What is a Martingale Dog Collar?

Martingale collars were first used for sighthounds like whippets and greyhounds.

Also known as slip collars or limited-slip collars, you’ll find these collars deliver more control and support in some situations. If, for example, your dog tends to slip out of his regular collar, you may find a martingale keeps him in check.

Used to train your fur buddy to behave

A martingale collar looks similar to a standard flat collar. The key difference is that roughly one-third the length of a martingale collar is a small loop of material equipped with a D-ring. You may find the small loop is made of metal rather than fabric on some martingale collars.

When your dog pulls on the leash, the resultant tension cause the small loop to tighten, and this tightens the large loop, but without overtightening it like a choke collar does.

All of these collars are adjustable. You should make sure the collars don’t tighten beyond the width of your pup’s neck.

Martingale collars are adjustable, and should not tighten past the width of the dog’s neck. They offer comfortable security without harming your dog.

A martingale collar, then, is both a comfortable alternative and a humane alternative to a choke collar.

See our related article where we do full reviews on the Best Martingale Collars. These collars can fit dogs of all sizes. See which one is best suited for your dog.

What Is the Difference Between a Regular Collar and a Martingale Collar?

The key difference between martingale collars and traditional flat dog collars is the presence of two loops on martingale collars. 

One of these loops allows you to adjust the size of the collar around your dog’s neck, ensuring you get a snug fit for Fido. The other loop gives you control over your dog when you use this collar with a leash.

A regular dog collar doesn’t have the extra loop that tightens when pulled

If you’re out walking and your dog starts pulling on the leash, you’ll notice the martingale collar will gently tighten around your dog’s neck, prompting him to stop pulling without choking him.

As soon as your dog stops pulling, the tension is released, making this a great collar for training purposes, while also much less invasive and uncomfortable than choke chain collars. Both choke collars and prong collars can turn into negative training tools in the wrong hands.

The way the mechanism gently but firmly prevents your dog from backing out of the collar makes a martingale highly effective if you walk a dog prone to this behavior near busy roads.

While the design of these collars makes them a smooth fit for sighthounds, they also work well with most breeds prone to pulling on the leash or backing out of their regular collars.

Before using any kind of training tool, you should attempt to correct your dog’s behavior using positive reinforcement, but there is no doubt a martingale can be invaluable for many dog owners unable to adequately discipline Rover without a helping hand.

Now you know how these collars work, are martingale collars safe to use?

Are Martingale Collars Safe?

The optimum use for a martingale collar is when you are walking a dog liable for any reason to slip or back his way out of a regular collar.

So long as you put it on correctly your doggo is safe.

Martingale collars are not intended as a go-to walking aid for dogs who pull on the leash. If your dog behaves like this when you’re walking, the martingale collar would be permanently tight, neither advisable nor humane. Instead, try working on some loose leash skills.

Most dog trainers suggest only using a martingale collar for walking rather than leaving it on at home as an all-day collar.

So, martingales collars are safe, and there’s also humane, but the loose overall design coupled with the dangling ring means there is more chance your dog will get snagged up on something when wearing these collars. Mitigate this by ensuring he is always supervised when wearing his new martingale.

Are Martingale Collars Good for Training?

Despite their original development as a tool to stop dogs with small and narrow heads from pulling a Houdini act, they can also be a safe and effective training tool.

Most trainers praise the immediate and humane feedback these collars provide, meaning your dog should rapidly adjust his behavior without being made to feel uncomfortable.

Serious pullers do not make the best candidates for martingale collars, so avoid using one unless you want your hound to develop negative connotations with being walked on a leash.

Equally, dogs that pull powerfully and abruptly can end up badly bruised when walked with a martingale collar.

When your dog releases the tension when prompted by the collar, reward with a treat and praise.

Are Martingale Collars Cruel?

Not only are martingale collars not cruel, but they were also designed expressly to be humane.

You set the pulling limits, unlike choke collars where the chain continues tightening and tightening.

Made mainly of soft fabrics, the collar shouldn’t dig into your dog’s neck too forcefully even when it constricts around him.

Getting the right fit is vital if you want to keep your dog secure without the collar tightening past the size of his neck.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Martingale Collars?

To round out today’s guide to martingale dog collars, we’ll summarize the leading benefits and drawbacks of using one of these nifty tools.

Pros of Martingale Collars (Advantages)

  • The collar looks like a regular collar, so you won’t attract disapproving glances in the park, something that can’t be said for choke collars or prong collars
  • If your dog’s head is the same size as his neck or smaller than his neck, you’ll stop him from slipping out without forcing him to wear a tight and restrictive collar around the clock
  • If you get a martingale collar in the right size for your dog, it will never choke him. All you need to do is set the limit for how far the loop can close and he’s in safe hands
  • Whenever your pup pulls on his leash, the collar will tighten, hopefully enough to make him adjust his behavior, but not enough to cause any real discomfort
  • Shy dogs and new rescues often respond well to training with a martingale collar

Cons of Martingale Collars (Disadvantages)

  • If your dog continually pulls on his leash, he may associated a martingale collar with negative training and punishment. This can cause him to take against the leash in general, so pursue alternative training methods if your pooch is a relentless puller
  • These collars are unsuitable to leave on your dog when he is unsupervised
  • Martingale collars are not good for tie-outs
  • You need to supplement using a martingale collar with positive reinforcement, so this is not a complete substitute for leash training
  • If your dog pulls suddenly and forcefully, he could be injured when the martingale collar closes

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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