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Martingale Collar Buyer's Guide

What is a Martingale Collar?

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Martingale collars are designed with two parts. A section of a flat collar and a control loop where the leash is attached to a D-ring, which tightens when pulled. This limited-slip collar was originally marketed for sighthounds as their large necks and smaller heads easily enabled them to escape traditional style collars. The tightening action of a martingale collar evenly distributes pressure around the neck and prevents the dog from backing out of the collar.

Martingales have grown in popularity among trainers and owners of other breeds as these collars work much better than a regular collar, on all dogs, are more humane than choke chains, and provide added control for strong pullers.

Benefits of If It Barks Martingale Collars

  • Ideal for all sizes and breeds especially dogs with a larger neck than their head.
  • No slip design reduces the chance of a dog backing out of the collar.
  • Humane tightening action evenly distributes pressure when the collar tightens, increasing control with strong pullers.
  • The looser fit will not catch on the fur of breeds with long coats reducing knotted fur around the collar.
  • Will not tarnish white coats, unlike other styles with a metal chain.
  • Option to add an additional D-ring to the main part of the collar for leash attachment or to hang identification tags.

All collars need to be appropriately adjusted to function and fit properly. See our sizing guide to learn how to measure your dog for their perfect fit.

How to Use a Martingale Collar

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The action of a martingale collar should be pull and release, pull and release. It is not meant to provide constant tightening action. It will tighten when pulled on, then the slack in the leash should release the tension and relax the collar. If you find your dog pulls constantly we recommend seeking the assistance of a trained professional to help you with some basic loose leash walking skills and training for your dog.

How to Measure For the Perfect Fit

For a collar to be safe, function appropriately, and looks its best, it needs to fit properly.

For both the standard martingale and the martingale with side release buckle you will follow these instructions in step 1. If you are ordering a standard martingale collar without a buckle, you will also need to follow step 2 to obtain a head measurement. 

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Step 1 - Measure Dog's Neck: Using a soft tape (seamstress tape) measure around your dog’s neck where their collar naturally sits. Pull the tape until it is snug but not tight. You should be able to comfortably put two fingers between the measuring tape and your dog's neck. Record your measurement.

If you do not have a soft tape, use a piece of string and measure around your dog’s neck using the above instructions. Take the string and lay it flat on a smooth surface and use a ruler or tape measure to obtain the measurement.

Step 2 - Measure Dog's Head: If you are ordering a standard martingale (without a buckle) the collar will need to be large enough to fit the neck, but also large enough to fit over the head and ears. Using the same method from step 1, measure the head starting at the throat and going around the head, including the ears.

Record the measurement and use it while determining the correct size collar to order. You will need to find the corresponding size of collar that will fit both the head measurement as well as the neck measurement (if buckle is not added).

If your dog’s measurements fall between two size categories we recommend ordering a custom sized collar.

The Right Size and Width for Martingales

Use your dog’s measurements to determine the appropriate size of collar for your dog when ordering your collar. For example, if your dog’s measurement was 14” you would order a small 11-15” collar as 14 inches falls between 11 and 15 inches.

Generally speaking, you would select a smaller width for a smaller dog, and thicker width for bigger dogs. A wider collar will distribute the pressure across a larger area of your dog’s neck making it more comfortable. There is no right or wrong answer but think small, medium and large in relation to the size of your dog and the width of the best size collar to order. Strong dogs, heavy pullers or dogs bordering on the next size up we may want to select a wider collar.

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 Neck Measurement  Collar Size*  Collar Width
 8-11"  Extra Small (XS)  3/4"
 11-15"  Small (S)  3/4"
15-22"   Medium (M)  1" or 1.5"
19-30"   Large (L)  1" or 1.5"

*If It Barks also offers custom sized collars, specifically tailored to your dog’s measurements.
The smaller the collar the less amount of adjustability when compared to large collars. We recommend ordering a custom size collar for small or hard to fit dogs.

Custom Size - Recommended

  • Not sure what size to order?
  • Is your dog’s measurement bordering between two sizes?
  • Want the absolutely best fitting collar for your dog?

If you agree with any of the statements above then having your dog’s collar custom sized is the perfect option. When ordering from If It Barks you have the option to select “Custom” and enter your dog’s measurements. We will take care of the rest for you and create a custom tailored collar for the perfect fit. We will make the collar with your dog’s neck measurement at the center position of the collars adjustable area.

Buckle Options for Martingale Collars

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The standard martingale is a collar without a buckle. This style must be adjusted large enough to be slipped over the dog’s head then adjusted once on for proper fit. This lightweight design is a good choice for smaller dogs that you do not want carrying the added weight of a buckle and durable enough for strong pullers.

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Our second style, a martingale with a side release buckle, was made with convenience in mind, with a quick release buckle (made from metal or strong plastic) for added safety, and ease of removal. This style is an excellent choice for dogs with large heads or does not like their ears being touched.

If It Barks martingale collars can have a quick release buckle added allowing for improved safety and convenience.

  • Plastic - If It Barks buckles are the strongest on the market. The 1” version is rated between 300-350 lbs. This standard design is lightweight, waterproof, military grade and scratch resistant.
  • Metal & Plastic - A good combination of lightweight plastic and metal finish. *Not recommended for use in saltwater.
  • Aluminum - Ultra heavy duty, ideal for larger dogs and strong pullers. Smooth design allows for easy release. *Not recommended for use in saltwater.

Personalized Buckles on Martingale Collars

m10-patriotic.jpgYou can eliminate the jingle of traditional tags by having the buckle of your new dog collar personalized. This option is available on all buckle styles. If It Barks uses the latest in fiber laser technology to give a nice, clearly readable marking on the buckle. Now your dog can wear their ID as part of their collar.

Benefits of personalized buckles:

  • Safer than wearing traditional ID tags that can become hooked or caught while your dog is running or playing.
  • Save money on not having to re-order lost dog tags.
  • Less bulky for small dogs to wear.
  • NO MORE JINGLE!

Note:  Pet tags should never but hung from the d-ring on the short loop of a martingale collar for safety reasons.  Tags should be hung from the slides or an optional extra d-ring.

Adjusting Your Martingale Collar

There are two different adjustments for martingale collars that you should be aware of.

Using At Home - Not on a Leash

  • The collar should be loosened off in case the control loop was to ever get caught on something to prevent accidental strangulation. The two slides on the control loop should easily touch.
  • The collar should sit comfortably, roughly mid neck once on. It will be looser than a flat collar. You should easily be able to slide your entire hand under the collar to grab it.

For safety, some professionals recommend only using a martingale collar under supervision during walking or training and removing it when not in active use.

Walking and Training

martingale-2-inches-v3.pngThe second adjustment is for use when on leash for walking or training. Please note that martingales are not suitable for use with retractable leashes or for tying out.

To set the adjustment, pull the collar up to the top of the neck, so it is sitting just behind the ears. To ensure a good fit, you want to adjust it to be snug here, as this is the smallest part of the neck (before going over the head). This will prevent your dog from being able to slip out of the collar.

Once tension is relieved from the collar it should sit comfortably mid-neck and be slightly looser fitting than a flat collar. When in this location, leash attached, and pulled tight the hardware on the control loop should never touch! There should always be two fingers width of fabric between the hardware.

Troubleshooting Tips:

  • The control loop on the collar should have enough slack to pull into a symmetrical triangular shape when a leash is attached and pulled.
  • If the hardware at the base of the loop is touching, your collar is too loose. It will form a sharp triangle.
  • If the loop is laying flat against the dog’s neck or forming a flat triangle, the collar is too tight. 

How to Care For Your New If It Barks Martingale

  • If It Barks collars are machine washable!
  • We recommend removing any ID tags before placing the collar or leash in a lingerie bag or pillowcase tied with a knot in the top and wash on a cold cycle.
  • Remove from bag and allow to air dry.

Always inspect your collar for damage including torn webbing or worn buckles before use.

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  • Although martingale collars are great for everyday walks, the looser design has a slightly higher chance of becoming caught on objects or during play with other dogs. Some professionals recommend only using martingale collars on walks and using an identification collar on your dog so they always have a form of ID on them. Supervision is recommended.
  • Dog’s should never be tethered and left unattended for any period of time while wearing a martingale collar.
  • Do not use with a retractable leash with a martingale collar.  The constant tension of the leash will engage the martingale control loop.
  • Martingale collars should be removed before crating your dog.