We are supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Thank you!

If you’ve spent any time delving into the world of dog collars and harnesses, you’ve likely come across martingale collars. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the ins and outs of martingale collars, how to decide if one is a good choice for your dog, and some of the best ones available on the market.

While the martingale collar is not as commonly used as the “regular” flat-buckle collar most of us have on our dogs, they can be a helpful tool for escape artists, or to provide an extra sense of security when your dog is on a leash.

However, proper fitting and use of a martingale collar is imperative to their safe use. 

What is a martingale collar?

A martingale collar for dogs is often referred to as a “greyhound collar”, “limited-slip collar” or “humane choke collar.” The martingale collar consists of two loops, one large and one small, and the purpose is to prevent a dog from slipping out of their collar and escaping.

The martingale name likely derives from the piece of tack used in horses by the same name, which is designed (in horses) to prevent them from lifting their head too high.

The smaller of the two loops on a martingale collar contains a D-ring, where the leash is attached. When pressure is applied, such as when the dog pulls on the leash, this extra loop allows the collar to tighten just enough that it prevents the dog’s head from slipping out, without choking the dog.

Thus, this makes the martingale collar the collar of choice for many owners of sighthounds – such as greyhounds – in which the dog’s head is often the same size or smaller than their neck.

The martingale collar allows the collar to be snug under moments of pressure, preventing escape, without perpetually tightening and choking the dog.

Martingale collars also have an additional safety benefit that slip leads and choke collars do not – the collar can still be thick and wide, spreading pressure out over a larger surface. This helps avoid potentially harming the dog’s sensitive neck with a thin line of pressure like found in a slip lead or choke collar. 

If you would like to learn more about slip leads and their uses, then you can read all about it here.

Here is my demonstration of how to use a martingale collar:

How to use a martingale collar

Martingale collars should be fit so they are comfortable and loose when no pressure is applied, and just snug enough to prevent escape without choking the dog when pressure is applied.

In other words, the martingale collar should fit just like a flat buckle collar on your dog the majority of the time – loose enough to fit 2 fingers under the collar, but not so loose that it’s like a necklace.

When collars are too loose, they pose a safety hazard as the dog can easily back out of the collar and escape. This applies to both martingales and flat buckle collars. Martingales will not help prevent escapes if they are fitted too loosely to start with, so again, 2 fingers is the rule.

Besides measuring how the martingale collar fits your dog when relaxed, you need to also make sure the collar then fits snuggly, without choking, when tightened.

If there is still a gap when the collar is tightened, the martingale is not snug enough to prevent escape.

On the same lines, if the collar can tighten so much that it’s more than just a snug fit on your dog, you risk the collar no longer being safer than a choke chain.

Once properly fitted, it’s time to use your martingale! As previously mentioned, this collar should be used as a backup method to keep dogs safe from slipping out of a regular collar.

Thus, your martingale should be used just as you would use another collar on walks. The goal is that your dog does not pull on the leash, same as with a flat buckle collar.

dog walking on pet leash

Martingale collars should NOT be used to deliver leash corrections. While you may find dog trainers promoting martingale collars as “humane choke collars” or “half check collars,” the proper use of a martingale is simply to keep your dog from escaping their collar. Delivering leash corrections can harm your dog – physically and mentally.

In fact, you should focus on reward-based training across the board with your dog. Leading scientific organizations, such as the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, recommend the use of reward-based dog training.

This is due to the success that reward-based training has, and the negative effects that punishment-based training can have on a dog’s mental and physical health.

In addition, martingale collars should be used in moments where you have your dog on a leash and only want to prevent escape. Martingale collars, due to their extra loop and the ability to tighten more than a regular collar, can be risky to leave on your dog otherwise.

Are martingale collars cruel and do they hurt?

Martingale collars are not cruel when used correctly. If used improperly, the result can cause harm to the dog. When martingale collars are used to deliver corrections or to tighten so much they start to choke a dog, the result can range from mild discomfort to being harmful and potentially cruel.

That is not the proper use of a martingale collar – just as it is not the proper use of a regular dog collar. Organizations such as the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommend and sell properly fitted martingale collars to avoid incorrect use.

If you fit and use a martingale collar properly, it can actually prevent your dog from becoming hurt. The Humane Society of the United States, in fact, recommends martingale collars for fearful and anxious dogs as the most humane way to prevent them from escaping.

For dogs with heads smaller than their necks, or seasoned escape artists that may flail backward on their leash in an attempt to slip the collar, there can be a severe risk associated with escaping.

Be sure to read our new eye-opening post, Is Pet Insurance Worth It: 5 shocking facts you need to know... You might be in for a shock!

Dogs not on a leash may be hit by a car, attacked by another animal, or simply run from fear until they are spooked and far from home, without shelter, food, or clean water easily available. You might like to read our post: Will My Dog Run Away Off-Leash?

Martingale collars are also sometimes used in cases when the dog wearing the collar may be aggressive towards another dog or human. Having an extra safety feature on the collar to ensure the dog stays with the owner can protect others in the community, too.

Overall, if used correctly and for proper use, they are an excellent tool for dog owners.

how-a-martingal-collar-works-when-pulled

Do vets recommend martingale collars?

Many veterinarians recommend martingale collars, especially when safety due to a dog escaping a collar is a concern. While they may not recommend a martingale collar for every single dog, they’re widely considered acceptable and safe.

Debra Horwitz and Gary Landsberg – both veterinarians and also diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, write regarding martingale collars: “Can be used effectively … with less risk of damage or slipping off than a chain collar.”

Dr. Sophia Yin, the wonderful veterinarian, and pioneer of Low-Stress Handling of animals in vet clinics, wrote regarding types of collars, harnesses, and halters – and their appropriate use.

She noted that martingale collars are used much like flat collars, just with the added ability to prevent escapes.

Dr. Sophia Yin also notes that for dogs that may be at an increased risk of a collapsed trachea, or dogs at an increased risk of eye conditions related to pressure in the eye, martingale collars may not be the ideal choice. However, this applies to any collar that might put pressure on the neck when the dog pulls – not just a martingale collar specifically.

regular-collar-dangers

Similarly, Clarendon Animal Hospital notes that martingales should be avoided in dogs with neck pain or discomfort, along with any other collar encircling the neck. 

If you have concerns that your dog is at risk, due to their genetics, being brachycephalic, or a medical history that indicates concerns, it’s best to speak with your dog’s veterinarian to decide if a harness or head halter is a safer option for your dog.

For dogs that do not regularly pull on the leash – and thus do not put regular pressure on their neck – martingales are widely considered safe and recommended in instances where a dog may escape another type of collar or harness.

Best martingale collars

With so many martingale collars available, it can be hard to choose the best one! We’ve broken down some popular choices so you can pick the martingale collar best for you and your dog.

All of our rated collars below you can click on and it will take you to the Amazon listing, however if you like Chewy, we also recommend the Frisco Solid Nylon Martingale Collar.

#1: Ruffwear Web Reaction Martingale Collar

We like the Ruffwear martingale due to its quality and features, and although there are only 4 designs to choose from, it’s still a great looking collar that will serve your dog well. 

PROS

CONS

Reliable company with a wide range of products for dogs and the outdoors

Size range is smaller than other brands – 11” to 26”

Quick-release buckle for added safety

Only 4 colors/patterns available

Separate ring to hold tags and easily move them between collars – ideal if using the martingale only when on leash

 

 

#2 Lupine Martingale Collar

The Lupine is a USA-made product with a rock-solid guarantee. There are also a ton of quirky and fun designs to choose from.

PROS

CONS

The company guarantees products with a free replacement, even if chewed!

No quick-release buckle – can only be taken on and off over the dog’s head

Wide range of patterns and colors, including Eco-recycled material options

Sizes start at 10” necks (and up to 27”), so no options available for small dogs

 

#3 Max and Neo Martingale Collar

Although nothing too fancy, the Max and Neo does what it needs to do without fuss and for an affordable price. Just watch for if your dog is a puller, in which case a wider collar would be more desirable.

 

PROS

CONS

Every collar bought equals a collar donated to a shelter dog!

Only plain colors are available

Has a quick-release buckle with the ability to lock closed to prevent accidental unbuckling

Chain loop is available on some – which may snag on things easier

Large range of sizes, from 10” to 33” necks

 

 

#4 Mighty Paw Leather Martingale Collar

For a quality collar that will last for years to come, you can’t go past the Mighty Paw martingale. It’s a solid choice for the solid dogs out there!

PROS

CONS

Durable to the elements with a stainless steel hardware

Has a metal chain, which can bother some dogs and get caught on something more easily

Buckle is available for easy on/off

Sizes start at 10” necks (and up to 27”), so no options available for small dogs

 

#5 Sheepskin Lined Auburn Leathercrafters Martingale Collar

If your dog suffers from thin skin around the neck, or thin hair, then this sheepskin martingale is a good choice.

 

PROS

CONS

Wide collar padded with sheepskin for extra comfort and protection if a dog happens to pull on the leash

Has a metal chain, which can bother some dogs and get caught on something more easily

Many sizes, from 10” to 26”, and several colors available

No buckle

Best martingale collar for strong dogs

While you are ideally utilizing a martingale collar with a dog that does not constantly pull on the leash, big and strong dogs can put a lot more pressure on the collar than others. This is especially true in moments when they’re spooked, excited, or otherwise might jump out of the gate.

For this reason, the Country Brook Petz Heavy Duty Martingale Collar is an excellent option for strong dogs, as it has a wide collar and strong buckles. 

 

PROS

CONS

Reinforced with box stitching at pressure points

No quick-release buckle – can only be taken on and off over the dog’s head

Wide range of sizes and colors (from 5” to 31” necks)

Larger dogs may find the 1” width less comfortable than a wider option

Welded rings to ensure reliability and strength

 

 

Can you leave a martingale collar on a dog?

If you have an escape artist dog and find a martingale beneficial to their safety when on walks, you may be wondering if it’s safe to leave a martingale collar on your dog at all times. Many dog owners leave flat buckle collars on their dogs, so it may seem like a reasonable idea to leave the martingale collar on instead.

However, there are always risks to consider when leaving a martingale collar on a dog.

Any type of collar or harness, including a martingale, has the potential to become entangled in something in the dog’s environment. This may be a fence, a crate, the jaws of another dog, or a myriad of other things.

When tangled, your dog may attempt to twist and spin to escape, which can tighten the collar until it’s unsafe and too tight. Or, if your dog had been jumping up when the collar became entangled, your dog may become stuck without their feet on the ground – a very dangerous situation.

For this reason, some people decide not to leave collars on their dogs at all when they are unsupervised.

Others decide to leave collars on in many cases, so the dog has an easy form of identification should they escape from the home or yard.

There should be some consideration given to the type of martingale collar when evaluating its safety.

Martingales with a chain are more likely to get stuck – whether in a dog’s mouth or on something in the home. Flat martingales made with fabric are often safer, but the extra loop may pose some additional safety concerns when considering opportunities for the collar to get stuck on something in the environment.

Finally, it’s also important to consider if your martingale exclusively fits by sliding over your dog’s head, or if a quick-release buckle is available to take it on and off.

If your dog should become entangled, and no buckle is available to quickly remove the collar, you are often left with needing to cut the collar off of the dog.

What’s best for you and your dog will vary. You might find that the risk of collar entanglement outweighs the risk of your dog darting out the door and becoming lost – or vice versa. In general, you can minimize risks by ensuring the collar has a buckle release, is all fabric, and by supervising your dog when it’s being worn.

Can you use martingale collars on puppies?

Yes, a martingale collar is safe for a puppy to wear, as long as it is properly fitted. One extra consideration with puppies, though, is that puppies grow quickly, and because martingale collars need to be fitted carefully, you need to adjust the collar as your puppy grows to ensure it doesn’t become too snug.

Many owners are often surprised by how quickly some puppies grow out of their collar. You may go through several collars, even if they are adjustable by size.

Thus, if you decide to use a martingale collar on a puppy, you should ensure you check it daily for fit to prevent it from becoming too tight.

You should also be aware that martingale collars will not help with pulling – many puppies are not trained to walk on a loose leash – and it’s not ideal for a dog to pull with any type of collar worn around their neck. We’ll cover more on this in the next section.

puppy wearing martingale collar

Do martingale collars stop pulling?

No, martingale collars do not help with pulling. In fact, no specific piece of equipment is going to teach a dog to walk nicely on the leash by itself. Instead, pairing the best piece of walking equipment for your dog with positive reinforcement training for loose leash walking is the best choice.

In order for a collar or harness to help with pulling, it has to be physically impossible, uncomfortable, or painful when the dog pulls on the leash.

As previously mentioned, training with intimidation, pain, and discomfort can lead to additional behavioral and physical health problems. Thus, it’s recommended by leading training organizations such as the CCPDT, ADPT, and IAABC to train using the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive method possible – often referred to as LIMA training.

This is why, while you may find some dog trainers recommend the use of a martingale collar to deliver collar corrections, we do not consider this to be a proper use of a martingale collar.

Martingale collars were designed to prevent the escape of dogs on leash, not to cause discomfort or pain in the name of training.

Instead of relying on a specific collar or harness to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, you should use positive reinforcement techniques to teach the dog what you want them to do.

Certain tools, such as choke chains and prong collars, should always be avoided when teaching a dog due to the risks they pose.

Other options, such as a head halter or a front clip harness, can provide some extra control and safety while teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash instead of pulling. However, not all of these are good choices for all situations, so it’s best to consult a trainer.

For help with teaching your dog to stop pulling, as well as deciding what equipment is best for you and your dog, contact a qualified trainer, such as a Karen Pryor Academy graduate or Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed.

Martingale collars and sighthound breeds

As previously mentioned, martingale collars are often referred to as “Greyhound collars” in some places. This is because many of the sighthounds, such as the Greyhound, Whippet, and Saluki, have a small head relative to the size of their neck.

Sighthounds are a group of powerful and graceful dogs, bred to cover a large distance in a short period of time while tracking prey via sight (rather than scent). They commonly have long, slender heads and a trim body frame, contributing to their aerodynamic nature.

Since they have small ears, a slender head, and a neck often as wide as their skull, it can be easy for a traditional collar to slip off of a sighthound’s head.

If that happens, not only do you have an off-leash dog to catch – but one that was bred specifically for running extremely fast!

Thus, martingale collars are the collar of choice for many sighthound owners that wish to keep their dogs safe while taking them on walks or to various events.