The martingale collar: What it is and how to fit one

Martingale collars are essential for dogs that have been known to slip their collars in the past. They first gained renown among greyhound owners, but they’ve recently seen a surge in popularity with dog owners of all breeds. A martingale collar keeps your dog securely leashed without any uncomfortable choking, so they’re an especially great fit for dogs that regularly slip free of traditional collars.

Let’s take a look at the martingale collar in depth — and how to ensure the proper fit for your dog.

What is a martingale collar?

Martingale collars are also known as no-slip collars or limited-slip collars, and they offer more control and stability than standard flat collars. They prevent your dog from being able to slip out of their collar by including an additional loop made of fabric or a chain with a D-ring attached for the leash.

As your dog pulls on the leash, the smaller loop constricts, causing the bulk of the collar to tighten around your dog’s neck, secure enough to keep your dog from slipping free, but not too tight to choke your dog.

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.

How to fit a martingale collar

Rottweiler lying down on the ground.
Matthias Zomer/Pexels

One of the most important factors of getting a proper fit with a martingale collar is your dog’s head size. While most dogs can use a 1-inch martingale collar, if your dog has a narrow head that can easily slip free of most collars, a wider option is your best bet.

To ensure a proper fit, you need to measure around the base of your dog’s skull behind their ears and choose the smallest collar that will accommodate your dog’s head. Here’s the ideal collar size for various dog breeds according to martingale collar manufacturer PetSafe:

  • Petite: 3/8 of an inch
  • Small: 3/4 of an inch
  • Medium: 3/4 to 1 inch
  • Large: 1 inch

After purchasing the martingale collar, slide the collar over your dog’s head to the spot at the base of the skull where you took your measurements. Pull at the small loop with your fingers to ensure there’s a distance equal to the width of two fingers between the slides, as this will ensure the collar tightens enough to keep your dog secure without being overly tight.

Are martingale collars safe to use?

Because they’re meant for dogs that tend to wriggle free of standard collars, a martingale collar is best for escape artists. If your dog constantly pulls on their leash, they’ll keep their martingale collar taut around their neck at all times. While this might deter some dogs, others are so stubborn they’ll tolerate the discomfort and keep on pulling.

If this sounds like your dog, behavioral training in addition to a martingale collar might be a good option. It’s also important to note that martingale collars are meant to be worn during walks and removed once you’re back at home. The additional loop on the collar increases the risk that your dog might get caught on something, so you should always keep an eye on your dog while they’re wearing a martingale collar.

What breeds should use a martingale collar?

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While they’re useful for any breed if your dog likes to slip out of their collar, martingale collars are especially beneficial if your dog has a slim head. Breeds like Borzois, whippets, Salukis, and greyhounds all have very narrow heads in comparison to the size of their necks, making it easy for them to slip free from traditional collars.

That being said, if your dog is fond of backing out of their collar when it’s time to go for a walk, a martingale collar might be a good solution.

Although they serve a similar function to a traditional choke collar, martingale collars are safe to use. If it’s properly fitted, a martingale collar can only tighten to the width of your dog’s neck, ensuring a secure, comfortable fit your dog can’t slip free of during a walk.

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