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For some dog owners, keeping your dog in their collar while out for a walk can be a nightmare.
Many dogs have Houdini-like skills, especially dogs with small heads roughly the same width as their neck, who can slip out of a collar. This is why Martingale collars were invented.
These collars look like normal collars, but their special design means that they tighten when your dog pulls on the collar, so they can’t get their head out.
But unlike a choke collar, which of course also does this, you can set the limit to which the collar can close, protecting your dog from dangerous choking.
For this reason, Martingale collars have become popular not only with Greyhound owners, but also with trainers teaching dogs how to walk on a loose leash.
The tightening around the neck when they start to pull on the leash can be a clear signal to change this behavior.
But how good and how safe a training technique is this really for your dog? That is exactly what we are going to look at in today’s article.
First, we will have a closer look at Martingale collars, their design, how they work, and how exactly they are different from choke collars. We will also talk about a few essential tips for using these collars safely.
We will then look at how these collars are used for training, the pros and cons of this, and how to do it safely.
Finally, we will share some of the best Martingale collars that you can buy today from Chewy if you do decide that a Martingale collar is right for your dog.
What Are Martingale Collars
Martingale collars are designed to stop your dog from slipping their head out of the collar. It works by tightening around the neck of your dog as they pull, so that they can’t get out.
The collar is made with two loops, connected to form a single loop for your dog’s neck.
The size adjustment is present on the larger loop, and the leash is attached to the smaller loop, which may be made from the same material as the rest of the collar or is sometimes made from a chain.
When your dog pulls on their lead, the small loop is pulled taught, which in turn causes the larger loop to tighten around their neck. This prevents them from escaping and encourages them not to pull on the lead.
These collars are primarily designed for dogs with thick necks and narrow heads, such as greyhounds, who manage to escape standard collars with relative ease.
For this reason, they are also sometimes known as greyhound or whippet collars, or even human choke collars.
However, because the Martingale collar tightens when the dog pulls, it is also used by some trainers to teach them to walk loosely on the leash without pulling.
Many years ago our Lab mix ,Linus slipped out of his regular buck collar and chased a coyote across the golf course. Ever since then we use a martingale training collar with all of our dogs.
How Are Martingale Collars Different From Choke Collars?
Reading the above description, you might think that a Martingale collar sounds a lot like a choke collar, but there are essential differences that make the Martingale collar much safer for your dog.
Unlike a chain choke collar, which will just keep tightening the harder your dog pulls, you can adjust a Martingale collar to the size of your dog’s neck.
This means that you can ensure that it never chokes them too much, no matter how hard they pull.
When you adjust your Martingale collar to the size of your dog’s neck, you simply adjust it to ensure that it stays at a size that will not choke them, even when the small loop is pulled completely closed.
This should mean that the larger loop closes to just small enough that they can’t get their neck out, and should apply just enough pressure to encourage your dog to stop pulling, but it should not represent any kind of choking risk.
Of course if your dog pulls on his leash then there will be some amount of choking similar to wearing a standard non-martingale collar.
Martingale Collar Safety
In order to make a Martingale collar safe, you need to have it set at the right size so that it won’t choke your pup.
This means that when the collar is set to the tightest it will go when they pull on the lead, you should still be able to comfortably fit one or two fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar.
You should also only put the Martingale collar on your dog when they are out for walks, and never leave the collar on them when they are at home, especially if they are unsupervised.
It is amazing the trouble that dogs can get into. Your pooch might easily be able to get something like a paw into the small loop of the collar and find themselves pulling the collar taught, placing uncomfortable and unnecessary tension on their neck.
Basically, it is a matter of safety first; if they don’t need the collar, don’t put it on them.
Martingale Collars For Training
While Martingale collars were initially developed as something to stop dogs with small heads from escaping from their collar, many trainers quickly identified it as a potential training tool and as a safe alternative to choke collars.
It is considered by many trainers as a viable tool to use for leash training and showing your dog how to walk on a loose leash.
This is because the safe tightening around the neck provides immediate feedback to signal to your dog that they need to adjust their behavior.
This all sounds very good in theory, and a Martingale collar can be a great tool to train some dogs—but not all dogs.
For example, a Martingale collar actually might not be the best choice if your dog is a serious puller and tends to pull on the leash most of the time when you are out on your walks.
While the collar shouldn’t choke them if properly adjusted, the tight feeling is meant to be uncomfortable. But you don’t want them to have that feeling of discomfort the entire time you are out, as all this is likely to do is create negative connotations with being on the leash.
Similarly, if your dog is the type that gives hard, sudden pulls, you might want to avoid a Martingale collar. While I always worry about the necks of dogs that jump away with vigor, the tightening of the collar can make this more dangerous and lead to serious bruising.
So, the Martingale collar is really a better choice for a dog that pulls a little and needs to learn to walk loosely on the leash.
But the Martingale collar is not sufficient. As well as receiving that tensing signal around the neck to change their behavior, they should be rewarded when they respond in the desired way to reinforce the behavior in the future.
So, when your dog does release the tension in response to the Martingale collar, make sure that you are also rewarding them with an edible treat or praise.
You can read our complete guide on How To Leash Train a Dog here.
Pros And Cons Of Martingale Collars
So, that is a lot of information to take in about Martingale collars, and the overall verdict is certainly that they are great in some situations but not in others.
To help you decide whether a Martingale collar is right for your dog, let’s take a complete look at the pros and cons.
- Martingale collars prevent dogs with heads the same size as or smaller than their necks from slipping out of their collars, without them having to wear a tight collar all the time.
- Martingale collars can pull tight around your dog’s neck when they pull on their lead, signaling them to stop and adjust their behavior.
- Martingale collars, properly sized, will never choke your dog, as you can set the limit to which the neck loop can close.
- Martingale collars look like normal collars, so they do not draw the same kind of attention as other sorts of training collars.
- Dogs that pull on their leash constantly may see a Martingale collar as a form of punishment, as it can leave them in a constant state of discomfort. This may have the effect of creating negative associations with being on the leash in general.
- Dogs that pull suddenly with a lot of force may be injured by a Martingale collar due to a combination of the force that they apply and the closing of the collar.
- A Martingale collar on its own is not sufficient to train a log for leash walking; they will still need to receive positive reinforcement for correct behavior.
- Martingale collars should not be left on your dog when they are unsupervised, or really any time when it is not a necessary accessory.
Best Martingale Dog Collars
If you do decide that a Martingale dog collar is right for you and your pup, there are plenty of good options out there.
You can try one of these three great options, all of which are available on Chewy right now.
Available in a wide variety of sizes and colors for every individual pup, PetSafe offers a range of affordable and safe Martingale collars.
It features a quick-release snap buckle, which means that it is easier to get on and off than many alternatives.
It’s made from durable, waterproof nylon, and so should last despite the low price-tag.
This is the Martingale Training Collar we use with all of our Labs.
Frisco offers a similar range of very affordable Martingale collars, in a variety of colors and sizes to suit the needs of every dog.
While your dog won’t be able to slip out of this collar, it offers a similar side-release buckle so that you can get it on and off with ease.
It is made from durable Nylon webbing that your dog should not be able to destroy, even if they are a serious puller.
If you are looking for something a bit more fashionable to put around your dog’s neck, then Country Brook offers a huge range of simple but chic Martingale collars.
Just choose your size and design. Unlike the previous options, these collars are made from strong polyester that shouldn’t irritate your dog’s skin while still being super strong.
Are Martingale Collars Good For Training?
Martingale collars can be a useful tool for training your dog, to teach them to walk loosely on the leash.
The safe tightening around the neck when they pull gives them the signal to change their behavior. However, they should still be rewarded for adjusting their behavior as a form of positive reinforcement.
However, a Martingale collar may not be the best choice for dogs that pull excessively on their collar.
The tightening of the collar is meant to be uncomfortable, so they may spend the duration of their time on the leash in discomfort. This can result in negative associations with being on the collar in general.
Can I Leave A Martingale Collar On My Dog?
It is best not to leave a Martingale collar on your dog when they are not on the leash, and especially when they are unsupervised.
The collar could easily get caught on something, and they might end up unwittingly tightening the collar themselves, leaving them in considerable discomfort until you return.
What Is The Purpose Of A Martingale Dog Collar?
The purpose of a Martingale collar is to prevent dogs that have heads that are the same width as their neck, or narrower than their neck, from slipping out of their collar.
If they pull on the collar to slip out, it will tighten around their neck without choking them, preventing them from removing the collar.
Do Martingale Collars Stop Pulling?
A Martingale collar can be used as a tool to teach your dog to stop pulling on their lead, but needs to be used in just the right way.
The tightening of the collar can alert the dog to the negative behavior–the pulling–and prompt them to correct it. But they will still need positive reinforcement to teach them that they have corrected their behavior correctly and to do the same in the future.
A Martingale collar isn’t always the best choice for serious pullers, as it may feel tight around the neck for the duration of the time on the leash. This can feel like a form of punishment and make your dog resist being on the leash.
Are Martingale Collars Cruel?
Martingale collars are specifically designed not to be cruel. Unlike choke collars, you can set the limit to which the collar can close when your dog is pulling, so that it will never cause them serious harm.
But a Martingale collar is just a tool, and like all tools, it can be used in a positive or a negative way. This type of collar should be used to guide and protect your dog, and never as a form of punishment.
How Do You Get A Martingale Collar Off?
Your dog should not be able to slip out of the Martingale collar, as it tightens when they pull on the collar to loosen it, preventing them from removing it.
Most Martingale collars are secured with a buckle and are put on and taken off just like any other type of collar.
Martingale collars are an important tool for many dog owners. Before these collars were available, if you had a dog with a neck that was wider than their head, you basically didn’t have a way to keep their collar on them while out on the lead.
A Martingale collar will tighten around your dog’s neck when they start to pull on the collar, preventing them from getting their heads out.
But unlike choke collars, you can set the limit to which the collar will close around your dog’s neck. This makes it much safer.
Many trainers have also seen the value of Martingale collars for teaching dogs how to walk on the leash. The safe tightening as they pull on the leash can give them the signal that they need to stop.
However, this type of training is not appropriate for all dogs. Dogs that pull constantly or sharply on their lead can feel very uncomfortable in a Martingale collar.
This discomfort can create negative associations with being on the lead in general.
The Martingale collar is best reserved for dogs that just need a little bit of extra instruction to walk loosely on a lead. Also, when they comply with the desired behavior, that behavior should still be reinforced with reward.
Have you used a Martingale collar with your dog?
Share your experience with the community in the comments section below or via social media.
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