Martingale and Half-Check Collars

The Martingale Collar and Half-Check Collars are safer alternatives to the choke chain. While the two are very similar and are often confused for one another, there are slight differences between them. They can be used as part of the Behavior Correction training method or to provide additional control to an owner using Positive Reinforcement.

Martingale Collar

The Martingale Collar, sometimes called the limited slip collar, is a soft choke collar usually made of nylon, leather, or cotton. It has two separate loops. There is a larger loop which wraps around the dog’s neck, and it is adjusted so that it fits loosely. There is a smaller control loop that the leash is attached too. If the dog pulls on the collar, tension on the leash will tighten the smaller loop. This then tightens the larger loop around the neck. When the collar is sized and adjusted properly, the dog will not be choked and the collar will stay snugly behind the ears until the pressure is released. The collar is designed to allow more control than a standard buckle collar, but the contraction of the collar is limited by the second loop so it does not choke your dog like the choke chain.

There are two versions of the Martingale, a standard version and a buckle version. The standard Martingale wraps around the dog’s neck and then is tightened, while the buckle style attaches by a belt buckle. The buckle version of the Martingale is much easier to put on and take off than a traditional Martingale.

Half-Check Collar

The Half-Check Collar is a soft choke collar, like the Martingale, however there are key differences between the two. Martingale Collars are made entirely of nylon, leather, or cotton, Half-Check Collars are not.

Half-Check Collars have two loops. The larger loop which wraps around the dog’s neck is made of leather or nylon. The second loop which is attached to the leash, is a metal chain. Any pressure on the collar will increase the tension on the metal chain, which will contract the large fabric loop. Like the Martingale Collar,  half-check collars are designed to allow more control than a standard buckle collar. However, the increased control is still safe, because the contraction of the collar is limited by the second loop so it does not choke your dog like the choke chain.


– Provides excellent control over dog

– Safer corrections that will not choke dog like a choke chain

– Very difficult for dogs to escape from


– Incorrect still has risk of injury to trachea or neck

– Traditional Martingale and Half-Check Collars can be very difficult to put on and take off

Fitting The Collars

In order to use these collars safely, it is important to ensure that the collars are fitted and adjusted properly. The collar is made up of two loops. The smaller loop is the control loop which contains the ring that the leash is attached too, the dead ring or D ring. The other loop is the adjustable loop which will wrap around the dog’s neck. The two rings that connect the control loop and the adjustable loop are called the live rings because they will move when you pull on the leash.

To put on the collar, slip it over the head of the dog and then pull it right up behind the dog’s ears. This is the point where you will want to adjust the size of the collar. Pull on the D ring and tighten the adjustable loop. It is important to make sure that the live rings are always at least two inches apart. If these rings are closer than that or touch, the collar is too loose and the dog will be able to slip out of it. When the collar is worn properly, it should fit loosely around the middle of the dog’s neck when there is no tension on it.


How They Are Used

The Martingale and Half-Check Collars can be used as part of the positive reinforcement training method as well as the behavior correction method. They offer a trainer more control than the Buckle Collar, which is useful when trying to train high energy dogs through positive reinforcement. They also offer a trainer the ability to make corrections to behavior as well. By pulling on the collar, it will tighten and punish the dog, but not to the point of choking as with some other collars.

When To Use

Unlike most other training collars, the Martingale can be left on after training. However, be careful to make sure the control loop does not get on anything. If used as the primary collar, do not attach the dog’s tags to the D ring, the ring the leash is connected too, because they will get in the way and can pop off as a result.

The Martingale and Half-Check Collars are recommended for an owner that is having trouble controlling a dog with a buckle collar. These collars will provide better control and will allow an owner to make safe corrections with a decreased fear of causing injury associated with more forceful collars.

While both collars can be used on the majority of dogs, the soft fabric of the Martingale is recommended for breeds with fine or fluffy hair such as the American Foxhound or the Volpino.

These collars are necessary for dogs with necks that are thicker than their heads such as Greyhounds or Whippets. Martingale Collars were actually designed specifically for Greyhounds because the shape of their head and neck allowed them to escape regular collars.

In addition to just large neck breeds, these collars are also recommended for use on any dog that has learned to escape from a collar or harness. The design of the Martingale makes it difficult to escape, because any pressure on the collar will cause it to tighten around the neck, preventing a dog from slipping out.


3 Responses to Martingale and Half-Check Collars

  1. For border terriers, a simple belt-buckle collar or harness should suffice. If they’re slipping from traditional collars, a harness is probably your best bet. To measure your dog, use a soft measuring tape, such as a seamstress’s cloth tape measure. You may also use a piece of string, simply measure it after. Make sure your dog is standing. Measure snugly around your dog’s neck where the collar would sit. Then add from one to two inches; one inch for a small dog and two inches for a large dog. This is the collar size for your dog. For a correctly fitted collar, you should be able to slip two fingers, flat, in between the tape and neck. For a very small dog, it may be one finger and for a much larger dog, three fingers

  2. I read a lot of blogs posts in my business and yours has been better than most that I have read , Thanks for the information it refreshing to learn something new.

  3. George Paciga says:

    I have 2 Border Terriers. They have been slipping out of the pinch collars we have been using for some time. It seems to get caught in their coat and along with twisting and turning it pops off. I am unsure of what kind of collar to get from the two mentioned. Also am unsure about sizing. Can you help? Audrey, the girl is on the small side. Her length from back of neck to rear end (not tail) is 13 ” and her neck size is 11″ when measured snugly but about twelve when her coat which is coarse is taken into consideration. Are there any shops in Chicago that would be able to show me how to fit my dogs? Thank you.

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