Our Diamonds of the Arctic Tour 2014 was on the beginning of the end. We had driven from Boden and straight to Muonio, the second longest leg on the tour with a distance of 350 km. On our agenda were huskies. Harriniva Holiday Centre is the home of 422 dogs. All dogs are involved in pulling visitors through the Arctic winter landscape.
We came to Muonio in time for an evening beer. It was very quiet. I thought it was strange, not a single bark or howl could be heard. The next morning we were ready for meeting the dogs and the musher.
Ms. Pirjo Rauhala met us outside the hotel entrance. Let’s go, she said. We walked towards a fence and a gate. She opened it. It looks just like Jurrasic Park, but don’t worry, she said.
There was still not a sound of any dogs. The dogs in Muonio are quiet. It is a good thing, because the dogs in Muonio are in very good mood. Dogs in a good mood, has a good dog life.
A lot of the preparation for the winter is done in the summer, and I will slide you through a list of points on how they work with the dogs in Muonio:
- The guided tours in the kennel have multiple purposes. From they are puppies; the huskies are exposed to people. As many different people as possible. This way the dogs get used to different odor, voices and cuddling
- The mushers will early on do hiking trips in unfamiliar terrain. The huskies are, thus, exposed to different environments and will not be distracted of new environments when they are pulling sleds
- Alaskan huskies are the preferred huskies. They are bastards of Siberian husky and something else
- In the kennel, the staff will recognize the different personality of the dogs. Dogs that like each other are allowed to live together. If some dogs don’t mix, they are separated
- In the summer, the dogs are relaxing, eating once a day and recuperating from the winter. Pregnant females may eat more. It is important that the dogs don’t get chubby during the summer
- The dogs must drink sufficient water
- Once the temperature is below 10 degrees in September, the huskies start to train again. They eat more, and will build new muscles for the winter
- The training gets successively more and more strenuous. A team of dogs pulls an ATV
- The musher is taking care of its own team of huskies
- The veterinarian visits the kennel every week to be on top of health issues
- From early on, the huskies will learn simple commands that will eventually make it possible to communicate with the dogs when dog sledding.
- The work load, position in the team and number of days out in the field is adjusted according to age. Most dogs work 5 days a week, older dogs maybe two or three days
- The dogs are given simple names, so you can communicate easily with each dog. Names such as: Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Polo, Beetle, Golf, Cha-Cha, Tango, Jive, Rhumba, Picasso, Dali, Munch, etc
- Special attention must be given to train leader dogs. These are the huskies that you give orders to when dog sledding
- Be in a good mood, the dogs will replicate your mood
In many ways a dog sled tour is recommendable. You get to experience the nature in a more powerful way than if you go on a snowmobile excursion. The reason is simply because you are not locked inside a helmet when you are behind a dog sled.
You’re allowed to feel the flurries, observe and share more of the tour with the team.