Dogs and car safety


This article has been previously published in my old blog 3rd January 2014. I decided to publish it again as the previous article was written only in Finnish and also because this topic never gets old.

Human safety in car crashes has been tested for years with different kind of crash tests, but when it comes to pets, tests are not so common. However, the results are really alarming, as most of the so-called safety harnesses fail these tests. Most of the harnesses  tear completely during these tests throwing the dog against the windshield and human travelers. Even the best harnesses only protect humans and dogs get serious , even deadly, damages during the car crash. Finnish car magazine, Tuulilasi, wrote in August 2013 that when testing dog car safety harnesses, all products failed. Some of the harnesses would have even strangled the actual dog in a car crash. There are little to no regulations when it comes to dog car safety products. So even if manufacturers use weak plastic locks in their products, they are actually doing nothing wrong. Probably pet owners might see this “a bit” differently, especially when harnesses are often sold emphasizing the safety. This causes that many of the pet owners trust these products blindly.  Center for Pet Safety has published a video about Dog Harness Crash Test, which shows perfectly how weak these products are and how there is no reason to trust them.

I also searched few online stores selling dog car harnesses, and they never mention these weaknesses. Only openly confesses, that plastic parts are too weak for safety products and they only sell AllSafe dog harnesses containing metallic parts. AllSafe  harnesses have been crash-tested at Statens Provnings- och Forskningsinstitut in Sweden and German TÜV has tested them and given them GS-record. However, I was not able to find any tests results or mention about what this GS actually means.

So, forget about harnesses, what about cages and boxes? The situation is not much better. Basic plastic boxes or metallic cages are not meant for a safe car traveling. They only help to avoid accidents, as the dogs cannot jump around in the car or if they are placed in the trunk. Even then the cage might kill the dog during the accident if it gets deformed badly (sharp plastic or metallic parts might harm the dog). most of these boxes or cages have not been tested at all, but pet stores still recommend them for a safe car traveling.

Screenshot from video: Center for Pet Safety Crash Tests Funded by Subaru

There are two cage options, that have passed car tests. One is Swedish Variogate, which also has crash test video on Youtube. The second one, US made Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate can be seen on the Subaru-sponsored crash test. Variogate costs about 500-7000 euros and is available in Finland as well. G1 Intermediate costs about 500$ but it is not sold anywhere in Finland.

There is also Sleepypod, that is soft traveling box for small dogs and cats. Sleepypod has also passed crash tests, and a video of the test can be seen on Youtube: Sleepypod Crash Test Success. Sleepypod costs about 2000 euros.

Melee and balloons


Halloween offered a great opporturnity to write about one of Melee’s special features: balloons. All of my dogs of course have loved balls and balloons, but the lifespan of the balloons has not been very long in the hands (paws/teeth) of a Belgian shepherd. Melee was not a exception and her first balloons broke up after few seconds. But she is a quick learner, so after breaking two balloons, she knew how to handle them. She learned, that when a balloon is in the air, she can jump and poke it and nothing but fun happens. But the moment trhe balloon touches the floor, she puts the caution-gear on. This means, she needs to search the knot of the balloon and gently grab the balloon.

This balloon thing is one of the many things that prove Melee is a lot clever than average Belgian. Everybody knows that Belgians are clever dogs that learn stuff quickly, but this tender behaviour towards toys (or towards anything) is not a common word when describing a Belgian shepherd. So it is a pity that Melee’s roommate Ginga represents this group of average group of Belgians, so the lifespan of balloons in this house is not prolonged… Even Ginga has an idea, that she should be careful with balloons, she just lacks the ability to think before acting and unfortunately she also believes, that speed and power are the keys to all success.

Melee’s games with balloons is, however, super-cute to watch, as she is so miraculously tender towards them and really pays attention to how to roll the ball to correct position so she is able to grab the knot.

Our Halloween-balls had a rubber bad too, which Melee quickly learned to be an option for the knot.


Sewing a jacket for Melee

Mellu ja takki

I have always been handicraft-person, even tough my sewing hobby is not always so active as it could be. When it comes to sewing, I happen to have three main problems:

  1. My basic knowledge about sewing is from a comprehensive school, which means my last textile work class was over 10 years ago.
  2. I hate reading instructions, so I do not know correct names for sewing accessories or sewing styles or textile materials.
  3. I am sort of perfectionist, but at the same time I always want to try to make difficult or unusual things – which often causes frustration

I could actually say, that my sewing skills are a result of mixing trial and error.

Anyways, this time I made a jacket for Melee. I have done one for each of my dogs in the past, and each time I have learned something new. This time I wanted to try a new material too, so I chose that softshell would be the main material of the jacket. Other materials were cotton jersey and a basic lining. In the past, I used fleece as lining, but it tends to get really electric when it gets in touch with dog hair, so I kind of hoped that cotton jersey could solve that problem.

Dog jacket
Ready jacket

Sewing was a bit of a challenging, and I had to buy a special ball point needle for a cotton jersey, as regular needle left dropped stitches behind. For me, both needles look the same, but the difference in the result is huge! Not a single dropped stitch! A store called Ompelutalo (located in Oulu, Finland) helped me to find a correct needle and also lots of different stuff for my future projects.

For Melee’s jacket, I also decided to put a neck part that is adjustable with elastic band and eyelets. The Same solution was used when connecting front part and hem that allows the shoulders to move freely. Of course, I also added some reflectors and also wide rubber band that goes around the hind legs  and keeps the jacket in place even on windy days.

I am quite happy with the result, even tough there are some things that I would do differently now. Maybe I would add more “format” on back and groin area of the jacket, so it would sit better on the dog. But this jacket works great for its purpose and I also find it stylish – at least it matches my taste.

Reflectors of the dog jacket
Reflectors of the dog jacket

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