Rating Guide

X No paws: Not Recommended or product has serious flaws

One paw: Not recommended for most pet owners

Two Paws: Ok product, some reservations

Three Paws: Very good product

Four Paws: Love it, great product

Tazlab Aqua-Fur Travel Bowl

Rating: 1/2 3.5 paws

The Aqua-Fur Travel Bowl is a silicone bowl that looks and acts like a dog bowl yet folds up like an origami. The bowl weighs 8 oz and holds 1 liter of water. The bowl comes in blue, orange, red or green and costs about $18-20. The Aqua-Fur bowl is made by Tazlab.

Review: The Aqua-Fur dog bowl has an advantage over all the other folding travel bowls I have seen: because it is made of silicone, it quickly and easily retains a nice bowl shape when unfolded. Most folding dog bowls are made of cloth or plastic and can be difficult to unfold or to keep open while the dog is drinking from them. They tend to collapse on themselves. This bowl opens and pops immediately into the bowl shape, and holds that shape until you fold it up again. The Aqua-Fur bowl is large enough to allow even the big dogs to get a good thirst-quenching drink without having to refill and is sturdy enough to (according to the company) also be used as a bucket if you invert the sides. When I first bought this bowl, it was shipped unfolded and I had a little trouble figuring out the proper way to fold it up despite the drawing on the tag. When folded, the bowl is a bit larger than a wallet. It is small enough to be carried in a large pocket but it would be a bit bulky in most pockets. In my opinion a smaller folded size would have been preferable, however the company is planning to come out with an even smaller folding bowl called the “Pack-a-Puddle” so that version will most likely be a better size for carrying on walks. The Aqua-fur travel bowl’s size is I think more suited to hikes or car travel where you have a bit more space but should be ok to use on a casual walk if you don't mind the extra bulk.

Pet Gear Travel System Stroller

Rating: 3 paws

Pet Gear Collapsible Pet Stroller with removable carrier. For pets up to 15 pounds.
The Pet Gear Travel System Stroller has a detachable carrier which you can carry over your shoulder and also a place to attach the carrier to a cat seatbelt. The carrier and the stroller base both fold flat. There is a leash attachment inside the carrier.

The stroller is very light weight. It is supposed to be for pets only up to 15 pounds, and I was able to fit my two kittens in it or one small dog quite easily. The only problem I have had with this product is that the carrier is very soft and sometimes it flops over or partially collapses while in use. There is also a minimal amount of "head room" especially compared to other types of strollers. Both the stroller base and the carrier can be folded flat for transport, but you must remove the carrier from the base in order to do this.

PupLight Dog Safety Light

Rating: 4 paws

The Puplight Dog Safety Light is a flashlight / safety light which is worn around the dog's neck. The Puplight comes in 4 colors. The company also makes a "Neklight" for people.

The Puplight is like a flashlight for your dog. The light includes an elastic band which you can hang the light from, or you can attach it directly to your dog's collar. The light housing is made of plastic and also includes a hinged piece which allows you to adjust where the light is pointing (up and down.) The Puplight is useful for night time walking in dark areas. This is the only pet safety light I have seen on the market which actually projects light like a flashlight, which allows the Puplight to help light your path as well as making your dog more visible to others at night. As a safety tool to make your dog more visible, this light works better than the other collar lights I have seen. Most collar lights for dogs do not give off much light, so if the actual lightbulb is blocked by your dog's fur or if a car or person is on the wrong side of your dog and the dog blocks the lightbulb, little or no light shines through. The Puplight claims to illuminate up to 200 feet in front of the dog, which provides a great deal more visibility than other safety lights for dogs.

The Puplight also works fairly well as a flashlight to illuminate your path. One benefit I have found is that if your dog sniffs something on the ground, the Puplight will show you exactly what it is, which can help you prevent your dog from eating unknown objects.

The only problems I have had with the Puplight was with one of my dogs, a Golden Retriever. She would tend to walk with her head lowered much of the time, and that would block a lot of the light from the Puplight. I tried various configurations to allow the light through but she still blocked a lot of it. If you have a hound breed or a dog who likes to sniff a lot, this could be an issue. This problem causes the light to be less useful in illuminating the path in front of us, but does not affect the usefulness as a safety/visibility tool.

Springer Bicycle Jogger

Rating: 2.5 paws 1/2

The Springer Bicycle Jogger is a U-shaped attachment with a spring that can be clamped onto a bicycle, allowing your dog to run next to you while you ride, and satisfying leash laws.

This product really does perform as advertised, but beware, it will not fit on all bicycles. On the last two bikes I've had, I was unable to mount it the way it was intended to be mounted. On a 17" frame mountain bike, I had to mount it on the seat post - and *really* lock down the seat post tight to keep it from twisting. On my new 21" hybrid, I had to mount it at a backward facing angle on the seat tube, the part of the frame the seat post goes into. That's where it is supposed to be, but it's supposed to go straight out, at a 90 degree angle from the frame. Putting it on at an angle made it much harder to insert the cotter pin that anchors the tube to the clamp. The problem with both bikes was that my heel would hit the tube as I peddled if the Springer was attached as directed.

That said, the Springer really does work. Our 60 pound hound/chow mix really loves to pull, and really lunges hard. I've never felt in danger of tipping over with him. The clamp portion of the Springer is not really aesthetically pleasing, but it functions very well, is easy to tighten down, and isn't fragile. The tube is likewise sturdy, and we've never had a problem with anything breaking or bending.

There is a safety feature, also, a break-away plastic piece that is between the spring and the short leash.The piece is there in case you and your dog go on opposite sides of a mailbox or pole. It will break, hopefully preventing a nasty crash. (I havne't had the misfortune to test this particular feature.) Bigger dogs + better riders means that you should put the leash farther up on the plastic piece, so it won't break away as easily.
Another thing to know - this product should only be used with a harness (a simple one comes with it) and not a collar, which could choke your dog if something goes wrong.

(Reviewed by Amy)

VestHarness Review

Rating: 3 paws

The VestHarness is a sort of cross between a dog harness and a padded vest or chest protector. I bought the Vest Harness (made by Canine Friendly Products) mainly to use as a "seatbelt" for my dog. I have previously used other car harnesses and regular harnesses as seatbelts, but the main problem I had is they were uncomfortable for her to wear, and most were not padded. The Vest Harness design doesn't put the pressure a regular harness does on the dog's neck or chest in case of an accident or sudden stop, which I liked. Most of the harness is padded, so it's comfortable for the dog to wear. One thing which can be a problem: There is a space for you to thread a car seatbelt through the harness to use it as a car harness. This works fine if the dog sits still in the car, but if she tries to turn around, she will get twisted in the harness. What I did to prevent this is I bought a very short lead with a swivel hook, attached it to the harness, and threaded the car's seatbelt through that. Unfortunately even with this, my dog was getting tangled. I then tried a BatziBelt, which is a leash strap made for use in cars. This worked pretty well, but the dog still managed to get tangled fairly often, so I finally stopped using this seatbelt altogether and switched to the CARE Champion System (see review.) Please note also that the VestHarness is not an accident tested dog seatbelt, which I would recommend using for car travel.

The only problem I had with the VestHarness was fit. My Golden has a large chest and small neck, making it difficult for her to fit many products that have to go around the neck and chest. Due to this problem I was not sure which size to buy. The size I ordered turned out not to fit my dog, and when I exchanged it for the next size down that did not fit either. I ended up contacting the customer service of the company that makes the VestHarness, Canine Friendly Products. They were very helpful and they actually modified a large size harness to fit my dog.

I have used the VestHarness when bike riding with my dog. It works VERY well for this, and, unlike a normal harness, doesn't dig into her skin if I stop the bike suddenly. It would also work well in other situations where you want a dog to be comfortable while pulling, but it is not an actual "pulling harness" for weight pull or similar sports.

You can purchase the VestHarness at the manufactrurer's website www.caninefriendly.com

Walkydog Hands Free Bicycle Dog Leash

Rating: Two Paws

The Walkydog Hands Free Bicycle Dog Leash is a small clamp assembly that stays on your bike, consisting of a metal rod with a grip and an internal spring with a short leash and snap hook.

This product is very easy to use, looks pretty classy, and is very convenient. It seems to work on many bicycles that the Springer won't fit on. But I've had a few problems with it.

The first one broke after the first ride with my dog-who-pulls. The brass coupling (the company calls it the insert) at the bike end of the rod snapped off. After finding an email address that the company would respond to (the Contact us form on their page got no response) the company was prompt in supplying a replacement Walkydog....which broke in the same manner as the first. This time they sent me a "heavy duty" insert, and that one has been just fine, though the whole process took around three to four weeks to resolve.

They also indicated that this was a very unusual situation...but as it happened twice to me, with the same part breaking in the same place under normal usage (I explained to them exactly the circumstances involved, and they did not find user error.)

The only problem I'm having now is that the whole assembly will twist on my bike when the dogs pull forward. I ended up attatching it to the seat tube instead of the seat post. When anchored to the seat post, the whole seat would turn, making for some uncomfortable riding. With only two small-ish screws to hold the clamp on the bike, I can't tighten it further, so I just push it back into place.

I have also heard from another Walkydog user that theirs was broken upon arrival. They contacted me in hopes of getting a way to contact the company, because the company was not responding to the one found on their page.

Bottome line - it's a very good idea, very well designed, mostly well constructed, but I wouldn't really recommend it until they actually respond to messages sent from their own "Contact Us" form and other email addresses found on their site. If you need a product of this type, and the Springer won't work on your bike, this might be worth a shot.

This product should also be used only with a harness, and not with a collar, to avoid choking if something goes wrong.

(Reviewed by Amy)

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About the Critique

Chicago Canine Critique is a product review site which is part of The Chicago Canine, a website for dog owners with news, reviews, guides to taking your dog places, feature articles, Chicago dog-friendly event and business listings, and more.
If you have a product you would like us to review, please email chicagocanine@aol.com

Meet the Reviewers

Below you can see photos and stats on some of the canines who have tested the products reviewed at the Canine Critique.

Breed: German Shepherd
Size: "Large" 26" tall and 70 lbs.
Occupation: Pack Dog
Birthdate: 4/14/04

Breed: Labrador Retriever
Size: "Large" 100+ lbs.
Occupation: Family Dog

Breed: Golden Retriever
Size: "Medium" 24" tall and 65 lbs.
Occupation: Therapy Dog
Birthdate: 1/9/96

Breed: Rat Terrier mix
Size: "Small" 14" tall and 25 lbs.
Occupation: Trick Dog
Birthdate: 8/8/94

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