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What is a martingale collar, and how should you fit your dog with one?

Like people, dogs come in different shapes, sizes, and personalities. Just as some big dogs have gentle spirits and lap-dog mentalities, some small dogs have larger-than-life attitudes. And, when it comes to teaching your dog to walk properly on a leash, some dogs would just rather not participate, especially those that are easily frightened or distracted.

Fortunately for humans, there are a variety of training resources on the market for every type of dog. One collar, in particular, the martingale collar, keeps dogs safely on a leash without choking them. If you aren’t sure what a martingale collar is or how to use one, we’ll explain everything you need to know, plus, whether or not this type of collar is right for your pup.

martingale collar

What is a martingale dog collar?

Also known as a no-slip collar, a martingale collar works by constricting when a dog pulls against it. This works for dogs that try to back out of their collars as well as those who pull on the leash.

Martingale dog collars were first used by owners of hunting dogs like Whippets and Greyhounds whose necks are larger than their heads. The unique two-loop construction keeps the dog from backing out of their collar. The larger loop slips over the dog’s head; the smaller loop attaches to the leash and constricts when it feels tension. When there is no tension on the small loop, the collar fits comfortably around the dog’s neck.

Is a martingale collar the same as a choke collar?

The short answer is absolutely not. The longer answer has to do with the construction of a martingale collar, which has very little in common with a traditional chain choke collar. Unlike inhumane metal choke collars, which can constrict around your dog’s neck tight enough to cause pain, martingale collars can only tighten enough to prevent your dog from slipping out of their collar.

They’re also made primarily of fabric, so even when the collar constricts, it won’t dig into your dog’s neck with enough force to cause any harm. Ensuring a proper fit with a martingale collar will keep your dog secure without allowing the collar to tighten past the size of your dog’s neck, which makes for a comfortable wearing experience.

four dogs in park on leashes

Which dogs should use a martingale collar?

The unique design was created for owners of sighthounds, breeds like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Salukis, that were bred to hunt using their sight and speed.

Since their invention, martingale collars have become popular with owners of all dog breeds. While it isn’t a substitute for a regular flat collar, your dog may benefit from wearing a martingale collar if he is:

An escape artist

If your dog is a little too smart and uses every opportunity to escape by backing out of his collar, try using a martingale collar when you put him on a leash. Martingale collars can be used in addition to your dog’s flat collar to keep him from bolting to explore his surroundings.

Dogs who are extremely timid and shy

A martingale collar gives dog owners a special measure of security for pets that are timid or fearful, especially in unfamiliar situations. Because the collar’s unique design prevents choking, it’s a gentle way to safely prevent them from escaping their collar and running away.

A new rescue

It’s not unusual for a new rescue to become frightened and disoriented in their new surroundings. Using a martingale collar with a leash while your new family member becomes familiar with his environment can help prevent accidental runaway situations.

Dogs in training

Many trainers like to use martingale collars when teaching good leash manners because it’s much more humane than a choke or spike collar. These collars tighten with just a tug, letting your pet know a different behavior is expected of them.

If you want to know more, you can check our guide on how to make a dog harness out of rope.

How to fit a martingale collar

A martingale collar should rest comfortably around the middle of your dog’s neck. They come in two different styles, one that buckles around your dog’s neck and one that slips over his head.

Slip-on martingale

If your dog’s head is larger than his neck, measure the largest part of his head and add 2 inches (1 inch if your dog is small). Use that measurement to determine the size range of a slip-on collar to purchase according to the manufacturer. When in doubt, choose the larger size.

For dogs with larger necks, measure the circumference at the middle of their neck. Use that measurement and add 2 inches (1 inch if your dog is small) to determine the size range of the collar to purchase.

Buckle martingale

For collars that buckle, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck at the middle and add 2 to 2.5 inches. Use that measurement to determine the size range of the collar you need.

Once you’ve determined the correct size, loosen the collar enough to put it on your pup and then adjust it to fit correctly:

  • Adjust the two metal rectangles so that they are approximately 2 inches apart from each other.
  • Pull up on the D-ring of the smaller loop. If the metal rectangles touch, the collar needs to be tightened.
  • Test to make sure the collar is not too tight. You should be able to slip one or two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck when there’s tension on the smaller loop.
smiling golden with red collar

Use caution

Experts don’t recommend using a martingale collar for everyday use, especially if your dog is crated, because the small loop can get caught on objects and create a choking hazard. Due to the tightening aspects of the smaller loop, a martingale collar isn’t suitable for attaching dog tags. The collar also may not work for dogs that habitually pull on their leash. Some believe it makes a dog’s pulling habit even worse, which can damage the neck over time.

If you have additional questions, consult your veterinarian or a dog trainer for recommendations. When used correctly, martingale collars are an effective resource to help you keep your canine companion safe and well-behaved.

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