • Nylon fabric with high-density webbing is designed not to stretch over time
  • Adjustment slider is very easy to manipulate when you put it on or need to take it off
  • Optional personalization with your dog’s name and number right on the collar

Best Buckle Version: PetSafe Martingale Dog Collar with Quick Snap Buckle

$12.99
$4.59
3 new from $4.59
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of September 23, 2021 3:59 pm

This affordably-priced collar comes with a quick snap buckle that is very easy to detach for convenience.

The quick-release buckle is also important in case your dog gets their collar tangled on something.

It comes in a number of colors, including bright options like pink and red and stylist choices like apple green.

  • Made of sturdy nylon that will hold up to many years of use
  • Width is adjusted according to the size of the collar: ⅜ inch for the petite size, ¾ inch for small and medium, and 1 inch as another option for medium and for the large size

Best Leather Version: Mighty Paw Leather Training Collar

$16.99
3 new from $16.90
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of September 23, 2021 3:59 pm

This collar combines function and style, with an attractive leather base and a chain attachment point for the leash. Heavy-duty closures hold the collar together for superb durability that can last a lifetime.

  • Stainless steel chain and 100% genuine leather offers a long-lasting collar
  • Different widths offered for different sizes: ¾ inch for small and 1 inch for medium and large
  • The company is family owned and operated in the USA

Best Wide Version: CollarDirect Martingale Collars for Dogs

$13.99
Amazon.com
as of September 23, 2021 3:59 pm

At 1½ inches wide, this collar is the ideal choice for very large dogs and for sighthounds. These collars come in a number of charming floral patterns that provide a fun, stylish touch. The black hardware blends in with the collar attractively. This is a slip-over collar that is very easily adjustable to put on and take off of your dog.

  • Large and extra-large sizes come in 1 ½ inch width
  • Soft but very strong and durable nylon and heavy-duty carbon plated metal hardware can hold up to years of use without fading, breaking, or rubbing your dog’s neck
  • Very lightweight despite having a wider width than some other options

Types of Martingale Collars

There are a wide range of martingale collars available to meet differing needs. Many of these types can overlap. For instance, either a slipover or buckle collar may have chain or reflective stitching.

However, not all do. Therefore, it’s important to look for each of the qualities that you want in a collar when making your choice.

  • Slipover. A simple adjustment slider lets you make it big enough to put over your dog’s head and then tighten to the appropriate size.
  • Buckle. A latch or buckle closes the Martingale collar around your dog’s neck so it doesn’t have to be readjusted every time. The best also have a lock on the clasp for added security. These collars can be safer if your dog gets the collar stuck on something since they can easily be released without having to pull it over your dog’s head.
  • With chain. The Martingale loop is composed of chain, while the rest of the collar is usually made of nylon or leather.
  • Reflective. A reflective band of material or reflected stitching surrounds the collar, making your dog visible at night
  • Prong collar. Prong collars are typically made in a Martingale style so that the prongs will only apply when the Martingale is tightened.
  • Waterproof. Most Martingale collars can get wet, but some are made of rubber or another material that doesn’t absorb water at all.

Martingale Collar Sizes

Martingale collars typically come in sizes between extra small and large. They can typically be adjusted several inches to fit a range of neck sizes.

Measure your dog’s neck as recommended by the Martingale company to choose the right size for your dog depending on the brand. Martingales also come in a number of width options:

  • Under .5 inches. These widths are typically available in only the smallest sizes of Martingale collar for very small dogs.
  • 1 inch. For most dogs of average size.
  • 1.5 inch. For stronger dogs such as bully breeds or larger dogs.
  • 2 – 3 inches. For sighthounds or other dogs with long, delicate necks since it divides the pressure up over a wider area.

Fitting a Martingale Collar

A Martingale collar should be adjusted just behind the dog’s ears. Adjust it so that the two metal rectangles of the loop are at least two inches apart from one another.

While grasping the attachment D-ring, apply pressure and pull upwards as if pulling over your dog’s head. If the metal rectangles touch, the collar is too loose.

Let the collar fall down to where it would naturally lie around your dog’s neck. Apply pressure in this position. You should still be able to slip two fingers underneath the collar when the loop is pulled tight so that you know it’s not too tight for your dog.

If you’re using a slip-style Martingale, you may need to readjust it every time. It will need to be loosened to fit over your dog’s head and then tightened again to a proper fit. This may not be necessary for dogs with very slender heads or thick necks.

If you’re using a buckle or latch style Martingale, you won’t need to adjust it every time. However, you should check the fit periodically since the fabric can loosen with use.

Narrower widths are appropriate for smaller dogs, while wider widths up to an inch are best for average-sized dogs. One and a half inches is a good option for large or powerful dogs.

Sighthounds and other breeds with delicate necks are best fitted with a collar of at least two or three inches to spread out the pressure.

Always attach the leash and restrain your dog using the loop. If you grasp the main part of the collar, it will be too loose and can easily slip over your dog’s head.

Can They be Used on a Puppy?

Puppy playing on the stair.jpg

Martingale collars are good options for puppies since puppies can be very squirmy and slip out of regular collars. Since puppies are impulsive and generally don’t have good recall, it’s very important that they not escape their collar.

Martingale Collar vs. Harness

If you want a very humane way to walk your dog, both the Martingale collar and harness will likely come up. Harnesses can also be more difficult for dogs to escape from than regular collars.

However, harnesses are not as good at keeping dogs from escaping as Martingales are.

That said, a harness may be less stressful for a dog who is not yet used to being restrained on a leash. A good solution utilized by many animal rescues and shelters is to use both a Martingale collar and a harness.

Attaching the leash to both or using two separate leashes ensures that even if the dog manages to break free of the harness, they will still be contained by the Martingale collar.

Martingale Harness

You may find harnesses advertised with a Martingale feature. These harnesses are typically recommended to reduce a dog’s pulling. This feature is usually at the chest portion.

When the dog pulls, this section tightens, providing physical feedback to your dog that pulls in the same way that a Martingale collar would do.

However, Martingale harnesses don’t provide the same restraint to keep dogs from escaping as Martingale collars.

Martingale Collar vs. Slip Collar

Both Martingale collars and slip collars make it nearly impossible for a dog to pull out of the collar. However, they have some key differences:

  • Slip collars tighten infinitely, whereas Martingale collars tighten only to a certain degree.
  • Slip collars always go over a dog’s head, whereas Martingales can be attached with a buckle.
  • Slip collars often are continuous with the leash, whereas Martingales are typically a separate collar.

Martingale collars are generally considered to be safer and more comfortable for your dog.

Since the tightening is limited, your dog will not be able to choke themselves or damage delicate neck structures when wearing a Martingale as they would when wearing a slip collar.

Furthermore, Martingales with a buckle can be released quickly in case your dog should get it tangled on something. Slip collars, by contrast, can be very difficult to get off if your dog gets tangled up.

Conclusion on Martingale Collars

Martingale collars can be very beneficial for a wide range of different dogs and owners.

Whether you’re worried about your dog escaping, you want a collar that provides feedback for training, or you’re just looking for a safe, convenient way to walk the dog, a Martingale might be right for you.

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