Photoshooting dogs

For years I have planned, that every dog of mine will be photo shooted in a studio once in their lives. Even tough I take lots of photos myself, most of them tend to be blurry or otherwise low of quality. They are good photos to Facebook and other social media and of course their sentimental value is high. But as I want to have stylish pictures of my dogs on my living room wall, I need quality photos as well.  Vilma almost missed her studio photo shoot, as she was photoshoot only a few days before she passed away.  With Melee and Ginga I decided to act bit earlier. I contacted the same photographer that had taken photos of Vilma, and luckily he also had moved to Oulu, so scheduling the photo shoot was pretty easy.

The photoshoot took place in a rental studio at Oulunsalo and we had about an hour to take all the photos. I knew very well what kind of images I wanted, so an hour was more than enough for the session. After all, Ginga and Melee are not the most patient dogs when it comes to “stay still” -kind of situations. Ginga thought it was ok to lay on the floor, but sitting was soooooo boring. Melees problem was the whole “don’t move” -concept, she has, after all, a soul of an adventurer.  Both dogs had 2×10 minutes sessions which were themed as “please look happy even tough this is boring”. It was easy to see, that they were bored in the end. As shepherd dogs, they will always do as told, but happy face cannot be forced.

This time it was easy for me to arrange this photoshoot, as the photographer was not new and I knew very  precisely what kind of images I wanted. When I searched photographer for Vilma, the whole process was not so easy.

Ginga, photo: Pekka Hartikainen

When I started searching a photographer, it was important to me, that he/she was used to photoshoot dogs. By this I  mean, that photographer has an idea of what a good dog photo looks like, and how to take photos of dogs of different breeds. Nobody can force the dog to look happy in a photo, so it is good that photographer understands dogs behavior: the dog needs to be able to check the room off-leash beforehand, so it can focus on looking at the owner and pose more relaxed.

Photographing is not cheap either, especially if you have certain needs. When photo shooting Vilma I knew, that these will be the last photos of her, so I wanted to have full-sized digital copies of the images. This happened to be a wish that only a few photographers wanted to fulfill. Some photographers told that they would not share any digital copies, some told that the price for a single digital copy would be 50-60 euros! It is not hard to count that if I wanted to have 10-20 copies, it would cost a small fortune. Some suggested, that I could pay 10-20 euros and have a “Facebook”-photo, which meant a small (400x500px) image with photographers watermark. No thanks. I know photographing is not cheap for anyone as the equipment is expensive, studios are expensive etc. But these prices some requested, are just too high and will definitely drive away customers.  Luckily I was able to find a photographer, that suited perfectly for all of my needs.

Melee, kuva: Pekka Hartikainen

PawMap – mobileapp for dog safety

PawMap is a mobile application that helps dog owners to avoid dangers, such as snakes, glass shards or poison, during daily walks. The application lets dog owners to create markings that are visible to other dog owners on a map.

PawMap home view shows a map that contains the markers that other users have made during a month. After one month,  marking will expire and it will disappear from the default map view. From settings, it is still possible to view entries older than one month. When pressing the marker, the app shows more detailed information about the danger. Detailed data contains the type of the danger (poison, dangerous animal, or other), a short title and a description of it. There might be an image of the danger too if the user has added one.

You can add your own marker by pressing long a location on the map. After this, PawMap lets you add details of the hazard.

Adding a marker is simple

I found this app a few weeks ago by coincidence and was positively surprised.There are several apps for dog owners, but most of them are poorly made and practically useless. Even the useful ones are usually ruined with poor usability. I myself use this app regularly, but I think this could be even more useful if there were more people to use it. The more people use this, the more data and markers will be added, and therefore the app is even more useful.

Download the App
Google Play

More information
PawMapin website
PawMap in Facebook
PawMap at Instagram
PawMap in Twitter

Product review

Pros Cons
  • Usability is great and app is simple to use
  • App is really useful and, sadly, also necessary
  • Available for several mobile devices (Android, iOS)
  • Creating markers requires login with Facebook or Google
  • Marker is only visible in certain location, there is no possibility to add radius for it
  • There is no possibility to receive notifications when entering to an area where a marker is set

Hiking with dogs at Oulanka

I and Janne had a chance to make a short trip to Kuusamo. At first, the plan was not to take dogs with us, but as we did not manage to find any suitable dog sitter, we decided to take the dogs with us. Most of the time they spent at the local dog daycare, which allowed us, humans, to spend time in the spa and other activities that did not allow dogs (for example The Predator Center).

We had previously talked about going to hike with dogs and mostly we had planned longer routes. However, due to our lack of hiking experience and limited time, we decided to start with a shorter trail, caller Pieni Karhunkierros (Little Bear´s Trail), which is 12 kilometers long trail situated in southern part of Oulanka National Park. Trail started and ended at the village of Juuma, 45 km north of the center of Kuusamo. The differences in altitude and various landforms made the trail bit challenging, but as it is planned to “day trail for everyone” there were some bridges and duckboards that made it fairly easy trail.

Passing a bridge at Pieni Karhunkierros
Passing a bridge at Pieni Karhunkierros

Usually, when walking in a forest, my dogs are always off-leash. But as this was a National Park, dogs must be on a leash all the time. I am not a huge fan of retractable leashes, but I wanted that my dogs could fully enjoy the hike too. I doubted how it would be for us, as my dogs do not usually understand the unit of “5-meter leash”, they only understand “off-leash” and “1-meter leash”. At first, it was quite difficult, as especially Melee wanted to test the limits of her freedom. Luckily she is a quick learner, so she soon stopped trying to rip my arm off. During bridges and steep stairs, she knew to stay close and wait for me as I was so much slower than her. Ginga had no problems either, she was mostly just concerned that everyone stayed together.

Beautiful view at Oulanka
Beautiful view at Oulanka

The facilities along the trail offered a great setting for resting and eating. We stopped once, to drink and warm some sausages at the campfire. This must have been one of the highlights for the dogs, as of course, they also got something to eat.

Melee keeping me warm while waiting food
Melee keeping me warm while waiting for food

Our hike was really a great experience and we already started planning what routes we could possibly choose in the future. Finnish nature sets some limitation, so probably we are going to take our first long hike next summer. We really fell in love with te view in Kuusamo, so it is not impossible that our next route would be the actual Karhunkierros (Bear’s Ring), which is Finland’s most common hiking route and about 80km long.

Kuusamo offers also many other possibilities to view Finnish nature and especially reindeer. They were literally everywhere, in the forest, on the road, sunbathing at the golf course… They really have no understanding of traffic, so while driving you had to be really careful as even tough one reindeer crossed the road, there were no guarantee that that same one would not want to cross the road again with no warning. However, they are super cute and surprisingly small animals. I also learned, that most of the reindeer had collars, which are used for GPS tracking and identify the owner. Collars also help to find a dead reindeer, as they recognize when reindeer has been immobile for a certain period.

Reindeer at the golf course
Reindeer at the golf course

Why I chose Belgian shepherd?

Vilma ja Ginga

I like reading stories about how someone chose a certain breed to live with. Sometimes it is so obvious, but usually, the choice is more like coincidence and people do not plan to spend the rest of their lives with the certain breed when they are having their first dog. But somehow the second dog usually tends to be the same breed as the first one… I was not a fan of Belgian shepherds from the very beginning, I did not even know that such breed existed. I always wanted a German shepherd, such as Inspector Rex. My first touch with Belgians was really a coincidence.

I was not able to have a dog of my own due to my mother’s allergy. Luckily I had lots of dogs in my neighbourhood that I used to take for walks. There was this one special dog with whom I was able to behave like a real dog owner. This dog was Miska. She was my uncle’s dog and happened to live near us. Miska was a mixed-breed, a combination of Belgian shepherd groenendael and Golden retriever. She was absolutely a gorgeous dog, looked just like black Golden retriever, some mixed her up with Hovawart. I loved taking her to walks and taking care of her during my uncles long working days at that time. I taught her some tricks and for treats, she did everything I ever asked. When the treat bag was empty, Miska just stopped. She lied down on the yard and did not move a muscle until I filled treat bag again. This was the phase I learned what the word ‘motivation’ meant in dog training.

Vilma and Miska
Vilma and Miska

I was about 12 years old when I read an article on a magazine about agility.  I was sold, it looked so much fun and the article told that it was a suitable hobby for any dog.  So I took some buckets and broomsticks and made obstacles, I took all the ski poles from our garage and stick them into the grass to create weave poles. So it began. Later my dad helped me to build more complex  and more functional obstacles. I also dreamt about taking an actual agility course and starting to compete, but the fact that Miska was getting old was slowing me down. At that time Miska was about 8-9 years old which is not that old, but she was not very lightweight dog either.

So I started telling my parents how I wanted an own dog. Not that I had not told them that my whole life, but this time it was all different, as I had these goals as a dog trainer too. My mother’s allergy issue was a risk, but after seeing how motivated I was and how seriously I wanted to train agility, my parents decided it was worth the risk. After all, we lived in a large house with large yard and possibility to let the dog live outdoors during days. We also happened to be lucky as it later came out that a dog worked as sort of immunotherapy for my mother and she did not get symptoms from our dog.

My parents let me choose the breed but there were some rules about it. The dog had to be inexpensive, be a size of a “real dog” and it could not be German shepherd, Collie or Golden retriever as those breeds were too risky (health, character) due to their breeding. I now know that it is not the whole truth, but at that time those were the rules. I first tried to search for an inexpensive mixed breed, but all of those seemed to have a hunting dog as the other parent and that was something that I did not want. I knew that Miska’s father was Groenendael, so I started to learn more about that breed. I somehow managed to assure my parents that purebred dog was really not that expensive, which was hard as purebred Belgian shepherd cost about 700 euros at that time and mixed breed dogs cost 100-300 euros.

I called two breeders near my area and told them I was interested in a puppy. I was happy that I was taken seriously by the breeders even tough I was only 13 years old. Of course, they wanted to talk to my parents too, to see that it was the whole family that wanted the dog, but they understood that I would be the one to train with the dog. We decided to take the puppy from kennel Nallehukan, which located only 15 kilometers apart from us. I was also impatient and Nallehukan had puppies earlier than other breeders. Yeah, not very wise, but I was young and having my first dog.

Vilma 9 weeks (9th June 2003)
Vilma 9 weeks (9th June 2003)

So Vilma arrived to enlighten our family’s life. She was a smart puppy who knew how to annoy and who to annoy. Our part was definitely not easy, as she was a bit of a dominant type (at least for a first dog). At some phase, I was certain that I would never ever get another Belgian shepherd as they are so out of their mind and control and their behaviour is completely untrustworthy. It is a thought that still comes to my mind every time I get a new dog. And it is true, first 1,5 years with a Belgian shepherd really seem to be a trial of determination and my weakness is that I always begin to doubt my own skills. It is sort of a good weakness, as it forces me to get some advice from other, more experienced trainers, which always teaches me more.

First 1,5 years with a Belgian shepherd really seem to be a trial of determination.

However, when the time comes for me to get another dog, I always end up looking for Belgian puppies. It is not really an option to switch breed, as during these years I have fallen in love with this breed completely. I love their attitude towards everything, how they get excited about anything. They are same time dumb and smart, always giving their everything and even more. They compensate their lack of skills with a huge amount of enthusiasm, which sometimes causes problems, but usually just funny moments. This breed is so suitable for any activity, any dog sport you might have in mind, that is it (in my opinion, might not be objective) impossible to find such features in any other breed. comeback

I started writing blog at on autumn 2009 and this site has functioned as my dog-blog ever since more or less actively. Last two years it has been quite a dead place, so instead of continuing the old blog, I decided to start over from blank page. I also decided to start write some of the articles in English, as some of my readers find it difficult to understand Finnish.

This new will continue working as a dog-blog, but probably some articles from my non-dog life (yes, that actually exists) aswell. Also it will function as my WordPress training field.