What is a Martingale Collar?
A Martingale collar, also known as a limited slip collar is a type of collar used to prevent a dog’s head from slipping out of the collar as well as for leash training.
It is a basically a regular flat fabric or leather collar that includes a tightening component similar to a choke or a “check” chain.
The most important difference is that a Martingale collar is a limited slip, or “limited choke” collar that is designed to prevent your dog from getting out without the dangers of strangulation of a choke chain.
Choke chains and prong collars are considered inhumane and dangerous for the wide majority of dogs.
Martingale collars are considered humane collars because the collar can only be tightened to certain degree.
Enough to prevent escaping - but without the dangers of choking. (Only mild and temporary discomfort)
Additionally, these types of collars are commonly made out of nylon fabrics to prevent the collar from “cutting” into a dog’s neck that can happen with choke chains and slip cords.
There are even padded Martingale collars for additional comfort - especially helpful for dogs with fragile necks.
More and more dog owners are discovering the benefits of Martingale collars for both as a safety precaution and as a helpful leash training tool.
What Are Martingale Collars Good For?
Traditionally, these collars were used slim-headed dog breeds like Greyhounds and Whippets who could easily “slip” out of a typical collar.
The tightening feature of a Martingale would ensure that these dogs could not slip out when they start to pull on the collar.
Nowadays, more dog owners who have issues with their dogs slipping out of traditional collars are turning to Martingales for added security and peace of mind when out walking.
Additionally, dog trainers commonly use Martingale collars for leash training. When a dog pulls to far, the slight tightening of the collar will inform or “check” the dog to the unwanted behavior.
But because these collars are limited slips - they don’t come with the dangers of typical choke chains and prong collars.
The fixed loop of the collar will only allow a certain amount of tightening that will prevent harm to your dog’s neck and esophagus.
The key is to ensure a proper fit. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Ensuring that a Martingale collar fits right will provide safety from escapes as well as safety from the collar getting too tight during a pull.
Dog rescue groups commonly use these collars to prevent escapes as rescue dogs tend to be skiddish and have a higher chance of wanting to escape.
What Types of Dog Breed Benefit From Martingale Collars?
As long as a dog breed is not contraindicated against wearing this type collar - martingale collars can be used on the majority of dog breeds.
Breeds that especially benefit from martingale collars are breeds that necks that are smaller or the same size as their neck.
With these breeds, regular flat collars can be prone to slipping off when pulled. So breeds like whippets, greyhounds, and salukis especially benefit from limited-slip collars.
Whereas, large headed dogs like mastiffs and rottweilers may do fine on regular collars.
Martingale collars are also highly practical for dogs that are a flight risk and prone to escaping - especially the ones with smaller or average sized heads.
No need to debate which dog breed this describes….
Yes, martingale collars are great for Shiba Inus. They provide safety from escape while teaching the Shiba good walking manners.
Just be sure to weigh the benefits versus risks when deciding what type of collar or harness you ultimately choose.
Many dogs like Shiba Inus despise wearing harnesses so using a martingale collar to give them comfort and reduce the chance of escape is a good option - especially when walking in hectic areas near roads.
However some Shiba Inus, especially older ones suffer from conditions that make anything tight on their neck a bad idea. These conditions include glaucoma, thyroid issues, and breathing problems.Also older Shiba Inus are more likely to be leash trained while also less likely to be escape risks.
Types of Martingale Collars
Nylon Martingale Collar
The nylon collar is the most common and popular form of martingale collars. It looks just like a typical nylon dog collar with the addition of an adjustable loop that attaches to a leash.
When a dog pulls the collar will begin tightening evenly just as how choke chains do, but then stops at a certain point reducing the dangers of choking your dog.
This fact along with the type of material used is why martingale collars are commonly referred to as a “humane” choke collar.
Half Check Dog Collar
A half check dog collar is half nylon martingale collar and have metal choke chain. Half check collars are used most often by dog trainers who need a bit more durability and correction for stronger and or more stubborn dogs.
The sound of the metal chain also helps the dog associate the correction to the unwanted behavior.
Extended Width Martingale Collars
Martingale collars come in various widths with the most common being 1” inch.
However dogs with slim heads like greyhounds benefit from wider collars with additional padding that are safer and more comfortable for these types of dogs.
Standard Martingale Collars or “Buckled” Martingale Collars
Standard collars need to be adjusted to proper size and then looped through your dog’s head. Standard collars are lighter in weight than buckled collars making them better for smaller dogs or dogs with fragile necks.
Buckled collars simply snap on an snap off, making it easier for those that have dogs that don’t like putting their heads through collars. So dogs that have either large heads or tend to be skittish would likely prefer a buckled collar.
Other Martingale Collar Options
- Reflective martingale collars
- Martingale collars with buckles
- Leather / rolled leather martingale collars
- Padded collars
- Embroidered collars
- Personalized collars
- Quick release martingale collars
Where To Buy Martingale Collars
Martingale collars are a bit trickier to find than regular flat collars. There should be a small selection in most big box pet stores like Petco and Petsmart.
Once you know the correct size of the collar you need, the best to shop is online - where you’ll have many options to choose from.
Amazon is probably the easiest place to shop for collars, but smaller boutique shops might offer you a bunch more options in terms of design and personalization.
One of the most trustworthy mainstream brand of martingale collars is Lupine. They also offer an excellent warranty.
If you and your dog are all about unique then head on over to either ifitbarks.com or 2houndsdesign.com
At Ifitbarks.com, you can get a personalized martingale collar and if you prefer “buckle” type martingales, you can choose from plastic, metal, or aluminum buckles for added chic.
When and How To Use Martingale Collars
Martingale collars, just like traditional collars are easy to use.
The two most important things are getting the right type of collar for your dog’s needs and getting the right fit.
Traditional martingale collars just need to be slipped over your dogs head.
Buckled collars are even easier to use - simply snap on and off the buckle when needed.
When training your dog to walk nicely on a leash, it’s best to use as much positive reinforcement as possible.
Observe when the dog is heeling correctly and offer lot’s of praise and encouragement. When the dog pulls, the collar will tighten a bit and you should give a calm verbal reprimand like “no pull”.
Sometimes, stopping completely while your dog pulls is effective in teaching that pulling on the leash will not get the dog where he or she wants to go any faster.
For Use as Safety From Slipping During Walks
If you just want to utilize a collar that is safer from slipping out of, then a standard nylon collar is sufficient.
Take measurements of your dog’s neck and choose an appropriate size collar. The collar should have just a tiny bit of slack so that when it needs to be pulled it won’t over tighten around your dog’s neck. Being able to tuck two fingers under the collar is a good starting point.
It’s critical to check that the collar does not over tighten when full engaged. It should only tighten just enough to prevent escape while causing only minor discomfort.
For Use as a Leash Training Tool
Martingale collars are helpful to use when training your dog how to walk properly on a leash. For most dogs, a regular nylon collar should be sufficient.
If your dog is a bit more rambunctious and / or easily distracted, then a half-check martingale collar would be a better choice.
Remember though, these type of collars should NEVER be used simply to keep your dog from constantly pulling.
If your dog is a constant puller, both you and your dog need to engage in more leash walking training sessions with safer options like a no-pull harness, halti, or head collar.
Using a martingale collar on a dog that constantly pulls is both unsafe and unpleasant for the dog involved.
A martingale collar is only appropriate to teach a dog not to pull - NOT to prevent a dog who already has bad pulling habits from pulling.
How To Fit a Martingale Collar
To find the right sized martingale collar simply measure the circumference of both your dog’s neck and head.
Use a soft tape measure and measure the area of the neck where the collar is usually located, then measure your dog’s head. Don’t measure too tight as well as measuring too loose. The tape should be exactly flush with your dog’s neck.
If your dog’s neck is larger than their head, then you will go by the neck measurements.
If your dog’s head is larger than your dog’s neck, you will then instead go by the head measurements.
There are slight measurement differences when measuring for a standard martingale collar or measuring for a buckled martingale collar.
For standard collars, you would take either the neck or head measurements (whichever is larger) and simply add 1” extra for small dogs and 2” extra for medium / larger dogs.
So for example if your dog’s neck is larger than it’s head, you would take that measurement, for example 16” and add 2 additional inches due to the fact that your dog is a larger dog.
This will give you an 18” measurement. So you will know that you need to choose a collar that is in that range.
For buckled martingale collars, you just need the dog’s neck measurements.
Then add an additional 1” to 2” for smaller dogs or 2” to 2.5” for larger dogs.
Ideally, a correctly fitted martingale collar will be just a tad loose when not pulled. The two metal sides of the D-Ring should always be at least one inch apart.
When pulled these two sides should never be able to touch.
Are Martingale Collars Safe To Use?
When used properly, martingale collars are perfectly safe to use on most dogs. However certain dog types should not use these types of collars.
Especially small dogs with fragile necks should not use martingale collars as even slight pressure could be harmful.
You should also not use these collars on puppies as their necks are still fragile.
Dogs with bull necks or at risk for tracheal collapse such as Pugs should not use martingales.
Dogs with any type of neck or breathing issues should not use these collars as well for obvious precautionary reasons.
Also dogs with eye issues such as Glaucoma should stay away from any type of “choking” collars to avoid putting any additional pressure on their necks and eyes.
Even though these collars should not “choke” dogs at their tightest point, it’s still better to err on the side of caution if your dog has any of the aforementioned risk factors.
It’s also very important to understand that Martingale collars are only to be used when the dog is under complete supervision, whether it’d be walking or training sessions.
Martingale collars should not be viewed an everyday “leave on” collar but rather a training and escape prevention tool.
The reason is because of a small possibility that the collars gets caught on something and chokes your dog. Actually any collar can be a choking risk but because martingale collars have some slack, this risk is bit higher.
Martingale Collar Vs. Harness
Both martingale collars and harnesses serve specific purposes and you’d likely benefit from having both.
Many dogs just can’t stand the feel of of harnesses so martingale collars would provide better comfort while also providing escape prevention.
Martingales are also helpful to aid in good leash walking skills in a humane and safe manner.
Harnesses also can sometimes chafe and irritate a dog’s skin.
On larger dogs, harnesses can be quite bulky and cumbersome to deal with in a frequent manner.
Also note that harnesses are not escape-proof - especially when not adjusted correctly.
Dogs that are not leash trained may pull even harder in harnesses than collars. There are front attached “no pull” harnesses that are made to discourage pulling.
Collars, especially the types with buckles are easier and faster to put on.
Harnesses are good for puppies, small dogs and dogs with sensitive necks.
Additionally, harnesses are great for activities such as hiking, and jogging.
You can easily pick up your dog (unless you have a giant dog) to maneuver over difficult terrain on hikes. When running, harnesses will protect your dog’s neck from getting yanked avoiding possible injury.
Martingale Collar Vs. Choke Chain
Aversive dog tools like choke chains and prong collars are no longer recommended for dogs.
These types of collars can cause serious discomfort and injuries to dogs.
While these types of collars usually work in controlling a dog - studies have shown that dogs respond much better to positive training methods versus aversive training methods.
Furthermore, aversive training methods can cause your dog to not trust you and be uncomfortable around you.
There might be only a few situations where these types of collars are needed on certain dogs with the right handler.
A correctly fitted martingale collar is human and not supposed to cause serious discomfort or injuries. Instead it should only make the dog uncomfortable enough to stop pulling. This is why these type of collars are sometimes referred to as humane choke collars.
Hopefully, this information has given you a good introduction to the use of Martingale collars.
Like any tool, the effectiveness depends on proper usage in the "right" situations for the "right" dog.
For the most part, dog owners who do use martingale collars regularly enjoy the control and safety features of the collar.
Plus you can't go wrong with the wide selection of stylish and functional designs!
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