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Animal-based tourism in Lapland



Lapland’s tourism operators are very aware of the great significance of animals as a part of the tourism service selection. However, information about animal-based tourism services has been sparse and lacking in many ways. This is why we conducted an extensive study of background information and the current situation. For example, we determined the number and location of animal-based tourism companies, the number of animals, and the economic impact of animal-based tourism in Lapland. The information is based on the situation in 2016.
- Examples and Practical Tips for
the Well-being of Animals Used
for Tourism in Lapland
Jaana Ojuva (ed.)
Publication series D. Other publications
Lapland University of Applied Sciences
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96300 Rovaniemi
Tel. + 358 020 798 6000
The Lapland University Consortium
LUC is a strategic alliance between
the University of Lapland and
Lapland University of Applied
© Lapland UAS and authors
ISBN 978-952-316-246-4 (Stiched)
ISSN 2342-2521 (Printed publication)
ISBN 978-952-316-247-1 (pdf)
ISSN 2342-253X (Electronic publication)
Publications of Lapland UAS
Publication series D. Other Publications
Financiers: Lapland Centre for Economic Develop-
ment, Transport and the Environment / European
Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
Editor: Jaana Ojuva
Authors: José-Carlos García-Rosell, Sanna,
Koljonen, Outi Kähkönen, Veikko Maijala, Karoliina
Majuri, Jaana Ojuva, Eija Raasakka, Mikko Äijälä
Cover: Nomon Oy
Illustration and layout: Nomon Oy
Photos: Unless stated otherwise, all photos
belong to the project
Print: Erweko Oy
- Examples and Practical Tips for
the Well-being of Animals Used
for Tourism in Lapland
Jaana Ojuva (ed.)
Publications of Lapland UAS
Publication series D. Other Publications
Eija Raasakka & Jaana Ojuva
1 Foreword 8
José-Carlos García-Rosell & Mikko Äijälä
2 Animal-based tourism in Lapland 10
2.1 Animal-based tourism in figures 10
2.2 Tourists’ views on animal-based tourism 12
2.3 Tourism operators’ views on animal-based tourism 15
2.4 Audits by international travel agents 23
Bibliography 24
Karoliina Majuri
3 Animal welfare 26
3.1 Defining welfare 26
3.2 Individual treatment of animals 27
3.3 Good practices of welfare of animals used for tourism 28
Bibliography 29
Karoliina Majuri & Sanna Koljonen
4 Sledge dog welfare 30
4.1 Species-typical behaviour 30
4.2 Physical well-being 31
4.3 Mental well-being 35
4.4 Stimulation 38
4.5 Housing 40
4.6 Feeding 48
4.7 Hydrating 51
4.8 Breeding 51
4.9 Handling a sled dog 56
4.10 Sled dog at work 59
4.11 After the working career 61
Bibliography 64
Veikko Maijala
5 Reindeer welfare 65
5.1 Species-typical behaviour 65
5.2 Physical well-being 67
5.3 Mental well-being 71
5.4 Stimulation 72
5.5 Animal premises 73
5.6 Feeding in winter 76
5.7 Training 76
5.8 The work 78
Bibliography 81
Outi Kähkönen
6 Horse welfare 82
6.1 Species-typical behaviour 82
6.2 Individuality 83
6.3 Physical well-being 84
6.4 Mental well-being 87
6.5 Stimulation 88
6.6 Animal premises 89
6.7 Feeding 92
6.8 Training 93
6.9 The work 95
6.10 Safe and healthy customer-service horse 97
6.11 Instructing guides and grooms 99
6.12 Customer and horse 100
Bibliography 102
Why should you think about responsibility towards animals? 14
Sveinn Hólmar Guðmundsson, Quality and Environmental Manager
Elding Whale Watching, Iceland
Is it worth putting so much effort on animal welfare in a truly challenging business environment? 14
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide
Exploring Iceland, Iceland
What does the law require from safe animal services 17
Jaakko Leinonen, Senior Inspector
Tukes, Finland
Quality starts from horses and their welfare 17
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide
Exploring Iceland, Iceland
Buying a responsible holiday – that is just the beginning 18
Vicki Brown, Travel Writer and Editor
Responsible Travel, UK
Should a company have a social media presence? 20
Joonas Rokka, Associate Professor of Marketing, Director of the Lifestyle Research Centre at
EMLYON Business School, France
Guest columns
Following standards and codes 22
Sveinn Hólmar Guðmundsson, Quality and Environmental Manager
Elding Whale Watching, Iceland
Need for an ambitious Code of Conduct for horse riding business 22
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide
Exploring Iceland, Iceland
Demanding customers – a new phenomenon 24
Jaakko Leinonen, Senior Inspector
Tukes, Finland
Breeding of sled dogs 51
Riitta Kempe, Researcher and Musher
LUKE – Natural Resources Institute Finland, Finland
Veterinarian’s FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions 56
Terhi Ritvanen, Control Veterinarian
Rovaniemi, Finland
Castration of reindeer used for tourism 70
Marja Nuorgam, Municipal Veterinarian
Inari, Finland
Safe and healthy customer-service horse 97
Anna Kilpeläinen, Riding Instructor and AnimalTrainer
Today, animals are an important attraction in tourism. They play many different roles in tourism, such as
entertainers in animal shows and activity providers on safaris. Animals have also become symbols of many
destinations. Tourists mentally connect reindeer to Lapland, whales to Iceland and kangaroos to Australia.
Today, destinations without any kind of animal encounters are the exception rather than the rule.
The values of tourists influence their purchase decisions. Most tourists require companies to provide
animal-based tourism services in a responsible manner that promotes the well-being of the animals. Tou-
rists are also very conscious of the potential negative effects of tourism to animals and can pay attention to
shortcomings, actively sharing their positive and negative experiences online.
In addition to individual tourists, large international travel agents have also called attention to animal
welfare. Some of them have already changed their policy and terminated cooperation with questionable
service providers. Neglecting animal welfare is a huge risk for companies.
We have compiled into this guide information about the current situation of animal-based tourism
in Lapland and good practices for supporting the well-being of the three key animals used for tourism in
Lapland: sled dog, reindeer and horse. The guide has been produced as a part of the “Animal Welfare in Tou-
rism Services” -project (2016–2018). The project was funded by the Lapland Centre for Economic Develop-
ment, Transport and the Environment/European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and carried out
by the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (Lapland UAS and University of Lapland) along with the School of
Industry and Natural Resources of Lapland UAS. The materials produced are freely available on the project
website at
The law specifies the minimum requirements for the consideration of animal welfare. Companies who
provide animal-based tourism services and the staff of such companies are familiar with them, and so they
are not discussed in this guide. Instead, we have compiled a comprehensive package of good practices. They
are examples and practical tips from which each entrepreneur can pick the ones that best apply to them.
We do not take a stand on how everyone should operate because there are many different ways to promote
We have compiled the good practices from many different sources. They are all based on the collabo-
ration with numerous Finnish and international experts consulted in the project. We have had the pleasure
of getting to discuss animal welfare with a diverse group of professionals, including tourism entrepreneurs
from Finland and abroad, staff of activity services companies, veterinarians, international researchers, rep-
resentatives of associations, tourists, representatives of regional tourism marketing companies and interna-
tional travel agents.
Our collaboration with experts produced too much information to fit into one guide, requiring us to make
some cuts. For each animal, we focus on the areas considered the most significant by our partners. The
guide also includes tips for excellent existing materials focused on the well-being of horses, in particular.
The voices of our partners are also heard in the guest columns and comments from entrepreneurs. The
guest columns were produced by our partners and can be found throughout the guide in Finnish and English.
The columns delve deeper into a few topics connected to well-being. The comments are quotations from
various animal tourism entrepreneurs and travel agents. They have been condensed and edited for standard
language in order to ensure the writer’s anonymity and to improve readability.
Most of the guide has been produced by our project team, each expert writing about their specialty.
Maria Hakkarainen and Minni Haanpää have contributed to the guide’s contents by commenting. The biggest
thanks for the finished guide, however, go to the companies that have shared their knowledge and expe-
rience. Finally, we want to extend special thanks to the members of our project steering group, who actively
contributed to planning and producing the project materials – Päivi Hiukka (Polar Lights Tours Oy), Pasi
Ikonen (CAPE Lapland Ltd, Hetta Huskies), control veterinarians Raisa Kiimamaa (Fell Lapland) and Maa-
rit Salmi (Rovaniemi region), Miia Merkku (Arctic Reindeer Ltd), Jussi Soppela (Lapland UAS), Anna-Kaisa
Teurajärvi (Lapland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment), Jarno Valkonen
(University of Lapland) and Joonas Vola (University of Lapland/Arctic Centre).
Rovaniemi, 1 August 2018
Eija Raasakka, Project Manager and Jaana Ojuva, Communications Specialist
Multidimensional Tourism Institute (University of Lapland and Lapland UAS)
Bohn, D., Garcia-Rosell, J-C. & Äijälä, M. 2018. Animal-based Tourism Services in Lapland. University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute. Available at
Cohen, E. 2009. The wild and the humanized: Animals in Thai tourism. Anatolia, An International Journal of
Tourism & Hospitality Research Vol. 20, 1–36. Doi: 10.1080/13032917.2009.10518898.
Garcia-Rosell, J-C. & Äijälä, M. 2018. Lapin matkailijoiden käsityksiä eläinmatkailusta. University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute. Available at
Vaughan, H. 2018. Thomas Cook to stop selling tickets to seaworld over animal welfare concerns. Available at
José-Carlos García-Rosell, University of Lapland/Multidimensional Tourism Institute
Mikko Äijälä, University of Lapland/Multidimensional Tourism Institute
2.1 Animal-based tourism in figures
Lapland’s tourism operators are very aware of the great significance of animals as a part of the tour-
ism service selection. However, information about animal-based tourism services has been sparse and
lacking in many ways. This is why we conducted an extensive study of background information and
the current situation. For example, we determined the number and location of animal-based tourism
companies, the number of animals and economic impact of animal-based tourism in Lapland. The in-
formation is based on the situation in 2016.
There is a total of 158 animal-based tourism companies in Lapland. Of these companies, 42 are
sled dog kennels, 34 are reindeer farms and 11 are horse stables providing tourism services.
Animal-based tourism companies are distributed fairly evenly across Lapland. A third (34%) are situated
in Fell Lapland (Levi, Ylläs, Muonio and Enontekiö). One-quarter (25%) are situated in Northern Lapland
(Inari, Saariselkä and Utsjoki) and nearly as many (22%) are situated in Southern Lapland (Rovaniemi,
Ranua, Tornionlaakso and Sea Lapland). Slightly under one-fifth (19%) are situated in Eastern Lapland
(Pyhä-Luosto, Sodankylä, Salla and Kemijärvi).
Number of com-
panies providing
tourism services
in Lapland (pcs).
Regional distribution of companies
providing animal-based tourism
services in Lapland.
158 animal-based tourism firms
Husky farm
Reindeer farm
Equestrian farm
Wildlife tourism
Multiple animal-based services
Farm holiday
Petting zoo / zoo
Fell Lapland
Southern Lapland
Northern Lapland
Eastern Lapland
Lapland has a total of 1,022 tourism companies, which produce a combined annual turnover of MEUR
630. Some 15% (158 pcs) of all tourism companies are companies, which provide animal-based tourism
services and their total annual turnover is MEUR 15.1.
Approximately 5,400 domesticated and semi-domesticated animals and a countless number of
wild animals participate in the production of animal-based tourism services. By numbers, sled dogs are
the largest animal group, followed by reindeer, captive (wild) animals and horses. Calculated per head,
the most productive animals from an economical point of view are reindeer; the annual turnover per
reindeer was in excess of EUR 5,000. The annual turnover per horse was slightly under EUR 5,000, and
the turnover per sled dog was approximately EUR 2,400.
Two-thirds of the animal-based tourism companies operating in Lapland are micro-businesses that
mainly provide full-time work for one or two people including the owner. There are many part-time
workers in animal-based tourism companies, regardless of the size of the company.
Number of sled dogs, reindeer and horses and
turnover per animal.
Amount of staff working in animal-based tourism services,
including the entrepreneur.
Huskies Reindeer Horses
Total number 4 000 €
Turnover/animal 2 400 €
Total turnover 9 600 000 €
Total number 650 €
Turnover/animal 5 400 €
Total turnover 3 500 000 €
Total number 150 €
Turnover/animal 4 900 €
Total turnover 730 000 €
Amount of companies (pcs)
Over 20 pers.
11 to 20 pers.
5 to 10 pers.
3 to 4 pers.
1 to 2 pers.
Amount of staff including
the entrepreneur
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
2.2 Tourists’ views on animal-based tourism
An animal-based tourism entrepreneur needs to have enough background information about the consump-
tion behaviour of tourists coming to Lapland and their attitudes towards animals and animal-based tourism.
Tourists are interested in animals and animal welfare and they are more conscious of the issues around
animal-based tourism than before. Tour groups usually consist of members of the same family. Tourists
usually book a trip package through a travel agent and gather information about Lapland and the services
available before their journey especially through social media channels.
And what attracts international tourists to Lapland, in particular? Most tourists who come to Lapland are
attracted by various natural phenomena. One of the most important of these attractions are animal-based
activity services, such as sled dog and reindeer safaris.
The values of tourists affect their purchase decisions. Most tourists (83%) see deeper values in animals and
are concerned about the treatment of animals in modern society. They also note whether, for example, the
products and services they purchase are produced locally and in a way that does not harm the environment.
Tourists are interested in the treatment of animals working in tourism. They consider animal welfare and
appropriate treatment of animals as important. It is noteworthy that only one-fifth of tourists would always
allow animals to be viewed and photographed.
Animals are an important
reason for tourists to visit
Tourists make
value-driven purchase
Tourists’ views on animals and their position in the travel industry.
of the tourists consider animal-based
activities as an important reason to
visit Lapland.
Naturalphenomena (e.g. northern lights)
Animal-based activities
Outdoor/sport activities
Wild animals
Very Important Important Neutral Less Importanta Not Important Don`t know
prefer products
and services from
local companies.
show concern about
the origins of good
they consume.
friendly products.
I have affection for individual animals (e.g. pets)
I find beauty and meaning in animals
I am concerned about the rights and treatment of animal in today`s society
I am interested in scientific information about animals
Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
29% 13%
Tourists also want more information about animal welfare from the staff of local tourism companies and
their various marketing channels. This should be taken into account in the marketing communications of
companies and regions.
Tourists want
information about
animal welfare from
local tourism
Animal-based tourism is acceptable as long as animal welfare is taken into account.
“Animals (e.g. huskies, reindeer) make travel experience more unforgettable, but I agree that they
should be treated well (e.g. enough rest).”
“I do not like to participate in activity that requires animals to overwork.”
“No cruelty should be allowed. Tourists should understand what impact is made on animals when
they are used in tourism.”
Animal-based tourism is unacceptable.
“No matter what kind of activity, animals should not be used for any kind of benefit.”
“The use of huskies is deplorable. They are thin, tired and don’t have a place for recovery.
I have Galgos that have been rescued from maltreatment.”
“Personally, I don’t like activities such as reindeer and husky sledding. Animals are supposed
to have freedom and their own living environment.”
There is not enough communication about animal-based tourism.
“I hope that animal-based activities can give tourists more time to know about animals’ life,
food and training activities. I think that these are very interesting and can make us to know
better animals and their daily life.”
“I would like to see more of correct feeding and right treatment of animals through videos,
photos etc. to ensure it is ok.”
“Often we are probably unaware of the true welfare of animals we see. But we need to
be aware of and educated about animals. Therefore it is necessary, but needs control.”
...staff of local tourism companies. channels of local tourism companies.
...local tourist information offices.
...labels and certifications.
Tourists want information about animal welfare from...
Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
Guest Column
Why should you think about responsibility towards animals?
Sveinn Hólmar Guðmundsson, Quality and Environmental Manager, Elding Whale Watching, Iceland
Elding is a Reykjavik, Iceland based company which was founded in year 2000 and since the beginning re-
sponsible whale watching has been one the main priorities of the company. Since then a lot has changed as
in two decades whale watching has turned from small-scale seasonal tours to year-round products whale
watching being now one of the top three tourist activities in Iceland.
What is it worth putting a lot of effort and resources to promote responsible whale watching on our
tours? Making optimal use of the natural resources and high quality services that our tours are built
around requires us to respect nature and give as much back as we possibly can. For example by using the
certificates such as EarthCheck and Blue Flag we can prove to the customers that we are looking after
responsibility in our tours and therefore our rate is a little bit higher. The whales bring us the revenue and
we want the situation to be like that also after ten, twenty and many more years.
Guest Column
Is it worth putting so much effort on animal welfare in a truly challenging business environment?
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide, Exploring Iceland, Iceland
Exploring Iceland is an Icelandic tour operator which was founded in December 2015. It offers versatile pro-
grams from family holidays to specialized activities like hiking or horseback riding. Its operation is grounded
on values such as high quality tours, authentic experience through teaming up with our local partners, gen-
uine experiences by travelling in the traditional ways with hand horses and loose herds, very good horses
and experienced professional guides and tours that are fair trade and animal friendly.
We do not expect fast growth and high profits, at least to start with our target group as it will be small
and limited. We still believe it is a more stable and rewarding market group and certainly growing. Money
isn´t everything: If you are planning on working in this industry for several years, you want to be proud
of what you are selling and you want to be able to be honest about what you are selling. However, our
emphasis on high quality, fair trade and animal welfare comes at a price as our tours are up to 20% more
expensive than comparable tours from our competitors. This brings a big challenge for marketing more
expensive tours for the benefit of animal welfare.
2.3 Tourism operators’ views on animal-based tourism
Tourists’ divergent perceptions of animals
The providers of animal-bases tourism services do not always consider enough their highly diverse
customers and their needs. In some cases, the service provider is also clearly uninterested in doing
so. However, considering the needs of diverse customers groups is beneficial as it helps to build better
customer relationships.
In general, tourism operators feel that customers’ behaviour towards animals is largely explained
by the differences between nationalities. Entrepreneurs, in particular, feel this way. They usually con-
trast Europeans and Asians – especially Chinese tourists. The language barrier sometimes causes
problems with how to behave with animals if customers do not understand the instructions of the staff.
However, the differences between nationalities do not explain everything. Sometimes, the differ-
ences are explained by whether the tourists live in an urban or rural setting. Their previous experiences
with animals – or a lack thereof – also affect their attitudes and behaviour. For example, fear towards
animals is lessened when tourists can be in contact with the animals. Customers’ views and attitudes
can also be intentionally guided in a certain direction by openly and clearly telling reasons for certain
practices related to animals
Animals and service quality
For a successful service package, the key factors are the attitude and expertise of the entrepreneur and
guides. The staff have a great responsibility to serve as experts of animal welfare and customer service.
A skilled staff can ensure, for example, service quality, animal welfare and safety.
The quality of animal-based tourism services can be ensured in many different ways. For example,
quality involves the safety of the services, adapting to circumstances and anticipating them. Factors
affecting the implementation of a service include the weather and actions of the tourists, among other
things. The rapid growth of tourism in Lapland is a more wide-scale change and therefore more difficult
to adapt to.
Companies expend a lot of resources in training the animals. The animals are made accustomed to
humans and other animals and educated how to behave during safaris. Furthermore, animals are given
the opportunity to keep their distance from tourists, when needed.
It is important to familiarize the animals to people
and the gear.
It is vitally important that animal tourism servic-
es are safe for the animals and people. This is
ensured through exact driving instruction, for ex-
ample. Most safaris increase safety by using sev-
eral guides and a snow mobile on sled dog safaris.
Interaction between the animals and tourists can
also be restricted for safety reasons.
“Driving instruction is always provided before a sa-
fari, and it can be enhanced by integrating the most
important instructions into a story, which will make
the customers listen and focus more. The three im-
portant instructions are: Do not let go of the sled,
use the brake and always help the dogs, if needed
– for example when going uphill. At the end, ask the
customers to repeat these three instructions back
to you.” (Sled dog entrepreneur)
Tourists can be instructed using different kinds
of instruction signs.
For travel agents, animal welfare is an important part of the service quality. However, they are not
experts of animal welfare, which is where the expertise of the local entrepreneurs comes in. Indeed,
entrepreneurs should actively and openly communicate what animal welfare means and how they pro-
mote it in their operations.
Guest Column
What does the law require from safe animal-based services?
Jaakko Leinonen, Senior Inspector, Tukes, Finland
Based on Section 5 of the Consumer Safety Act, operators must, by observing the care and skills required
by the circumstances, ensure that a consumer good or service does not involve any risk to the health or
property of any person. This means that the law requires a service to be designed and implemented such
that it causes no risk to the participants (customers) or those involved in its provision (staff and animals).
How, then, are animals linked to the safety of services? Animals must not, through their behaviour,
cause risk to customers, or customers to the animals. Animals must be provided with sufficient food, water
and rest. Animals must also be permitted to conduct species-typical behaviour as much as possible during
the service. All in all, ensuring safety is a multifaceted entity when animals are involved in services.
Guest Column
Quality starts from horses and their welfare
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide, Exploring Iceland, Iceland
We purposely do not offer many departures in a row. We want the horses and the human team to get some
breaks in between tours. We want them to be well rested and we want them to look forward to welcoming
our guests. Interacting with the team is essential on our tours, our clients want to get to know the locals,
hear their story. We pay our partners 70–100% more per guest but in return ask them to follow our Animal
Welfare policy which has strict requirements regarding the number of horses used, the age of riding horses,
breaks, feeding and medical care and others. They are contract bound and failure to follow this code of
conduct may be grounds for terminating our contract.
Communicating about animal welfare
Animals are an important image factor for tourism in Lapland. Any neglect connected to animal treat-
ment has a negative effect on the tourism image of whole Lapland. Tourists are more aware of the
issues connected to animal treatment and actively participate in social media discussion on the subject,
giving a lot of feedback based on their experiences.
“Due to the increased transparency and information brought by the Internet, tourists are more interested
in animal welfare that before.” (Representative of a travel agent)
Guest Column
Buying a responsible holiday – that is just the beginning
Vicki Brown, Travel Writer and Editor, Responsible Travel, UK
Consumer education is so vital when it comes to tourism, more so than in most other areas. It’s not just
about your purchasing choices, it’s how you act. Probably the most effective way for us to communicate
responsibility are Responsible Travel’s holiday reviews, which are trusted because they can only be sub-
mitted by customers who have actually been on the holidays. We ask questions like “Did you feel that your
holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?” This makes
customers think about the responsible tourism angle of their holidays, and also acts as a red flag to us if
they report anything negative. If necessary, we will follow up with the tour operators to find out more about
the issues. Our customers are our auditors!
Companies providing animal-based tourism services communicate about animal welfare to their cus-
tomers when the customers are physically present on the company premises. Things and situations
that they consider indicating welfare include clean and neat surroundings, service encounters and
transparency of operations. Furthermore, some companies share information about the animals and
their lives in other communication channels in social media, in particular.
However, also travel agents feel that communication about animal welfare is insufficient as plan-
ning and co-operation is lacking. Effective communications require cooperation between companies,
and the role of animal-based tourism associations is seen as vital. Associations can make companies’
voices heard in regional development work at a whole different level than a single entrepreneur. Fur-
thermore, selecting the most appropriate communication channels also plays an important role. Elec-
tronic communication channels and social media, in particular, are cost-efficient when used properly.
Associations that promote animal tourism
In Finland, the associations working to develop animal-based tourism include Suomen Vaellus-
tallien liitto ry (SuoVa) for horses, Porotilamatkailu ry for reindeer and Lapin Koiravaljakkoy-
rittäjien yhdistys ry for sled dogs. They bring together actors in their field and help to develop
animal tourism from the viewpoints of both animal welfare and business operations.
SuoVa was established by trail riding entrepreneurs, and its purpose is to increase cooper-
ation between trail riding stables. SuoVa also promotes the interests of trail riding and horse
tourism companies and helps its members with development and marketing. For example,
SuoVa has created the Priimatalli (“premium stable”) system as a quality development tool for
its members. More information is available at
The objectives of Porotilamatkailu ry are to support the tourism operations of reindeer
farms and reindeer owners, strengthen the cooperation between its members and create net-
works with other partners. The association provides tourism companies with training and tools
for quality work, safety planning and business development. Examples of their activities include
annual tagging events for reindeer used for tourism and a guidebook (Porotilamatkailuyrittäjän
kultajyvät, “Pearls of wisdom for reindeer farm tourism entrepreneurs”) created with partners.
There is more information available at
Lapin Koiravaljakkoyrittäjien yhdistys ry strives to promote the interests of Lapland’s sled
dog entrepreneurs, increase cooperation between the entrepreneurs and raise the profile of the
dog sledding tourism on a national and international level. In particular, the association sup-
ports information distribution about the best practices connected to sled dog welfare, service
quality and responsible operations.
Highlighting values in communications
One opportunity for improving communications is to use the idea of storification. Stories help to communi-
cate about actions that match the company’s values in an open and genuine way. Important values include
respecting animals as individuals and traditions linked to animals. The stories produced must not be “tacked
on” the activities – untruthful communications always turn against the company.
When the services offered by the company are presented in a way that involves a plot and experiences,
we reach the core of storification. Stories can be built around staff members, animals, services or customer
experiences. A story must be unique and rise emotions. The storytelling can include talk, text, images and
video, for example. Choosing the best suited channels for the telling – whatever feels the most natural for
the company – is important.
Example: Elding Whale Watching in Iceland has a long-standing commitment to producing responsi-
ble tourism services. Elding’s story (website, Facebook and Twitter) speaks of a family company working
full-heartedly for welfare of the whales. For example, the story includes marine biologists, who are not re-
ferred to as guides but as “naturalists”, which better highlights their professional expertise in marine biology.
The website contains photos of whales that have become familiar faces over the years and have been given
names. In the Whale Diary, tourists can read about the events of each whale-watching tour.
Guest Column
Should a company have a social media presence?
Joonas Rokka, Associate Professor of Marketing, Director of the Lifestyle Research Centre at
EMLYON Business School, France
We live in a time of transparency. It is difficult for a single company to control its messages because things
spread and mutate very quickly in social media. As such, a presence in social media is not in the company’s
own hands – in a way, everyone is already there. However, a company can define for itself the way in which
it wants to be present in social media. It can take a passive, defensive stance and try to minimise the risks.
Transparency and openness are a more challenging approach. The most effective way to be in social me-
dia is to be creative, spontaneous and encouraging, which engages all of the employees in the company’s
social media activities.
Transparency and openness are an important part of responsibility. A company should consider what
responsibility means in its own activities and what are the key facts and forums where that responsibility
is communicated. A company should actively “listen” to what is being said about it in social media and, if
necessary, react by correcting factual errors in what is being said. Negative comments should not be de-
leted but answered honestly. Each employee of the company plays a major role in the construction of the
company’s responsibility and related communications.
Future of a quality system for animal welfare in Lapland
Different kinds of quality systems are often seen as a positive thing. They standardize the company’s op-
erations and appear to the customer as guarantees for value or quality. Quality systems require a lot of
resources, which is why companies need to work together and have the support of, for example, an industry
association behind them. It is important to the customer that the quality system is well-known, but achieving
this may be extremely difficult
“I consider it as important because it is the only way to create any kind of standard for small enterprises. I con-
sider it as important even if customers may not do so. The only problem is that if there are very many different
certifications, they will not read them or recognise the logos. Because of this, there is no sense in having a
wall full of certificates if the customers do not understand a thing about them.” (Representative of a regional
marketing company)
Integrating a global-level quality system focused on animal welfare with animal-based tourism in Lapland
could be difficult because there is a great deal of variation between the needs of different animal species and
forms of tourism. A quality system for a smaller geographical area that takes local conditions into account
would be more practical.
If it is decided to start building a quality system suited to the conditions in Lapland, the work should
include experienced animal-based tourism operators, representatives of associations and at least veteri-
narians in terms of authorities. The system should regularly consider feedback from tourists and be as has-
sle-free as possible for entrepreneurs, requiring limited resources. An outside party should be responsible
for its maintenance. Electronic channels could be utilised in its practical implementation.
Guest Column
Following standards and codes
Sveinn Hólmar Guðmundsson, Quality and Environmental Manager, Elding Whale Watching, Iceland
We base our work on the EarthCheck and Blue Flag’s standards along with IceWhale’s codes of conduct for
responsible whale watching as well as following our own stricter guidelines. There is proof that following
these guidelines has mitigated the negative effects of whale watching on whales. We take part in interna-
tional cooperation on the future of whale watching, e.g. IWC and Planet Whale. To advance our knowledge
we participate and support marine biologists research on wildlife in our area. It is essential that all our staff
from vessel captains to office staff is committed to promoting sustainability and our environmental policy.
We support scientific research on cetaceans by offering a platform for the researchers on board our
boats. It is also important for us that our customers have something to take with them after they have par-
ticipated in our trips. We want to educate our guests and therefore all our guides are naturalists who have
more advanced knowledge on whales. We also want to educate our guests about the whaling in Iceland
and encourage them to support our case further by avoiding whale meat which is not a part of traditional
Icelandic cuisine.
Guest Column
Need for an ambitious Code of Conduct for horse riding business
Meike Witt, Sales and Product Manager and Guide, Exploring Iceland, Iceland
In Iceland we would need an ambitious Code of Conduct for horse riding business that companies feel
obliged to sign up to. In terms of regulations we would need to raise minimum requirements of horse man-
agement. We would need more monitoring on management of animals from independent agencies. In that
way the monitoring would be more comprehensive and credible. To reach all these objectives we would
need a clear leadership and strategy in tackling animal welfare in Icelandic tourism. After all that we
should have a transparent way for customers to choose and evaluate companies in terms of how they are
performing in animal welfare matters be it in the form of certifications or other kind of reward systems. On
the contrary, greenwashing in forms of empty policies and certificates would be very harmful for animal
welfare in tourism business.
2.4 Audits by international travel agents
Audits are an important tool for travel agents for obtaining information about the quality of the ani-
mal-based tourism services they sell. (For more information about the various quality monitoring sys-
tems used in the travel industry, see the report “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism”
Salmela & Äijälä, 2017). International travel agents perform audits in order to ensure that the activities
of their partner companies meet the travel agent’s own principles.
The principles used by many travel agents are based on the Global Welfare Guidance for Animals
in Tourism guidelines created by ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents). ABTA has also created
more detailed manuals for specific forms of animal-based tourism. In addition to the general guidelines,
the manuals ‘Working Animals’ and ‘Unacceptable and Discouraged Practices’ are applicable to the
examination of animal-based tourism in Lapland. The publications are available to ABTA members and
their partner companies.
The ABTA guidelines on animal welfare are global. As such, audits performed or commissioned by
travel agents apply the same guidelines regardless of the animal species or local conditions. This set-
ting has strengths and weaknesses, which was manifested in the first animal welfare audits conducted
in Lapland in winter 2017–2018.
One definite strength is that, with audits, more attention is paid to animal welfare in the travel
industry. However, it is a weakness that audits, based on global criteria, do not consider the special
characteristics of different animal species and the local conditions. Many audits were originally created
for assessing the well-being of wild animals, such as elephants and dolphins, and so the assessments
emphasise their needs. Animals such as elephants and sled dogs have completely different needs, so
promoting their well-being requires completely different measures.
Audits cause major challenges for animal-based tourism companies in Lapland. For example, with
sled dogs it is not unambiguous whether it is better for the dog’s overall well-being to keep it on a chain
or in a kennel. In audits, however, chaining animals can be seen as something negative. The reindeer
is also a problematic species in terms of audits because it is not truly a wild animal. There is still little
international knowledge and expertise about reindeer well-being. Indeed, the current criteria used in
audits lack special criteria better suited to determining the well-being of the animals used for tourism
in Lapland.
The first audits conducted in Lapland are an indication that animal welfare is becoming an im-
portant factor for companies and consumers. In the future, the number of audits will likely increase.
The first experiences give an opportunity to develop audits to better correspond with the needs of the
animals used for tourism and the companies operating in Lapland. Despite their shortcomings, animal
welfare audits have a place in the travel industry.
Guest Column
Demanding customers – a new phenomenon
Jaakko Leinonen, Senior Inspector, Tukes, Finland
A new phenomenon that is taking root in services is safety requirements presented by customers that may
exceed the requirements of the national legislation. For example, customers may request to see the “hour
logs” of the animals before using the service. They want to ensure for themselves that the animal has had
enough rest before starting the services and thus can enjoy the service with a clear conscience. Elevated
safety requirements demonstrate that customers are increasingly interested in how services are produced,
and they may have extensive advanced knowledge about the service. Not only the entrepreneur and legis-
lation, but also customers are becoming increasingly engaged in the development of services. In the future,
this customer viewpoint should be listened carefully.
ABTA 2018. Animals in Tourism. Available at
Bohn, D., García-Rosell, J-C. & Äijälä, M. 2018. Animal-based Tourism Services in Lapland. University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute. Available at
García-Rosell, J-C. & Äijälä, M. 2018. Lapin matkailijoiden käsityksiä eläinmatkailusta. University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute. Available at
Klos, D., García-Rosell, J-C. & Haanpää, M. 2018. Analysis of user-generated social media content related to
animal-based tourism activities in Lapland. Available at
Lapin liitto 2015. Lapin matkailustrategia 2015-2018. Available at
Salmela, T. & Äijälä, M. 2017. Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism. University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute. Available at
Witt, M., Salmela, T. & García-Rosell, J-C. 2018. Guide for evaluating and developing animal welfare
communication practices in animal-based tourism in Finland. Available at
Äijälä, M., García-Rosell, J-C. & Haanpää, M. 2016. Kirjallisuuskatsaus: Eläimet osana matkailutoimintaa.
Matkailututkimus, 12(2), 45−59.
Äijälä, M., Hakkarainen, M. & García-Rosell, J-C. 2018. Matkailutoimijoiden käsityksiä eläinmatkailusta Lapissa.
University of Lapland, Multidimensional Tourism Institute.
Karoliina Majuri, Lapland UAS
3.1 Defining welfare
Animal welfare refers to its own experience of its mental and physical well-being. According to the
Companion and Hobby Animal Welfare Council, animals – as feeling creatures – have rights, and hu-
mans have complementary obligations towards them. This means that people have the obligation to
treat animals in a way that supports their well-being.
Well-being is a multifaceted subject. The health and production and living conditions of an individual
animal are important factors of well-being, but they alone do not tell everything relevant. Often, animal
behaviour is a more viable and sensitive indicator of well-being.
Species-typical behaviour
Species-typical behaviour refers to the natural behaviour of various animal species. It is inborn and
regulated by hormones. Behaviour can be divided into maintenance functions, social behavioural needs,
special characteristics of young individuals and behaviour connected to reproduction and caring for
Important behavioural needs include social activity, sleep and rest cycles, feeding, movement, body
maintenance, heat regulation, reproduction, nurture between parent and young, play behaviour and
investigative behaviour.
Animals have a strong need to conduct species-typical behaviour. If an animal is unable to satisfy
this need, its well-being is endangered, which may manifest as behaviour disorders. The inability to con-
Animals have a right to well-being and treatment
that supports the realisation of said well-being.
(Figure: The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare 2018)
Right to
behaviour and living
Right to good
health and
Right to good
treatment and
positive feelings
and experiences
duct species-typical behaviour always reduces an animal’s well-being even if the behaviour disorders
are not clearly visible abnormal behaviour, such as stereotypical movements, phlegmatic behaviour or
Species-typical behaviour is extremely important in terms of animal welfare. It is a natural need
to act in a certain way, not just a need that the animal satisfies through its actions, such as feeding.
Conducting natural behaviour makes an animal feel good because it causes the brain to start secreting
pleasure chemicals.
In order to enable species-typical behaviour, it is important to know the typical behaviour of the
animal species in question. These behavioural needs are taken into account in all animal care and in the
conditions to which the animal is exposed while in the care of humans. The needs must be taken into
account in the actual location where the animal is kept and during its work on safaris, for example.
Sometimes, it is impossible for an animal to behave in a species-typical way while in the care of
humans. Some natural behaviours may also be detrimental to the animal, such as aggressive behaviour
between animals. While in the care of humans, an animal does not need to find food for itself, so it is left
with a lot of free time, which can be compensated for by stimulating activities and play, for example.
The species-typical behavioural needs of all animals used for tourism include the opportunity to move
freely and maintain social relationships.
3.2 Individual treatment of animals
In order for an animal used for tourism to be well,
its needs must be considered at an individual
level. The animal’s characteristics and its behav-
iours, preferences and social relationships affect-
ed by previous experiences all influence the han-
dling, care and use of an animal used for tourism.
The experience of an individual animal of its
own well-being is personal because it is always
influenced by its genotype and environment.
In individual care, it is vitally important to know
the species-typical behaviour and the operat-
ing modes and needs typical of the species. The
keeper must also know each animal individually
in order to ensure well-being. Animals have major
individual differences in, for example, the ability
to withstand stress, sociability, motivation and
physical activities.
Dog name plates help new workers and
communicate to customers that the dogs
are individuals.
3.3 Good practices of welfare of animals used for tourism
Animals used for tourism must be physically, mentally and socially well in order to enjoy comprehen-
sive well-being. Species-typicality and individuality must be taken into account under all circumstances
and in all activities that affect the animal’s physical, mental and social well-being.
Areas that influence the well-being of animals used for tourism can be depicted using the following
diagram. From time to time, animal keepers should assess the effects of the different areas on well-be-
ing in their work because sometimes work can “blind” you.
Factors in the well-being of animals used for tourism
Euthanasia WELFARE OF
• Mental
• Physical
• Social
Basic care
Health care
Animal premises
• Guard hair
• Claws/hooves
• Teeth
• Muscle maintenance
• After-work care
• Physical and mental
• Dental care
• Prevention
(vaccination, etc.)
• Veterinary examinations
• Pen/kennel conditions
• Place to rest
• Shelter
• Lighting
• Noise
• Structures
• Feed, quantity and quality
• Fluids (continuous access to
water on permanent premis-
es promotes well-being)
• Feeding behaviour
• Feeding as an action
• Quantity
• Methods
• Responding to
behavioural needs
• Breeding
• Mating season behaviour
• Stud service
• Calving/foaling/whelping
• Weaning + dam’s care
• Interaction and encounters
• Training, teaching and raising
• Physical training
• Work and the animal’s
working hours
• Tack/gear (fit, maintenance, etc.)
• Transport
• Competent staff
• Customer’s effects on the animal
Veterinarian’s greetings to ensure the well-being of
animals used for tourism
The Animal Welfare Act is a minimum requirement.
The animal must be guaranteed a daily opportunity to withdraw into a stress-free
environment to calm down.
Animal health should be monitored at least twice a day and deviations should be
handled swiftly, consulting the on-call veterinarian as needed.
A dry and clean place to rest is vitally important to animals.
Animals must look healthy and act like healthy animals – animals that are not suited to
tourism must be transferred out of such tasks and placed elsewhere.
Better care should be taken of the hydration and recovery of animals used for physical labour.
When an animal is under the care of humans, it is at their mercy.
The following chapters of the manual include good practices that support the well-being of the most
typical animals used for tourism in Lapland – sled dogs, reindeer and horses. The practices have been
compiled from the views of the experts interviewed for the project as well as previously published
The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare 2018. Hyvinvointi. Available at
Telkänranta, H. 2016. Eläin ja ihminen. Mikä meitä yhdistää. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.
Karoliina Majuri, Lapland UAS
Sanna Koljonen, Lapland UAS
4.1 Species typical behaviour
The dog is well when it can carry out species-typical behaviour. The strength of the behavioural need
varies between different breeds. Dog welfare is improved when the dog can move freely and use its
sense of smell. Mental-physical activation is important to dogs.
Semi-feral dogs spend their time acquiring nourishment, resting and tending to the social relation-
ships within the pack. Behaviour related to the acquisition of food and eating is a significant need for
any dog. It entails searching for food, hunting and tearing food to pieces.
Sled dog breeds: Several breeds are well-suited to acting as sled dogs. Siberian huskies and Alaskan
huskies are the breeds most commonly used as sled dogs in the tourism industry in Lapland.
The Alaskan husky is a mixture of many breeds.
It is not a registered dog breed, so it has no official
size or appearance description
Siberian huskies have thick coats, and because
its’ appearance, for many people it is ‘the only
real’ sledge dog.
4.2 The physical well-being
The dog’s well-being and state of health should be evaluated on a daily basis. The assessment should
always be done carefully in order to detect the smallest of changes. Changes in dogs’ appetite, water
consumption, urine and faeces and also their behaviour are often the first signs of health issues.
A good health inspection routine is to palpate the dogs thoroughly and bend their joints when taking
off their harness after mushing. When the dogs are routinely inspected when they are healthy, it be-
comes easier to spot a dog that is unwell. Two minutes per dog is all it takes.
It is a good idea to give the dogs a more thorough physical examination once a week. A dog’s phys-
ical well-being is estimated by a visual inspection as well as by palpating the dog.
The Samoyedi (on the left) and the Alaskan
Malamute are also sled dogs but are less often
used for tourism in Lapland.
OBSERVE How? Healthy dog Dog that is unwell
Moving Visual observation Moves symmetrically
E.g. Limps -> sign of pain
Head is tilted -> sign of ear
infection, dental issue, injury
to the cervical spine or head
Body Palpating
Muscles are symmetrical
Joints are bendy
Dog does not shun away
from being touched
Deviations, especially in
females’ nipple tissue.
Activity Observing behaviour Interested Note that behaviour is breed,
individual and age-specific
Eating Healthy appetite Difficulties swallowing
Lack of appetite
State of nourishment Body condition score and palpating Body condition score 4–5
(on a 9-step scale) Over and underweight are
both negative issues
Coat Visual inspection Clean and shiny Worn out
Nails Chipping
cracked, overlong, broken.
Pads and areas in
between toes Palpating Skin ulcers and signs of
extensive licking
Lymph nodes Feeling: armpits, hollows of the
knees, groin, throat Lymph nodes are not
identifiable Swelling may be a sign of
Skin Observation
When the scruff of the neck
is pinched, it flattens in 1–2
Acute eczema (hotspot),
cuts, scars, redness, external
parasites, symptoms caused
by snot
Body temperature Measured from the rectum 38–39°C
Pulse Measured from the inner surface of
the thigh by pressing the femoral
artery against the thighbone 60–160 beats per minute
Mucous membranes
Observation, pressing
Mucous membranes of the eyes
are inspec-ted by pulling down the
lower eyelid
Pink colour returns in 3
seconds Light, clear or bluish
Eyes, nostrils, ears Observation Discharge, secretion, ulcers,
itching, does not breathe with
both nostrils
Mouth Observation Odour, slobber, dental issues
Breathing Measurement, palpating 10–30 times per minute,
both the stomach and the rib
cage move
Pronounced breathing from
the stomach or the sides can
be a sign of pain
Coughing, wheezing, other
abnormal sounds
Accelerated breathing can be
a sign of dehydration
Genitalia and external
urinary organs, anus Observation
Discharge, swelling (also
signs of heat), signs of
diarrhoea or urinary issues
(hair stuck together)
Dogs need exercise throughout the year. It is easier for them to reach working condition in the autumn when
their physical condition has been maintained also during the summer. The actual training is started in good
time before the tourism season begins so that the dogs are able to work. A four-wheeler is a safe training
tool thanks to its good operability, speed indicator, breaks and lights. Training is started little by little with
short distances (starting at 400 m) and plenty of breaks. More intensive training of dogs is usually started
only after the outdoor temperature has dropped below +10°C.
Dogs in the same team should have a similar working condition so that they are able to keep up their
work enthusiasm. In order to keep up their motivation, dogs should not be regularly asked to exceed their
capability. The training is intensified while keeping an eye on when the dogs finish training looking strong.
The condition of the foot pads of dogs training on gravel and hard surfaces should be observed particularly
carefully. It is a good idea to keep a journal of the training.
Muscle maintenance and recovery from exertion
Even if the dog is willing to work, its workload and endurance must always be assessed individually. Muscle
soreness and contraction can be seen in the way the dogs move in the team and when running free. Muscle
health is promoted by ensuring the dogs get enough rest and recovery time. Good dog houses, proper clo-
thing and insulated containers to transport the dogs to safaris ensure a well-functioning and pain-free
muscle system. Massage, dietary supplements, bedding at the start point and proper timing of bringing the
dogs to the team also play a great role in muscle maintenance. The dogs warm up their muscles when they
get excited as the teams are collected. However, if the take-off is postponed, the dogs’ muscles cool off.
Letting the dogs run free before and after
exertion promotes their muscle health.
Temperature regulation
It is very important to recognise when a dog is too cold or hot. The normal body temperature of a dog is
38–39°C. The temperature is lower during the night than during the day as exercise and mental stress raise
the temperature. Temperature regulation is affected by the dog’s age, coat, colour, size, body condition score
and health.
Pups, older dogs and sick dogs are less tolerant of cold than healthy adult dogs. Ears and areas of body
with less hair, such as the belly, nipples and testicles, are particularly prone to frostbite.
The early symptoms of hyperthermia, or overheating, include panting. When viewing a dog from behind
during mushing, the dog’s head is raised as it opens its mouth wide open to cool off. It is vital that every
musher is able to recognise this tiny movement. At this point, there is still time to cool the dog off. Other
symptoms include excessive salivating, fast heart rate, bright red gums, stumbling and vomiting.
Issues related to health
Dogs are dewormed 2–3 times a year. The deworming schedule should be carefully planned, as it can impact
the dogs’ performance in the following weeks.
If possible, racing activities should be scheduled towards the end of the tourism season, so that possible
infectious diseases, such as kennel cough, do not ruin the entire season. It is a good idea to plan the dogs’
vaccination programme together with a vet.
Fights between the dogs
Careful planning can help avoid fights between dogs. The handlers know the dogs, observe their behaviour
and supervise them when they participate in teamwork, are running free, eating and engaging in other activ-
ities. Dogs with amiable personalities are selected for breeding and dogs that are not used in breeding are
The dogs are taught at an early age that fighting is not tolerated. Providing stimuli, especially during hol-
idays, also helps keep the peace. Dogs with personalities that suit each other are housed together in pens.
Dogs that prefer to spend time alone are tethered. When moving inside the kennel area with dogs, ensure
that there is no opportunity for them to get into a fight with tethered dogs.
Transport boxes can be used to limit the interaction
between dogs and the risk of fights breaking out
when moving to the starting point.
Stopping a fight
Fights should be stopped immediately before the situation gets out of hand. Attempt to avert the dogs’ at-
tention by sounding a loud noise or throwing water on the dogs fighting. The safest place to grab a hold of a
dog is by its hind legs or waist; this reduces the risk of being bit. However, people intervening in a dog fight
should always primarily tend to their own safety.
4.3 Mental well-being
”Boredom is the biggest issue with dogs housed in stationary kennels. The same routes, same people, same
places, over and over again.” (Sled dog entrepreneur)
Satisfying species typical behavioural needs and providing enough stimuli are the foundation of mental
well-being. There are numerous signs of weakened mental well-being. The dog may become passive: it
sleeps all the time, has a delayed response to stimuli and poor posture. The dog may also become overactive:
it starts to bark too much and whine. Stereotypical obsessive compulsive symptoms include running from
one end of the pen or chain to the other or running around in circles while tethered, prancing from one foot
to another or chasing their tail.
The motivation to work is an extremely important factor in mental well-being as well as the quality of work.
Motivation must be maintained on a dog-specific level, as some sled dogs are more easily motivated than
others are. The choice of breed may also affect the motivation to provide different types of event services.
Sled dogs that are suited to their work love their job, in other words, pulling the sled and running, but their
working motivation must be kept up. Once motivation is lost, it may be difficult to rediscover it.
Varying the routes keeps up motivation: making route changes, changing directions, varying runs etc.
Also changing positions in the team keeps up the dogs’ motivation. For example, to balance off the responsi-
bility placed on the leading dogs, it is good to allow them to work in other positions as well. Excessive work
load, stress and fatigue bring down motivation. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the teams are as
balanced as is possible, so that dogs in weaker condition do not have to exert themselves too much and dogs
in better condition do not lose their motivation as they have to slow down.
Also breaking brings down the dogs’ motivation. For this reason, suitable clients should be selected for
the dog teams, for example, elderly clients are paired together with calmer dog teams. Selecting routes that
are suitable for each client group, considering the route’s degree of difficulty and placing slower dog teams
last ensures that the dogs are able to keep up their working motivation.
Every dog needs personal social
relationships with humans.
Social relationships
A dog is a pack animal and needs social relation-
ships with humans as well as with other dogs in
order to enjoy a good quality of life. The group
size within a pen must be carefully considered.
In Norway, the recommendation is no more than
four dogs in the same pen. Professional handlers
who know that they must spend time regularly
observing the dogs, preferably undetected, for
example by videotaping the dogs or by observing
them through a window.
Signs that a dog is suffering from social stress
include withdrawing from the company of other
dogs, for example, to the far end of the pen, low
position, ears laid back, suspended tail and licking
corners of the mouth.
Sled dogs experience stress in kennels for several
reasons. The most common causes of stress for
sled dogs in kennels is the ever-changing flow of
employees, tourists, constant hubbub and going off
the work, which excites the dogs as they are eager
to work. The ability to tolerate stress is dog-specif-
ic; some dogs are braver and more social by nature.
Good approaches to reducing the dogs’ stress is to
have full days off for the dogs, to place dogs that are
more likely to react to stress in a quieter location at
the kennel, as far away as is possible from the start-
ing point and to ask the tourists to behave as calmly
as possible around the dogs. It is also important to
organise the start to be as effortless and easy as
possible for both the dogs and the employees so
Being familiar with the dogs’ social relationships is
highly important when selecting pen-mates.
VWhen selecting teams, the relationships between
the dogs as well as the best position for each dog are
considered. Dogs are able to fully focus on the task
at hand, when they do not have to worry about their
that it causes as little excitement and stress as pos-
sible. Good, steady and calm employees are also
important as dogs are very sensitive to observing
humans’ mood and then adopting the same mood.
4.4 Stimulation
According to a Norwegian food safety scientific
committee, dogs should be allowed at least ten
hours of free exercise per week. Various kinds of
memos, journals and calendars make it easier for
animal handlers to keep track of what is happen-
ing and what has happened and when. Separate
times of stimulating each group of dogs can be
set in a stimulation calendar. Such notes also act
as documentation of what is being done to look
after the dogs’ well-being.
Providing this kind of stimulation activates
the brain and the muscles and prevents undesira-
ble behaviour, such as constant sleeping, running
around in circles, excessive licking, chasing the
tail, depression and withdrawal, lowered working
motivation and deterioration of muscle power.
Providing stimulation for the pups and socialising
them go hand in hand. Spending time with the adult
dogs stimulates them and also deepens the bond
between the animals and their handler.
Ways of providing stimulation
A boring run can be made more interesting by adding hills and holes and bringing in rocks or tree trunks.
A varied terrain activates both dogs’ muscles and their mind and promotes their well-being. The run can
also be partitioned into several sections used together or separately.
During the summer season, dog teams can pull carts with wheels or kick bikes. The dogs can also
be harnessed to a running belt and taken for a hike and a pack of pups can be taken for a walk in the
forest. The dogs’ minds can also be activated by visiting different environments. Agility, obedience train-
ing, rescue and animal assistant services also activate the dogs. There is no activity that would not be
suitable for sled dogs. The toys are easily broken, so playtime should always be supervised or directed
by a human. Dogs can also be given wooden sticks or branches to chew.
Spreading dry food or giving bones in the pen to stimulate the dogs may cause fights to break out
between pen-mates. Some dogs like to hide bones, and when these turn up, for example, in the run, they
may cause surprising disputes. As bones are slowly digested, it is not a good idea to give them to the
dogs too often during the tourism season.
In a run that has extensive and varying terrain, a dog
can behave like a dog: run around, dig, explore, sniff
around and play.
A swimming pond or paddling pool can be construct-
ed for the dogs or a lawn sprinkler be placed in the
run to help the dogs cool off during the summer heat.
A pasture is a more durable choice than traditional
lawn for a run that is covered with grass. The run is
also beneficial for the dogs during the tourism sea-
son, as running free promotes their recovery.
The company of other dogs also provides important
stimulation. This can be made even more interesting
by occasionally changing pen-mates and having
groups of dogs of varying ages spend time together.
Summer programme services and other time spent with
the dogs is important summer season stimulation.
Some dogs like to play with different kinds of toys.
4.5 Housing
When establishing a kennel, particular attention should be paid to keeping the ground dry and construc-
ting subsurface draining, when necessary. The individual characters of dogs should be considered when
placing them. If dogs are not comfortable, their location has to be changed; some dogs get stressed if
they are placed too close to the starting point, others react to being tethered. Dogs who love humans
prefer to stay close to the clients.
It is good to pair dogs together in
pens whenever possible. Dogs
that are penned or tethered alone
should be placed so that they can
see other dogs.
The kennel area should be fenced throughout to
keep the dogs from escaping and stray dogs, wildlife
and trespassers from entering.
Dog house
A good dog house promotes recovery from work
and training, provides protection from the weat-
her and gives the dogs privacy. All dogs must be
provided with a clean, dry place to lie down.
Different mixtures of breeds, such as Alas-
kan huskies, do not endure cold as well as purely
arctic breeds. Thus, their dog houses must be in-
sulated to ensure their well-being. Dog handlers
must have enough time and skills to recognise a
dog that is cold. If the dog gets cold it is a sign
that their well-being has not been invested in at
an early enough a stage.
The dog house must have bedding throug-
hout the year. A thick enough a layer (10–15 cm)
of bedding ensures that the surface remains dry,
even if the bottom of the bedding freezes.
The dog house must be insulated and even heated,
if the dog housed in it is not of a purely arctic breed,
such as a Siberian husky.
The dog house must be raised off the ground, so
that moisture and cold are not able to penetrate it.
Placing the entrance way to the side of the front
wall prevents wind and snow from entering. The
dog house should not be too large or too small;
the dog must be able to turn around inside it.
Separate entrance room adds to the warmth
of the dog house.
Screws can be used to lift the roof to remove
humidity from the dog house.
Wind-blocks provide shelter for the entrance.
Wood chips and hemp fibre (in the picture) are con-
sidered better options than hay and straw, which can
cause respiratory issues. A high-enough threshold
helps keep the bedding inside the dog house. The
bedding must be changed sufficiently often.
Many dogs enjoy spending time on the flat
roofs of their dog houses.
The service life of a dog house can be improved by
adding steel reinforcements to the dog house and
its entrance ways.
Kennel structures
All kennel structures must be safe for the dogs. For example, the oxidation of the welding should be
monitored to spot potentially hazardous spikes. The suitability of structures and their effect on welfare
must be assessed individually; for example, a plank floor may give some dogs sore muscles.
It is important that also the shiest dogs receive enough human attention and company in the kennel.
Pen-mates must always be selected so that they are comfortable with each other and all dogs are able
to relax. It is important that pen-mates do not shy away from each other or submit to one another.
According to Mush with Pride (3 ed.) dogs spend more time moving around in a kennel that is rec-
tangular than in a square-shaped kennel.
The dog pens line the kennel area so that the dogs
can be allowed to run free inside.
Dense enough netting for the pens prevents fights between
dogs in neighbouring pens and calms the dogs by providing
visual shelter. 5x5 cm netting is durable and strong enough
and the dogs are not able to stretch it as they would if the net-
ting was larger.
Boarded separating walls offer additional peace and also protection from the sun and snow.
Dogs are not able to dig their way out as the netting or, for example,
plywood is dug approximately 50 cm into the ground.
The base of the kennel penetrates water and is easy to clean as the base material is gravel
(on the left) and the surface material is a denser substance with smaller grains.
Bolt cloth prevents the kennel sand from sinking into
the clay ground and stops water from rising from the
clay into the kennel.
Boarding the base of the kennel promotes hygiene
and prevents the dogs from eating the gravel. A dig-
ging hole left in the boarding provides an activity for
the dogs and they are also able to cool off in it during
the summer.
Protection can also be provided with covers. Even a partial cover provides shelter from rain, creates
a shadow and protects from the heat of the summer sun. Covers can also be used to stop dogs who
like to climb from escaping the kennel.
The kennel doors are also functional during the winter, if the threshold is high enough.
Attention should be paid to measures to prevent the dogs from escaping.
According to the legislation a dog under the age of one year may not be tethered. For dogs that are older
than one, however, tethering may be useful: they can learn how to untangle themselves in the gangline.
Metal or choke collars are not allowed to be used for dogs that are tethered.
In order to satisfy a tethered dog’s need for space, the running wire must be at least 10 metres long
and the dog must have at least 2 metres of latitude on each side. When the chain is attached to a pole,
the chain has to be at least 3.6 metres long. This meets the dog’s need for space of 40 square metres.
If the tethered dogs can reach each other, it is vital to ensure that the chains do not get tangled.
Dogs that are tethered also often enjoy
spending time on the roof of their dog house.
Twisting of the chain must be prevented. Daily
maintenance routines include checking the
mobility of the chains and shovelling snow away
from the chain poles.
The height of the pole can be used to stop
the chain from spreading faecal matter.
4.6 Feeding
The dogs’ feeding varies according to their energy consumption. This is determined by their age, breed, size,
gender, activity level, time of year and weather conditions, amount and type of work they engage in, gestation
and lactation. Feeding planning can be intensified with the help of a calculation application.
Working dogs must not be over or underweight; they should have a low fat percentage and a muscular
build. A dog’s body condition score is evaluated by palpating the dog. The ribs, backbone and hipbones should
be palpable. Looking from the side, the stomach line pulls up, and looking from above, the waist starting after
the ribs grows narrow. The dog’s muscle tone should be evaluated regularly, at least every 2–3 days.
Dogs that are too skinny have no energy for working to the full and they get cold easily. Dogs that are
overweight cannot cope with working and suffer from heat. Maintaining an ideal body condition score all year
round allows the training season in the autumn to be launched to the full effect as no time has to be spent on
rehabilitating the dogs.
Consistency of nutrition
The dogs’ basic diet consists of snacks, baited water and dry food.
Feeding technique
The main rule is to hydrate the dogs approximately two hours before working and to feed them only after
they have finished their work. Dogs are often fed in the evening, when they have finished their work and
are able to rest without feeling hungry.
When the dogs are always fed in the same order, the stress caused by expectation is reduced. This
way, the dogs know they will get their food as soon as it is their turn and there is no need to fuss about it
Some of the lower ribs of a working dog may
show, but not the hips.
Feeding openings
Attachment solution to a feeding openingThe bowls are never placed to the edge of the pen,
where a pen neighbour may disturb the dog being fed
up to the point that the dog is too scared to eat at all.
The bowls are placed so that every dog gets to eat their own share. The bowls are located behind the dog
houses or inside them, so that pen-mates do not see each other.
when the first dogs receive their share. Feeding the dogs roughly at the same time every day reinforces
their routine and makes life easier for both the humans and dogs. Feeding changes are made gradually.
Problems in feeding and preventing them
In order to prevent feeding problems, it is important that the feeders are aware of not just the feed type
and amount but also the dog’s individual preferences, habits, needs and any deviations in eating.
In order to prevent problems related to feeding, the aim is to pair the right pen-mates together. It is
also important to prevent feeding problems caused by clients. Clients must be informed that especially
during the mushing season, when the dogs work a lot, they have to be fed very precisely. The dogs may
also be allergic to a certain ingredient, fall ill or get an upset stomach.
Dog handlers monitor the feeding if the dogs
are known to have a tendency to sneak food
from their pen-mates.
When pups are taught proper feeding manners from a young age, they learn to eat briskly and to appreciate
their food. For example: the pups are first fed from a large, shared bowl. After this, a couple of pups are fed
from the same bowl, then two and eventually every pup gets their own bowl.
Milla Tuisku Milla Tuisku
Milla Tuisku
4.7 Hydrating
Hydration is a particularly important aspect of a sled dog’s nourishment, particularly when the dog is
working. As the dogs engage in physically arduous work, it is important that they are not fed before
working. This helps prevent conditions such as stomach twists and the dogs are able to perform better
as they do not have to run with a full stomach.
Dehydration among dogs is caused them refusing to drink and eat when they are tired or stressed.
Dogs suffering from diarrhoea, or even just stress, may end up dehydrated, even if they have constant
access to water.
Recognising the symptoms of dehydration
If you pinch the scruff of the neck of a hydrated dog, the skin should flatten back to its original position
in 1–2 seconds. The pinching test may be more reliable when conducted on the dog’s shoulder blade.
When pressing the gums of a hydrated dog, the white colour that first appears should immediately
turn back to normal. The colour of the dog’s urine and their habit of eating snow should be monitored.
Accelerated breathing may be a sign of dehydration.
4.8 Breeding
Guest column
Breeding of sled dogs
Riitta Kempe, Research Scientist and Musher, Natural Resources Institute, Finland
Breeding can only be used to improve genetic characteristics. If the characteristic is not genetic, it cannot be
improved by breeding. Therefore, sled drivers must have some understanding or experience of the genetic
desirable characteristics of sled dogs as well as undesirable characteristics to be eliminated. What the
“best” sled dog is like depends on its tasks and environment. For several generations, sled dogs have been
selected for two different directions: dogs that run long distances and dogs that sprint, which has caused
them to be genetically different types of sled dogs.
The key characteristics to be improved in sled dogs include speed and endurance, size, structure and
its durability, efficiency of step and trot, coat thickness, heat and cold endurance, toughness of nature and
work motivation, behaviour towards other dogs and people, appetite, ability to utilise feed and health. A sled
dog that is capable of a long work or race career, healthy, good-natured (social, brave, confident, relatively
tough) and easy to handle with excellent results in performance-related characteristics is a good choice for
breeding. In practice, only tried and tested lead dogs are used for breeding, because their significance for
the team’s performance is 70–80% and they have almost three times more offspring that run as lead dogs
than other sled dogs do (Conn 1991).
Dogs that have demonstrated their abilities at top levels in the intended competition or work task are
the most likely to embody the characteristics necessary for success in the said task or competition. The im-
provement of work motivation aims at a dog that always pulls evenly without letting the lines grow loose.
The dog must not stop or try to take breaks at its own initiative or have any displacement activities that
disrupt work. A balanced structure helps prevent stress injuries and makes movements more economical.
If a sled dog does not move cleanly, it will get tired more quickly than the others. Incorrect movements
show best at trot. Often, structural characteristics have high heritability, so a dog with a poor structure
should not be used for breeding. On the other hand, small structural issues are easy to eliminate through
complementary mating. The idea of complementary mating is to find a breeding partner that is clearly
better in terms of the characteristic in question.
A dog has good endurance if it can run well throughout the work day or race. Safari dogs used for
breeding should be able to run journeys of approximately 200 km. In competition results, a large number of
wins indicates a nature suited to sled races, and a large percentage of placements reflects steadiness and
reliability in competitions. The lack of results is also important and often eliminates a dog from breeding.
In addition to the dog’s own results, the results of its parents and siblings should also be considered. They
should also be above average, preferably with results from the top level. Dogs with inheritable diseases or
any undesirable characteristic at all should not be used for breeding. Sled dogs sometimes have diseas-
es that should be eliminated, such as epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, thyroid or kidney diseases and eye
diseases, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Carriers of PRA and Alaskan husky encephalopathy
(AHE) can be found through genetic testing. Laryngeal paralysis, also known as “wheezers”, runs in the
families of some blue-eyed dogs, which is why it is not recommended to breed two blue-eyed dogs. In re-
cent years, the back diseases spondylosis and lumbosacral transitional vertebra (LTV) have grown more
common in several breeds, so medical imaging of bone structure is recommended to ensure the health of
breeding dogs. Other undesirable characteristics that disqualify from breeding include aggression towards
other dogs or people, timidity or the tendency to overheat, because the problem is often caused by a genet-
ic predisposition.
Tips for choosing breeding animals
• Set clear breeding goals.
• Do not let emotions control your breeding decisions.
• Know the characteristics to be bred.
• Select dogs from kennels with a long history of success.
• Select dogs that have run at the top level of the competition you want to win (or similar competitions).
• Select a lead dog to produce lead dogs.
• Select tested dogs rather than untested siblings or relatives.
• Select dogs with many successful full siblings or close relatives.
• A breeding dog whose offspring have performed extremely well is a safe choice.
Breeding means improving the ge-
netic level of the entire kennel or po-
pulation in terms of characteristics
connected to performance, health
and nature. The aim is for the next
generation to be better than its pa-
rents. The aim can be achieved by
only using above-average dogs as
parents for breeding the next gene-
Information about relatives is
the more reliable the closer the re-
lationship is. The diagram shows the
most important relatives of a dog in
terms of breeding assessment; their
information should be studied. The
farther away we go in the genealo-
gical table, the greater uncertain-
ties there are in the assessment.
Conn, J.S. 1991. Analysis of pedigree information on the open class North American Sled Dog race, 1980-1991.
Highland Kennel PO Box 127, Ester, AK 99725.
Huson, H.J., Parker, H.G., Runstadler, J. & Ostrander, E. A. 2010. A genetic dissection of breed composition and
performance enhancement in the Alaskan sled dog. BMC Genetics 11: 71
in generation 1
Population average
in generation 10
Results of the
mother’s relatives
Results of the
father’s relatives
The mother’s
The father’s
Results of
half-siblings Results of
full siblings
Results of
Results of
own offspring
Results of
The dog’s
own results Results of
Results of the
breeding partner
Preventing unwanted litters
According to the Lapland regional veterinarians, abortion of unwanted pregnancies and putting down litters of
pups are among the largest veterinary service requirements at sled dog farms. This is unethical and causes ad-
ditional costs.
Accidental litters can be prevented through systematic operations, functional structures and castration/ster-
ilisation of dogs. The symptoms of pre-heat should be observed and recognised. The company of males may lure
the females to express the signs of heat more intensely: males and other females start to sniff the female’s rear
end and urine. The female often becomes more aggressive and urinates and marks more frequently than usually.
Dogs that are not used for breeding are systematically spayed and neutered. In the long run, this is a profita-
ble investment on the dog. The procedure calms the dog, reduces fighting, facilitates working with the dog and is
a fool proof way of preventing unwanted litters.
Pen-mates should be of the same gender and males and females should be kept at separate ends of the
kennel. Females in heat must be kept in escape-proof pens. When collecting teams, it is important to know and
recognise the dogs and to be familiar with their current capacity to work
Whelping dams must be observed without disturbing them. A safe and calm place is reserved for the whelping
and the pups. During the winter, the dog house must be at least insulated; during the summer it is vitally impor-
tant it provides adequate shelter against the insect plaque, i.e. flying, blood-sucking insects. Furthermore, the dog
house must be large enough, there has to be plenty of bedding and a roof that opens or other such measure for
maintenance. The dam cannot be kept in tethered as the chain may twist around one of the pups. When neces-
sary, the edges can be rounded by placing a cover on the walls. A ramp or stairs lead from the ground to the dog
house, so that the pups can climb in and out.
Insect plaque, or the mass occurrence of flying, blood-sucking insects, poses a risk to the dogs’ well-being
and pups in particular must be protected against it. The dogs have a varying ability to tolerate blood-sucking in-
sects and, when necessary, adult dogs should also be moved indoors during the worst insect season.
Various pen signs can help identify
females in heat.
Other dogs may pose an immediate threat to pups. The netting, particularly on the lower part of the pup pen, must
be dense enough so that the pups cannot get stuck in it and that dogs in the neighbouring pens are not able to
harm the pups. Pup pens should be separated from pens for adult dogs.
The pups should be handled right from the birth. When the pups are 3–16 weeks old, it is the primary time to
socialise them and to form a trusting relationship with them. Pups should also be handled on an individual level,
not only as a pack. Pups need a lot of new experiences and human company, but when they want to, they are
allowed to sleep, and when they are sleeping, they are never brought out for clients. Pups are given toys, stimula-
tion, safe chewing items and plenty of activities. They should not be weaned before they are eight weeks old.
The ramp ensures that the pups have
access to the protection provided by the
dog house whenever they want.
This designated area
for whelping located
inside a maintenance
building is warm and
dry and allows for easy
monitoring of the pups.
Motorised insect collector As the pups grow, the dam appreciates having a roof
to have a moment to spend alone.
As the pups meet clients, they get used to humans and are socialised.
At its best, meeting and greeting clients is a joy to both parties.
4.9 Handling a sled dog
Directing dog handlers
Every dog farm has its own style and practices when it comes to working and acting with the dogs. Therefore,
every new employee must be instructed on how to work at the farm. Different farms may also provide fresh
ideas and thoughts on how things could be done.
The dog farm entrepreneur and employees who have worked at the farm for several years recognise and
know the dogs, remember where they are housed and how much food each of them is given, which harness
is suitable to which dog and are also able to perceive the big picture and instantly know if something is wrong.
This “eye for the dogs” is not developed overnight.
Induction training is best provided through practical work, but written instructions and background materi-
al are also a part of successful induction. For example, feeding instructions as well as maps and photographs/
names of the dogs’ locations at the kennel are good tools for helping new employees begin their work and
learning process.
Different codes help staff members operate at the kennel. In addition to names, for example, squares of
different colours can be used to indicate which dogs are in heat or need to be monitored during feeding, how
much food they are given or possible deviances in feeding, intact males or dogs who like to chew their harnesses.
It is important to plan how guides can be reached and how they communicate and move around. Radio-
phones and applications that provide real-time location data help keep track of the dog sled in real-time to see
if the sled is approaching the kennel or to determine its exact location, for example, in case of an accident.
The dog handler plays the biggest role when it comes to the daily well-being of the dogs. This is why induc-
tion training, proper instruction and work experience of a new dog handler are worth the investment.
Guest Column
Veterinarian’s FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Terhi Ritvanen, Control Veterinarian, Rovaniemi, Finland
What to do if a dog blacks out in the team or the sled runs over a dog?
Stop, unfasten the dog from the team and examine it carefully. If the dog’s mucous membranes are pale, its
breathing is shallow, it is in pain or fails to react to its surroundings, the dog may be in shock or have internal
bleeding. Contact a veterinarian.
What to do if a dog breaks bones in an accident?
First, prevent further injuries by protecting the area of the break. If the dog has a compound fracture, protect
it from contaminants. Otherwise, protect the breaks by supporting the area so that the sharp ends of the
bone do not cause a compound fracture. Contact a veterinarian.
What to do if a dog keeps trying to vomit but is unable to do so?
The dog may suffer from a life-threatening condition called gastric torsion, which requires urgent care. Con-
tact a veterinarian.
What over-the-counter medicines are suitable for dogs?
Wounds can be cleaned with non-irritating local antiseptics (such as Betadine or saline solution 0.9% NaCl).
Ear wash can be used for cleaning the ears when the dog has slight secretions but no painful inflammation.
Eye discharges, or conjunctival irritation, can be treated with saline solution (0.9% NaCl) applied at least
twice a day. Always clean the eye before applying eye drops/ointment.
Treat diarrhoea with preparations that calm the bowels (such as Attapectin or Canikur), and treat dehy-
dration by adding electrolyte powder to the dog’s drinking water.
How to treat small wounds and skin infections?
The treatment of skin problems starts with shaving off any fur that is in the way. If there is debris in the
wound, remove it. Spray the irritated area clean with water and clean it with disinfectant (such as Betadine
or another non-irritating local antiseptic). Allow the irritated area dry, apply a healing ointment (such as Ve-
tramil) and cover with a sterile bandage. If necessary, put a cone or protective shirt on the dog to prevent it
from licking the wound.
How to treat a mild ear infection?
If the infection does not cause pain, the ear can be treated by cleaning it regularly with ear wash and drying
it with cotton wool.
How to treat diarrhoea?
A dog with diarrhoea must be moved to a private kennel, preferably one with a heated shed, so as not to infect
others. Lighten its diet and only give it small portions of nutritious fluid (such as the water from boiling rice)
along with rice several times a day. The need for fluids is approximately ½ dl per kg of weight. Monitor the
fluid balance by pinching a fold of skin and monitoring its fall back to place – in a normal condition, the skin
falls back to place immediately. If the dog refuses to drink, you can put water into its mouth with a small sy-
ringe. Drinking water must be available at all times. You can add electrolyte powder, which is available from
pharmacies, into the water to provide salt. You should also use preparations that calm the bowels (such as
Attapectin or Canikur). The next day, you can add a light protein, such as cottage cheese or boiled chicken,
into the rice in small portions several times a day. You can return to a normal diet gradually within approxi-
mately three days.
Rule of thumb for treating animals
You have the right treatment if every day is better than the one before. If there is no improvement, you must
change the treatment and, if necessary, take the animal to a veterinarian.
Marking the pens with the dogs’ names and birth
years helps new staff members.
Cloths pegs are an easy way to keep track of the
dogs’ whereabouts at the kennel map.
Collar tags with the dog’s name and colour codes in-
dicating the gender are helpful to new staff members.
Removable name tags go with the dogs.
Instructions regarding the order of dog maintenance
and location at the kennel are also useful to new
staff members.
Instructions related to the recognition, harnessing and team position of
dogs help new staff members and they also illustrate to the clients that
the farm is looking after the dogs’ well-being.
4.10 Sled dog at work
The snowmobile can reach the dog sleds quickly in case assistance is needed. They can also be used to
carry both humans and animals, monitor the last minute condition of the route and to shoo away reindeer
that may venture on the route before the dogs arrive.
When the weather turns hot or when working at extremely low temperatures, dog welfare must be
monitored with special care. Selecting dogs based on their coat quality, protecting dogs with clothing and
lowering the running speed are ways to enable dogs to work in extreme conditions.
Having a guide travel ahead of the dog
sled on a snowmobile provides safety
for both the dogs and humans.
Spending the night on a safari and rest
An adult dog sleeps about ten hours a day. The dogs should have houses when temporarily spending the
night away from the kennel. Selecting the correct breed and individuals helps ensure the dogs can endure
the cold. The dogs’ age, coat and condition also affect their ability to endure cold. Allowing the dogs to
sleep on snow and providing them with straw for bedding helps conserve their energy and promotes their
well-being. A constructed snow wall can help protect the dogs from wind. Coats can also be used to keep
the dogs warm and help them recover.
A clear daily routine at the kennel en-
sures that the dogs get enough rest.
When possible, the starting points of routes are located uphill and on a long stretch. The beginning of the
route should ideally be even and easy terrain to ensure that the client learns the ropes of operating the
sled. The clients may accidentally run over the dogs when going down a long hill. Excess snow and break
grooves along the route should be removed while ensuring that enough snow for breaking remains.
The client and the animal
The client should always be given mushing instructions. Mushing instruction should be given in a location
in which the client keeps focus on instructions. The person giving the instruction must have the confi-
dence, responsibility and linguistic skills to ensure that the client is able to follow the instruction. The
instructor’s own motivation and style of providing information has a major effect on how the clients are
able to absorb the instruction. Background information on why things are done a certain way gives the
client understanding and motivation to follow the instructions. It is a good idea to prepare the clients to
expect the early excitement and loudness of the dogs, as these may otherwise take them by surprise and
cause unnecessary delays and the risk of the dogs becoming overexcited. Only experienced guides should
take care of situations that require overtaking.
It is good to let the clients know
during mushing instruction that they
may need to take off for the safari
without any delays so that the dogs
will not get frustrated and that the
dogs will calm down once they get
Collecting preliminary information from clients
before the safari
Dog teams can be planned in good time before a safari by collecting preliminary information on the clients,
such as their age, weight and previous experience either on the telephone when making reservations or using
an online form. It is also a good idea to make arrangements with travel and safari agencies to ensure they also
collect preliminary information.
4.11 After the working career
Dogs are in need of attention and activities, even if they are no longer able to work. Elderly dogs need spe-
cial attention and maintenance. They may get cold easier than younger dogs and are also more likely to
suffer from heat. The working load of an ageing dog should be reduced. Old dogs have a way of balancing
the pack and they may play an important role in teaching younger dogs how to act in a team.
A sled dog, which can no longer be used for tourism either because of retirement or another reason, can
with certain prerequisites still enjoy a wonderful life as a pet or a hobby dog.
Retired dogs also do important PR work by interact-
ing with clients and communicating the values of the
kennel and the respect paid to long-term employees.
Even though preliminary information is used to plan dog teams, the final decision regarding the client’s ability
to mush and the number of people allowed to ride along can only be made once the clients have arrived. For
example, someone originally categorised as a child may be perfectly able to mush the sled with their size and
skills, while it might be better to sit an elderly client on a sleigh so that they are best able to enjoy the safari.
Checklist for a person giving away a dog
Never give somebody a dog on a whim or out of pity. Dogs should only be taken and
given as a result of careful consideration.
Carefully consider whether the dog is suitable for re-homing.
Select the dog’s new family based on the dog’s needs. For example, many dogs
require the company of another dog in order to be happy.
Be completely honest with the people considering giving your dog a new home.
Working dogs can make for challenging pets. They have usually not been house
or leash trained. They may be highly independent and take off on their own.
Ensure that the new owners will take good care of the dog.
Ensure that they understand they are adopting a highly active dog and what
it takes to keep such a dog happy.
Prepare the dog for re-homing. Train the dog and let it live in your home.
Ensure that a dog that is not suitable for breeding is not used for this purpose.
Give the dog to the new owners on a trial basis and give them the opportunity
to return the dog.
Keep in touch with the new owners and help them when necessary.
The dog should be kept in leash for at least one month so that it has the time
to get to know its new home.
It will take about a year for the dog to be fully adapted to its new home.
It is only then that the dog will begin to show it true nature, ways of reacting and habits.
Euthanising a sled dog
The average loss of a dog farm practising responsible breeding operations is about 10% of the population.
Euthanising pups is not the correct way to control procreation. A dog can only be euthanised by a veter-
inarian or another person with adequate experience, in other words, a person licensed to carry a gun and
equipped with enough experience on the physiology and handling of a dog. The person euthanising a dog
must ensure that the animal is dead before any measures are taken to destroy its remains.
Animal suffering must never be prolonged. The following questions provided in Mush with Pride (3rd
ed.) can help determine the fate of an injured dog or a dog that is weakened by old age or illness:
Is veterinary attention available?
Can you afford the necessary veterinary care?
How likely is it that the issue or need for care will reoccur?
Is the dog in pain? How efficiently can the pain be controlled?
Is the dog able to eat and digest enough food to stay nourished?
Is the dog able to move adequately?
Is the dog able to breathe effortlessly?
Does the dog enjoy life?
(Mush with pride 2009, 35)
The remains of a dog can be stored in a freezer to await burial or cremation. The remains must be stored
in such a manner that animals are not able to get to them and third parties cannot see them, not even
The dog is buried, with the permission of the landowner, to the depth of at least one metre. No plastic
bags or other non-decomposable material is used in the burial. The grave must be covered immediately.
The burial may not cause any hazards to the environment. This is why burial is not permitted at ground-
water catchment areas or within the protective zones of water intake plants. The grave must be located at
least 250 metres away from wells and slopes leading to water systems. It is a good idea to prepare some
graves before the ground freezes. This way, dogs that pass away during the winter can be buried even
when the ground is frozen.
A dog is euthanised quickly and
painlessly by shooting it in the brain.
The euthanising must be organised
in a manner that does not cause
distress to other animals.
(Sled dog code of practice 2012, 51)
British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture 2012. Sled Dog Code of Practice. Available at
Elintarviketurvallisuusvirasto Evira 2016. Lemmikkieläimet. Available at
Eläinsuojeluasetus 396/1996.
Eläinsuojelulaki 247/1996.
Eläinten hyvinvointikeskus 2017. Kesy koira eroaa sudesta. Available at
Eläinten hyvinvointikeskus 2017. Koira on joustava sopeutuja. Available at
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associated with being housed outdoors or used for sled dog racing. Available at
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Reindeer velvet antlers.
Veikko Maijala, Lapland UAS
5.1 Species-typical behaviour
The reindeer is a part of the deer family and most closely related to the mountain reindeer (Rangifer
tarandus tarandus), which also has some forest reindeer mixed in (Rangifer tarandus fennicus). Rein-
deer herding in Finland started in the late 1400s, but the reindeer has changed very little from its wild
original form. It is still important for reindeer to survive in the wild, and reindeer breeders pay attention
to this when selecting reindeer for breeding. The greatest difference between reindeer and mountain
reindeer is domestication, which has been necessary to make reindeer easier to herd and handle. In the
wild, reindeer migrate between feeding grounds depending on the season and weather conditions, and
its range can cover thousands of square kilometres. The natural diet of reindeer consists of over 350
food plants, approximately 100 of which are the most important.
Reindeer have large ranges
In summer, the metabolism of reindeer is many times faster than in winter, which imposes some re-
quirements for pastures. Digestible plants rich in energy and proteins must be easily available. In sum-
mer, the reindeer also favours plants high in minerals and trace elements. The reindeer is classified
as an intermediate ruminant. Its manner of browsing differs from roughage eaters, such as sheep and
cattle, in terms of its manner of nutrient uptake. The reindeer does not eat rougher and less digestible
food plants or their parts.
After summer, the amount of food plants decreases and reindeer metabolism slows down. In win-
ter, reindeer stop growing, and nutrients are mainly needed for maintenance. Excessive protein intake
in the winter is detrimental to reindeer.
Special characteristics of reindeer
The reindeer has several special characteristics that those taking care of reindeer well-being should
know. The thick coat keeps reindeer warm even at extremely low temperatures. In summer, the old
winter coat falls out in large wads, and the new winter coat grows in August. Reindeer have no sweat
glands, and hot summer days may thus cause stress. Reindeer have an excellent sense of smell. They
can smell the largest, most nutritious target under thick snow.
Reindeer have adapted to snowy conditions. They can walk on very soft snow by spreading their
shovel-like toes. When reindeer move, the hoof bone joints make a cracking noise. The clacking of
hooves informs other reindeer that their neighbour is moving around. The noise also serves as a warn-
ing to others if a reindeer is moving quickly or restlessly.
Thanks to its ability to sense ultraviolet radiation, the reindeer sees much better than other ani-
mals, which makes it easier for it to survive under difficult Arctic conditions. For example, the cell tissue
of reindeer’s most important winter food, lichen, and the cells of wolf fur absorb UV radiation. When
the UV radiation from the sky and reflecting from the snow and ice is bound in food and predators that
need to be avoided, it helps reindeer distinguish good and bad targets from their background. The ability
to see radiation of shorter wavelength than visible light is also an advantage when moving in winter
terrain. Different types of snow and ice reflect UV radiation differently, and detecting such differences
shows the reindeer the best routes for moving on snow.
The male and female reindeer each regrow true bone antlers each year. The growing or velvet
antler phase takes 3 to 4 months. Unlike other types of cartilage, the cartilage of growing antlers is
covered by velvety skin and a lot of veins and nerves, making it very sensitive to pain and prone to in-
jury. This limits the ability to handle and transport reindeer during the velvet antler phase from early
summer to August or September, even later for calves and castrated males, or geldings. In order to
familiarise reindeer used for tourism with car transport, they should be transported sufficiently and
Reindeer lose their winter fur in summer.
5.2 Physical well-being
Physical conditioning
and training
Early in the season, after the summer holiday, the
physical condition of reindeer can be improved
by walking them on leads and doing light work.
As the season progresses, the workload should
be increased gradually once the reindeer have re-
gained some muscle tone. Reindeer need days off
sometimes in order to recover from work and rest.
Reindeer should have regular safaris to maintain
good muscle tone throughout the season.
Muscle maintenance
The independent movement of reindeer main-
tains their muscle tone and also serves as recov-
ery exercise after safaris and on days off.
When the pen is large enough, reindeer have
the opportunity to move as they like. Reindeer tied
to posts do not have opportunities for independ-
ent exercise, so they should be exercised outside
their work activities. This promotes the muscle
tone of reindeer and the animal’s overall well-be-
ing. If an animal is tied to a post in the daytime, it
can be let loose in a pen at night, for example.
A reindeer being walked on a lead
before the season starts.
calmly outside the velvet antler phase. These in-
dividuals that are used to transport can be safely
transported to summer pasture after the tourist
season, for example.
Adult males cast their antlers in autumn after
the end of the mating season. Young males cast
their antlers in mid-winter. Geldings may keep
their antlers up until early spring. Female rein-
deer cast their antlers in the spring after calving.
A reindeer moving freely in a pen.
Animal diseases
Most of the customers taking part in reindeer farm tourism come from abroad. Some tourists come
from countries that have dangerous and highly contagious animal diseases. In reindeer tourism, atten-
tion must be paid to ensuring that diseases do not spread to the reindeer. If a reindeer farm has more
reindeer than those used for tourism, it is recommended to keep the groups at a sufficient distance
from each other. This allows for more effective prevention of any diseases spreading to the other rein-
deer. A sick reindeer must not be let loose in the wild with other reindeer until the cause of the disease
is ascertained.
Disease can be prevented from spreading by having customers wear clothes and footwear pro-
vided by the safari company while in the vicinity of the places where the reindeer are kept. Reduc-
ing unnecessary customer access to the areas where the reindeer are kept also reduces the risk of
spreading diseases.
Many employees of reindeer tourism companies also own some reindeer. For them, special care
must be taken to ensure that any diseases do not transfer from one farm to another with gear.
One route of transmission of infectious diseases is feed. Reindeer tourism farms mainly use feed
A reindeer recovering in a stall.
A healthy reindeer is watchful, alert, active and
aware of its surroundings. Its eyes are clear
and clean. The winter coat is thick. The reindeer
moves normally and does not throw its foot
sideways while walking, for example. A healthy
reindeer’s dung and urine are typical of its spe-
cies. Reindeer health is monitored daily.
When a sick and weak reindeer gets to re-
cover fully before going back to work, this pre-
vents further injuries and allows the reindeer
to work at maximum capacity. Recovery and
treatment are done according to the condition
of the reindeer, providing rest and the neces-
sary care. If needed, a veterinarian is called in
to have a look at the reindeer. It may be neces-
sary to isolate a sick reindeer if there is a risk
to its well-being or that of the other reindeer.
After sick leave, a gradual return to work helps
the reindeer’s muscles get used to the strain of
working again.
that they produce or gather themselves or purchase commercially. Under normal conditions, giving
this feed to reindeer does not cause a risk of infectious animal diseases. There is a risk if tourists bring
their own treats and give them to reindeer.
In normal reindeer husbandry, parasite prevention medicine is given once a year, usually in au-
tumn. Reindeer used for tourism are kept in closed pens, causing a higher environmental parasite
pressure, which may make it necessary to give preventative medicine more often than once a year.
Reindeer castration
As a prey animal, the reindeer does not exhibit clear signs of feeling pain. Reindeer used for tourism
are castrated at the age of 2 to 4 years. Unless the reindeer are given pain relief beforehand, the op-
eration is a painful one.
Geldings used as draught animals may grow extra tines at the base of their antlers as they grow
older, which must be removed by a veterinarian.
Customers wearing clothing provided by the safari company.
Guest Column
Castration of reindeer used for tourism
Marja Nuorgam, Municipal Veterinarian, Inari, Finland
Gelded reindeer are calmer and easier to handle in tourism. Their purpose is not to transport tourists at the
speeds of reindeer racers at the championships on the ice of Lake Inarijärvi. There are also fewer injuries
because the geldings have stable and low testosterone levels. If male reindeer were allowed to keep their
testicles, draught reindeer would need a lot of sick leave, especially in autumn, due to eye injuries and other
wounds received in fights. Geldings also stay in good condition throughout the year, unlike entire males, who-
se condition may deteriorate greatly after the mating season, causing them to lose the ability to work for an
extended period.
Castration is usually done in the reindeer’s second year or later. There is significantly more blood circula-
tion in the sexual organs during the mating season, so castration should not take place until after the mating
season in autumn. In practice, a suitable time should be chosen based on the weather and at a time when the
reindeer can be given two weeks of sick leave after the castration.
Consumers of tourism services are increasingly interested in ethical questions connected to the services
they use. In tourism, activities should be transparent so that when a customer asks about ethical matters
connected to the well-being of reindeer used for tourism, the actor does not need to try to hide their operating
Testicles are a body part that has a lot of nerves, which makes castration a painful operation to start
with. According to the Animal Welfare Decree, reindeer castration is permitted using Burdizzo castration
forceps performed by a qualified person.
In general, a veterinarian is called in for the castration; after all, the visit can be combined with annual pa-
rasite prevention, for example. The veterinarian can use tranquillisers, sedatives and pain medicines to carry
out the procedure humanely. Otherwise, the castration itself is similar when performed by a veterinarian –
breaking the testicular blood vessels with Burdizzo forceps. Feeding the reindeer should be restricted before
and after the sedation (this is agreed on with the veterinarian), and preparations should be made to keep the
reindeer fully isolated until it wakes up. It is not sensible to sedate reindeer in extremely cold weather. There
are long-acting and short-acting anti-inflammatory drugs, and the vet can leave more pain relief to be used
on the following days, if necessary.
As a prey animal, the reindeer is good at hiding pain. It submits and hangs tough through the procedure
even when pain relief is not used. Only the eyes get red. This is a species-typical behavioural model: submis-
sion and paralysis under duress. However, the reindeer has just the same nerves in the area as other species.
Reindeer used for tourism are valuable, long-term work partners for tourism entrepreneurs; let them be
treated as such at all times.
5.3 Mental well-being
In order to guarantee good work motivation, reindeer must be known individually. During a reindeer’s
training, it is also important to know what motivates it. Some reindeer prefer to take long safaris at a
calm walk, others prefer to run short rides, and the rest benefit from variety. When the activity is mean-
ingful for the reindeer, it is also more meaningful for the keeper.
Social relationships
As herd animals, reindeer spend a lot of time moving, browsing and resting together. When reindeer
used for tourism are kept in a pen instead of tied to a post, this enables their social interaction with
their own kind. However, not all reindeer get along with each other, so there should be several pens into
which the reindeer can be grouped.
Stress reduces the well-being of reindeer and can cause illness. However, stress can be avoided and
reduced through many different means. Positive methods should be used in training. People should act
and move calmly in the presence of reindeer. Customers must be instructed in what to do. The rein-
deer should be given conditions where it can conduct its natural behaviour. Other things that must be
ensured include access to sufficient and clean feed and water, an appropriate ratio of work and rest as
well as enough space to move around.
Reindeer resting at the same time. Reindeer eating at the same time.
5.4 Stimulation
Everything that reindeer do as they browse freely in the wild is natural reindeer behaviour. This includes
searching for food, digging, eating, ruminating, rubbing antlers on trees and seeing, scenting and touching
other reindeer. Facilitating these activities also in the winter season, when reindeer used for tourism are in
more restricted circumstances than during the summer pasture season, is important for reindeer welfare.
They are also stimulating activities for reindeer.
The premises where reindeer are kept should have diverse terrain and growing trees. It is important
for reindeer to get to keep company with other reindeer. Feed that is high in roughage should also be avail-
able at all times to enable rumination. In winter, reindeer spend most of their time searching for food and
ruminating, and it is natural to arrange hay or silage for reindeer used for tourism. Ripping apart leaves
also takes a lot of time. The digging behaviour of reindeer can be supported by putting a large treat dis-
pensing ball filled with lichen into the pen. Each entrepreneur can come up with the best ways to provide
stimulus for their own reindeer.
“Extra shrubs” have been created in the pen
for the reindeer to rub their antlers against.
Minerals for salt licks and pre-wilted silage
are available at all times.
The reindeer spends most of its time
searching for food.
5.5 Animal premises
Reindeer are browsers
In the wild, reindeer utilise large areas in their search for digestible food plants. In summer, their pasture be-
haviour is also affected by insects. At those times, reindeer seek out areas with less trouble with insects, such
as open swamps or cool woodlands. Reindeer also strive to avoid areas where browsing is disturbed by things
like predator, large numbers of people, mining or traffic routes.
Reindeer can be trained for use in tourism with patient efforts. Reindeer used for tourism are more de-
pendent on human care than normal reindeer. Normal reindeer are dependent on care for approximately 3 to 4
months of the year if they are pen-fed during winter. The reindeer used for tourism are completely dependent
on human care for approximately 6 months during winter. After that, some reindeer used for tourism are on
natural pasture and some in large pens where they can browse. The place where reindeer used for tourism are
kept must be planned carefully to support natural reindeer behaviour as far as possible.
Winter premises for reindeer
The group pen must be large enough so that the reindeer have enough space to withdraw from individuals that
are above them in the herd hierarchy and enough room to eat. The feeding method and place should be such
that, even later in winter, the reindeer will not be forced to eat their feed off dung-soiled snow.
When the pen is smaller than 200 m2 per reindeer, it will grow too small as the winter progresses, and the
fresh snow fit to drink will be trampled and become unusable. The pen must have water or snow freely avail-
able to all reindeer. Reindeer waiting for their work shift must also have access to snow or water. During long
frosts, snow becomes trampled, making it necessary to bring in large volumes of snow for the reindeer to drink.
A reindeer used for tourism browsing
in a large pen in summer.
Reindeer used for tourism usually have a trailing rope, which may become tangled in shrubbery. The pen must
be cleaned of uneaten feed (hay, silage, leaf fodder) often enough to ensure that the rope stays free and does
not get tangled on anything. Pens must be safe for reindeer. They must not contain deep holes or sharp upright
sticks. Pens should be such that a reindeer cannot get tangled or hurt itself on anything. Pens must not be built
to have sharp or cramped corners because reindeer could pack into them, unable to make way to each other.
Dividing fences should be wooden to prevent reindeer from getting tangled in mesh when making their way
through the fence.
The pen should contain trees against which reindeer can rub their antlers when needed. Trees also provide
reindeer with some shelter from the weather.
Preferably, separate stalls or at least posts or trees should be available for isolating reindeer for individual
care, for example in case of illness.
A reindeer tourism farm should have several pen structures
for different purposes. Reindeer waiting to be harnessed.
A reindeer at a post
It is not recommended to keep reindeer continuously tied to a post or tree for long periods of time. When a
reindeer is kept tied, it is unable to exercise independently or conduct species-typical behaviour.
Nevertheless, if a reindeer is kept tied, it must be ensured that it cannot hurt itself on the post or tangle its
rope around other posts. The rope should be long enough so that the reindeer can stretch their legs properly.
Reindeer also need water or snow when tied. If the post cannot be moved, water or snow must be brought to
the reindeer.
The post should be placed so that any freely moving reindeer cannot harass the tied reindeer. Reindeer still
in training may be skittish of sudden movements or noises, which may trigger a flight response. Such reindeer
should be placed in a quiet place near more experienced reindeer which are used for tourism. Older reindeer
have a calming effect on younger reindeer. Customers should not be allowed near reindeer tied to a post.
Summer premises for reindeer
A reindeer used for tourism can manage well at natural summer pastures without any assistance from hu-
mans. Depending on the reindeer owners’ association, the reindeer has access to areas spanning up to thou-
sands of square kilometres. In a summer pen, the care needs and intensiveness of reindeer used for tourism
depend on pen size and pasture quality. In large pens, reindeer can browse more naturally and select the best
food plants to feed on. In summer, reindeer need several times more nutrients than in winter, which is why
the supply of energy and proteins should be ensured with additional feed even in large pens. A varying terrain
ranging from open terrain to thickets reduces the nuisance from insects as long as the reindeer are allowed to
freely choose their pasture.
On smaller premises, ensuring reindeer welfare requires more actions. Reindeer receive enough feed of
sufficient quality and appropriate hygienic nutritional value. Fresh water is continuously available. The prem-
ises have insect protection that is also effective in hot weather. During the worst mosquito season, mosquito
deterrents protect reindeer. Predators, loose dogs and unauthorised persons must be prepared for.
Feeding places and equipment are cleaned and disinfected by whitewashing, which reduces the on-ground
disease pressure. The feeding places are moved annually, if possible.
The handling fence is reserved for care measures, to which the reindeer can be safely transferred. Rein-
deer wear a collar to avoid the need to touch velvet antlers.
Fresh water is available in a penne
summer pasture.
Mosquito protection reduces nuisance from
insects in summer.
Reindeer also interest tourists in summer.
Some reindeer used for tourism browse on
the reindeer tourism farm.
5.6 Feeding in winter
Winter feeding meets the nutrition maintenance needs of reindeer. The aim for a healthy reindeer is to neither
gain nor lose weight. Reindeer used for tourism also expend energy working. The energy needs of reindeer
used for tourism have not been studied, which is why the literature does not contain enough guidelines on the
feeding needs of reindeer used for tourism. Reindeer tourism entrepreneurs apply the feeding instructions for
pen-fed reindeer to the feeding of reindeer used for tourism in the winter.
The feeding of reindeer used for tourism is also based on leafy roughage (hay or silage), energy supple-
ment (grain-based complete feed) and mineral and trace element supplements. Typically, reindeer used for
tourism are also given lichen and leaves (leaf fodder). Access to snow or water should also be ensured. Feeding
is organised so that all reindeer have equal access to feed of good quality. All changes in feeding should be
introduced gradually so that the rumen microbes have enough time to get used to the new feed.
Timing the reindeer’s feeding and work schedules requires planning so as not to disrupt their rumination.
In the wild, the eating cycle of reindeer is 2 to 4 hours. Reindeer used for tourism should be fed approximately
two hours before starting work. This allows the reindeer enough time to ruminate most of the feed. Roughage,
such as dry hay and silage, requires a longer rumination time. However, a reindeer pulling a sleigh is unable to
ruminate normally. The effects of long-term inability to ruminate are not known, but there are probably nega-
tive effects on feed digestion and the reindeer’s well-being.
Lichen is quick to digest and needs hardly any rumination. This makes it a highly suitable feed to be given
before work and on breaks. Most of the daily feed should be given at the end of the work day. This leaves the
reindeer the evening and night to eat and ruminate.
Whenever reindeer are fed, their behaviour should be monitored. Reindeer health should be monitored on an
individual basis. If a reindeer does not come to eat with the others, the reason should be determined. If a reindeer
seems to be losing weight, it should be transferred to individual feeding and its workload possibly reduced.
Reindeer may also suffer from diarrhoea, the cause of which is not always known. Most often, diarrhoea is
treated by adjusting the reindeer’s diet: reducing complete feed and increasing roughage and lichen. Reindeer
can also be given a commercial product that balances rumen function.
5.7 Training
Reindeer are selected for training as early as their first year. The training takes 2 to 4 years. If the entrepreneurs
are reindeer herders, they possess a lot of information and experience of reindeer behaviour in the wild. The
entrepreneur observes the calves and assesses their suitability for pulling sleighs. Reindeer tourism entrepre-
neurs prefer bold calves that are large, mainly calm and curious.
The training involves several different phases. The trainee reindeer should trust people, become domesti-
cated and allow touch. After touch, the reindeer is familiarised with wearing a halter and gradually trained to
follow behind a person without the rope going taut. Before putting on a harness, the reindeer is familiarised with
a weight on the shoulder area by touching it with the hands. Only after that should you test how the reindeer
reacts to a harness. Once the reindeer is accustomed to a harness, it can be given something light to pull. When
the reindeer is no longer afraid of the load behind it, it can move on to pulling a sleigh. At first, someone should
lead the reindeer from the front because it may be afraid of the person sitting in the sleigh. Once the reindeer is
capable of pulling a sleigh on its own, it is time for the next training phase: moving in a string.
A good way to start working with a string is to put an older, good-tempered and experienced reindeer
(Rudolph) in the lead position. Put a reindeer that is experienced in working with a string (Steady) in the third
position. Put the trainee reindeer who is still learning how to work with a string (Trainee) in the second position
between the two. Rudolph and Steady’s calm behaviour calms down Trainee, who is rewarded with some
lichen. Getting moving is a new thing for Trainee, who may not want to move. However, Trainee will change his
mind when the driver sitting in Rudolph’s sleigh offers him some lichen. This gets Trainee’s sleigh moving and
provides a pleasant start for learning mastery-level skills. Mastery takes time and patience.
In reindeer roundups, reindeer used for tourism are
taken to the reindeer tourism farm to prepare for
the season.
A reindeer learning how to work in a string.
Does this calf have a future in
the tourism industry?
“Once it has learned to walk slowly in a string and is
relaxed as it walks and looks around, we start train-
ing to go around trees. But now we don’t help it. The
sleigh may knock into a tree, causing the reindeer to
be startled, and gradually they learn that maybe they
should go around those.” (Reindeer entrepreneur)
In spring after the tourist season is a good time to
train young reindeer in their second year. At this
stage, they are familiarised with a harness. If the
reindeer makes good progress, it can try pulling an
empty sleigh. Most sleigh pulling drills start when
the reindeer is in its third year. At that age, some
reindeer can already participate in the easiest
work tasks.
Once the reindeer is just about ready to be
used for tourism, it can be brought to a tagging
event organised by Porotilamatkailu ry in spring.
At a tagging event for reindeer used for tourism,
the reindeer receives a plastic tag in its ear to in-
dicate that it is a trained draught reindeer used for
Pre-season training
In November, before the start of the tourist season, reindeer used for tourism are walked and accustomed to
pulling a sleigh again after the break. Reindeer are also accustomed to working in a string. Once the first tourist
groups arrive, work starts off lightly.
5.8 The work
Safaris and rides
In reindeer tourism companies, reindeer rides are typically short loops of 200 to 400 metres where the
customer gets to drive the reindeer. Safaris are longer, lasting from 30 minutes to three hours, sometimes
all day. On safaris, reindeer are often in a string ranging from a few reindeer to almost ten reindeer. The
reindeer in the string are connected to the sleigh in front of them by a rope. On safaris, the first reindeer
is managed by an employee who either leads or drives it. Some safaris are run free without a string, in
which case the first reindeer is driven by a guide. Long safaris lasting over an hour should be scheduled
with a stop, such as a coffee break at a lean-to, so that the reindeer can rest. This also gives the reindeer
an opportunity to eat clean snow, and they can be offered lichen, which is highly digestible, for energy.
On short rides and non-stop rides, the hardest thing for the reindeer is taking off because they must pull
a load and take off several times within a short period of time. To prevent the reindeer from tiring too
much, it is important to control how much weight is on the sleigh. Reindeer should also be switched often
enough even if their workload is not massive in terms of distance. The guide can subtly steer the largest
customers to the largest reindeer and the lighter customers to the smallest reindeer.
Due to individual characteristics and preferences, not all reindeer used for tourism are suited to all
In a string, rope length may vary depending on the
temperament of the individual reindeer.
work tasks or all positions in a string. Some rein-
deer prefer to be on the left side of the sleigh in
front of them, some on the right.
Reindeer have adapted to extremely cold tem-
peratures and feel comfortable at temperatures
below –30 °C. Customers may feel very chilled at
such temperatures. Avoid causing the reindeer to
be overly winded or strained at very cold tempera-
tures. At such times, it is best to use slow reindeer
for safaris because the cold air will not enter their
lungs as quickly.
Safari routes should be planned well and maintained regularly. The route must be wide enough with wide
curves, gentle ascents and descents and a sturdy, holding ground. A slippery track may cause leg sprains.
Routes should be maintained using a drag pulled by a snow mobile, which levels the track and roughs the sur-
face for better hold. A spiked roller can also be used to roughen an icy track surface. Reindeer safety on safaris
is increased by prohibiting any other activities on the route.
A drag keeps the track in good condition. A drag-levelled track keeps reindeer feet healthy.
Resting periods
During high season, it must be ensured that the reindeer get enough rest. A duty roster can be drawn up
for reindeer for the tourist season, indicating their work shifts and rest days. The duty roster helps ensure
that all reindeer get an equal number of runs. In reindeer tourism companies with dozens of draught rein-
deer and several employees, the duty roster also makes it easier to plan and manage work.
A reindeer duty roster shows work
shifts and resting periods.
“We mark in the notebook how many safaris each
reindeer has done and whether it has done morning
or evening safaris or charters. After December, there
is a list on the break room wall where the guides mark
whether the reindeer did a safari or short rides. This
helps us see that all reindeer are used and not just the
best ones.” (Reindeer entrepreneur)
Harnesses and sleighs
Well-maintained and appropriate gear is very important for the well-being of the reindeer used for tour-
ism. The harness must fit the reindeer and the poles must be strong. At the beginning of the tourist
season, the harness of each reindeer is adjusted to fit. The muscle mass of reindeer may grow over the
course of the season, so the fit of its harness must be monitored and readjusted, if necessary. A leather
halter feels more comfortable on a reindeer’s head than round nylon ropes. Worn ropes and poles must
be replaced so that they do not break during a safari. A sleigh shape that does not collide on trees but
only skirts them is recommended. Sleigh runners must slide smoothly so that the heavy load puts less
strain on the reindeer. After the end of the tourist season, it is time for sleigh maintenance, which includes
checking the plastic parts of sleigh runners for wear.
An individual reindeer harness improves
the comfort of pulling a sleigh.
The smooth slide of sleigh
runners is taken care of.
A well-fitted harness
on a reindeer
A reindeer pulling a customer
Effort must be made to anticipate illogical actions by customers during rides. Before the safari, tell them
what kind of animal the reindeer is, what it likes and dislikes. The customer needs to know, for example,
that reindeer dislike loud noises, sudden movements and petting. Before setting out, customers are
informed clearly with words or pictures how to act in a sleigh. The customer’s actions during the safari
play an important role in the well-being of the reindeer. The instructions are also important for the
customer’s safety.
The reindeer tourism entrepreneur strives to choose the reindeer that best suits the customer. A cus-
tomer who seems restless is a good match for an older, calmer draught reindeer that is not startled by
the customer’s movements or noises. A young and inexperienced draught reindeer should not be chosen
for a customer to drive freely. If a young draught reindeer has an unpleasant experience on a ride, it may
slow down its development into a competent and healthy worker.
Laaksonen, S. 2016. Tunne poro: poron sairaudet ja terveydenhoito. Kuusamo: Wazama Media.
Nieminen, M. 1994. Poron ruumiinrakenne ja elintoiminnat. Helsinki: Riista- ja kalatalouden tutkimuslaitos.
Nieminen, M., Maijala, V. & Soveri, T. 1998. Poron ruokinta. Helsinki: Riista- ja kalatalouden tutkimuslaitos.
Read more:
Maijala, V. & Nieminen, M. 2004. Poron ympärivuotinen ruokinta ja sen kannattavuus. Kala- ja riistaraportte-
ja 304. Riista- ja kalatalouden tutkimuslaitos. Available at
Poron polulla -hanke 2017. Porotilamatkailuyrittäjän kultajyvät. Available at
Porutaku 2012. Porojen talvitarhauksen hyvien toimintatapojen opas. Available at
Porutaku 2013. Porojen talviruokinnan hyvien toimintatapojen opas. Available at
Porutaku 2018. Porojen ruokinta. Available at
The horse is a social and curious herd animal that needs the company of other horses. All horses are not
necessarily friends with one another, so horses must have enough space to withdraw and have peace from
The horse is a roaming food procurer. In the wild, it moves approximately 20 km per day. It spends as
much as 15 to 17 hours on food procurement and just 2 to 3 hours sleeping and even that in shorter intervals.
In human care, horses use their time very differently.
If a horse is unable to satisfy its species-typical behavioural needs, this causes stress that may be vented
through behavioural problems. By observing horses, one can learn to tell what a healthy horse looks like and
how it behaves. A horse is not well if it is not curious or social, does not eat with others or is disinterested in
food or moves differently.
“If the horse’s needs are balanced, everything is well: the horse is getting enough exercise, the feeding is pro-
portional to consumption and the horse has enough equine company. If one of these is out of balance, there is
bound to be trouble.” (Horse entrepreneur)
Outi Kähkönen, Lapland UAS/Multidimensional Tourism Institute
6.1 Species-typical behaviour
Horses are curious.
The horse is by nature an animal that moves around
a lot. It needs a great deal of exercise to remain
physically and mentally fit. The need for exercise
cannot be satisfied with just riding or driving. As a
prey animal, the horse usually flees when it detects
something potentially dangerous. Practising how
to flee is a part of the natural behavioural needs of
horses. This need may be vented through unexpect-
ed spurts with a customer on their back if horses
have been forced to stay in a stall due to very severe
frost, for example.
Often, a person does not even notice what
spooks a horse. The horse can see nearly 360°, so it
can observe everything around it. On the other hand,
horses are fairly bad at generalising, so a post box
recently passed on the left is a new acquaintance on
the right.
6.2 Individuality
The use of horses is influenced by many factors, such as age, experience, temperament, sex, the day’s con-
dition and shoeing, which determine how much work the horse can do and how much rest it needs.
Naturally, a horse has individual tack, feeding, shoeing, position in the string, health care and medical
treatment as well as paddock arrangements. Each animal must be cared for according to its own needs
because every horse is different.
The state and mood of a horse is monitored each day in the paddock, stable, at feeding time, when
tacking it up for an excursion or trail ride and along the way. These observations help make decisions about
which horse to choose for tasks. An experienced and skilled groom or trail riding guide can and will draw
The horse has such a sensitive sense of touch that it can feel a fly walking on its skin. For this reason, a
scratch at the withers, for example, is a better reward than a smacking pat. However, horses are individuals
and what is a reward to one may be annoying or unimportant to another.
Horse breeds used for tourism
The horses used for tourism in Finland are usually Finnhorses or Icelandic horses. The Finnhorse is the
only Finnish horse breed. It is used as a draught, riding and trotter horse, and back in the day it was also
irreplaceable as a war horse. The Finnhorse is a very versatile horse thanks to its performance, sturdy
and balanced structure and calm nature. The average height of a Finnhorse is 15.1 hands (157 cm) at the
withers, and the most common colour is chestnut.
The Icelandic horse is a sturdy working horse that can do the typical gaits as well as the tölt and the
flying pace. As a cold-blooded breed, the Icelandic horse develops slowly and is not fully grown until the
age of 7 or 8 years. The Icelandic horse usually stands at 13.1 to 14.1 hands (135 to 145 cm) at the withers.
However, it is strong for its size and can be ridden by adults. Because the horses are raised in a herd, they
are usually steady in temperament and easy to handle.
Icelandic horses taking a break. A Finnhorse taking a break on a trail ride.
Each horse has its individual tack.
Horse work shifts, behaviour, treatment, etc., are
all written down. This way, the information is ac-
cessible to all grooms and gradual changes are
easier to verify. How the horse seemed with the
customer, for example, is recorded in the mood
This scratching session brings joy to both parties
6.3 Physical well-being
The well-being of a horse can be documented by
keeping track of, for example, work shifts, vaccina-
tions, medication and dental care. Horses are mon-
itored on an individual basis and changes in their
behaviour are recorded. There is always a reason for
As a prey animal, the horse does not show pain
in obvious ways – the signs are often very hard to de-
tect. The horse is unable to feign things, so there is
always a reason for a limp, for example. Fortunately,
the research on equine pain behaviour is quite ad-
vanced and there is a lot of information available on
the subject.
OBSERVE How? Healthy horse, normal rates at rest
Breathing Observe 12–20 breaths per minute. Calm, not
Legs Feel, observe
Dry, even heat distribution, no fluid-filled
swelling. The horse does not hold up a
healthy foreleg. Takes equally long steps
with each leg
Half of the fingers on the coronet band,
half on the hoof
Does the horse rest one leg more than the
Manure Spherical, soft, breaks when it hits the
ground Horses normally defecate 14 times a day
Mucous membranes Press the gum with a finger. It regains
colour in a second or two Light, salmon pink, slightly moist
Take the temperature of a rested horse.
The tip of the thermometer touches the
wall of the rectum. The thermometer can
be taped to a string
Adult horse: 37.2°–38.2°
Pulse Feel at the back of the fetlock joint inside
or outside the leg Steady, 28–40 beats per minute
Nostrils Observe Clean, dry
Eyes Observe Clear
Gut sounds Listen with a bare ear or stethoscope in a
few different spots on each flank
There should always be sounds. No tight,
jingling sounds
The expressions of a horse reveal a lot.
Muscle maintenance
Equine muscle maintenance is based on the appro-
priate alternation of regular exercise and rest. In cus-
tomer work, the walks at the beginning and end of a
ride are long enough, varying routes give the horse
comprehensive exercise and gaits are varied as much
as possible. A horse that shuffles along half-asleep
gets stiff and awkward very quickly. An inexperienced
rider can easily cause a horse to “close up”, so a com-
petent rider must regularly ride the horse “open”.
Routes are selected such that the horse must
use its body comprehensively, which means com-
bining ascents and descents, paths and bends. When
the snow is thick on the ground, footpaths where the
horse must lift its feet can be used, and in summer
there is wading in water and walking over tree trunks.
Just riding is not enough exercise for horses. Horses can also be exercised by a person on the ground. The
best activator is a paddock mate that the horse can play with. It is possible to train as an equine massage
therapist, but everyone should know the basics of equine massage. Horses treat their tight muscles by
rolling on the ground.
Outside the tourist season, horses get to rest from any activities. However, the dream state for horses
is not standing still, and even their digestion is based on movement. To balance work, it would be important
for horses to get to have a holiday in the pasture in the summer, eating fresh grass. As the tourist season
approaches, horses are ridden in a riding arena to give them exercise and check that they respond to aids.
Horses can also be taken on short walks or runs on a lead, without a rider. The horse is monitored and ob-
served for the basics, such as how it manages and recovers from exercise. If a horse is experienced and in
good health, its basic condition will not deteriorate fully during periods of rest. Of course, this is individual and
depends on the horse’s structure and musculature, among other things.
Wading provides exercise and cooling. Efforts to get the carrot provide exercise for
the body and mind.
Rolling on the ground helps ease tight muscles.
Shoes or no shoes
Is it better for horses to be shoed or barefoot? There are two different camps on the subject with very
strong opinions about it. Mistakes in hoof care can cause bad damage.
“They have studs on their shoes so that they will not slip – we move on loose stones and in all sorts of places,
and it may be safer. On the other hand, it increases the risks when they kick each other.” (Horse entrepreneur)
“The hoof functions much better without shoes. It can function better and more naturally.” (Horse entrepreneur)
“When the winter has been snowy, I have ridden without anything at all. There is no problem. The only thing
is that the Finnhorses need to be shoed when they pull the sleigh. We must put boots on them and screw on
studs to get traction.” (Horse entrepreneur)
6.4 Mental well-being
The mental well-being of each horse is systematically monitored. If a horse is unable to satisfy its behaviour-
al needs, the stress may manifest through various stable vices, such as cribbing or weaving. If a horse’s be-
haviour changes, for example when it is being retrieved for work, it must be considered whether the horse’s
work is varying and rewarding enough or whether the horse is perhaps ill. Stress may be caused by, for
example, a sense of insecurity if the horse cannot rest and eat in peace or spend time with its equine friends.
The mental well-being of a horse affects its general bearing and behaviour. During the tourist season,
horses used for tourism work a lot and may get tired of routines. If a horse has unpleasant experiences with
inexperienced customers, it may try to avoid getting caught by grooms to escape work. Mental well-being
can be maintained by occasionally doing different and pleasant activities with the horse. Learning new skills
is also good exercise for the brain.
Going to work got fun again
when there were blueberry
snacks in the forest.
In an environment that enables a horse to satisfy its natural behav-
ioural needs, its stress levels stay low and it has pleasurable experiences.
This shows in its behaviour as calmness and positive liveliness. For a horse,
the most important thing is being able to live in a herd and an appropri-
ate environment that enables comprehensive, species-typical behaviour
and rest. In a stimulating living environment, horses spend their free time
on food procurement, eating, rest, exploring their surroundings and social
communication and play with other horses. This is also a good environment
to recover from the stress and strain of the work, for example. On rest days,
horses should be allowed to be completely unbothered by human noise and
bustle. Horses may become stressed if they hear and see a large group of
people arriving and think that they will have to work soon.
Horses need horseplay with friends, although it may
look rough at times.
A varying pasture activates horses to move.
Carrots provide stimulus.
6.5 Stimulation
For horses, well-being means being able to conduct species-typical behaviour as much as possible.
The best stimulation is the company of other horses. The horse is a herd animal that needs the company
of its own kind. However, race horses, in particular, are often kept in private paddocks due to the risk of injury.
According to studies, horses are not at a high risk of serious injury even if they share a paddock with their
herd. Not being allowed to socialise with other horses and satisfy species-typical herd behaviour causes
greater damage to their well-being. The risk of injury increases if there is a shortage of resources, such as
food. In one study, there was 50 square metres of space per horse, and each horse got its own portion at
feeding time.
Food works well for stimulating and calming horses. In the wild, horses spend most of their time eating,
so freely available hay is a good activity for horses. There should be several feeding points so that horses
can practise their natural grazing behaviour and to ensure that every horse gets enough hay. However, the
feeding points should not be so far apart that horses stop moving between them.
Other activities for horses include active toys, such as exercise balls, bringing in branches and trees for
chewing, sprinkling hay in several piles and hiding treats in snow banks, for example. Having as varied terrain
as possible – woods, fields, hills and water – in the paddock would be ideal.
6.6 Animal premises
Stall and stable
The law provides detailed minimum requirements for premises where horses are kept. In Finland, horses
are kept in box stables and loose stables, which both have some good sides.
In a box or stall, horses can have individual feeding plans and are easy to groom. It is important to
consider how much time a horse can spend in the paddock and whether it can live in a herd while there. In
a herd, horses move around more, which is good for their muscles and digestion. When horses are familiar
with each other, they also find it easier and safer to move near each other on trail rides. In a group pen,
horses must get along with each other so as not to injure each other.
In a loose stable, horses live in a herd and can move freely outdoors and indoors. In a loose stable,
horses can conduct species-typical behaviour in that they can touch each other and move freely, and
roughage is usually freely available. A loose stable must have a wide doorway or two exits so that horses
can withdraw. There should also be enough space that all horses can lie down at the same time if they
want. However, horses need just 3 to 5 hours of sleep per day and even that in 15 to 20-minute intervals.
Horses also rest for approximately 2 hours and, in the wild, they spend most of their time on food pro-
curement and eating. It is typical for horses to be happy outside even when people find it too cold. A loose
stable provides them with shelter, especially during mosquito season.
However, a loose stable requires insight into horses and the time to monitor the herd’s behaviour. In a
herd that lives in a loose stable, everyone should get to eat and rest in peace in sufficient quantities.
Indoors in the loose stable, hiding from mosquitos. In a loose stable, horses can choose whether
to be indoors or outdoors.
Good paddock and pasture
A good paddock or pasture has well-drained soil so that the horse is not forced to stand in mud and be-
come predisposed to cracked heels, for example. A good paddock also encourages exercise. The terrain
is varied with food and water in several locations, although not too far apart. There are dry places to lie
down and enough space to withdraw.
When new horses are introduced into the herd, the paddock should have a stretch of fence that is
open at both ends. Horses can withdraw from other horses by going behind it.
Water should always be available, during frost in a heated trough. The area is cleaned regularly in
order to prevent the spreading of parasites, for example. Pastures and paddocks should be shifted around
to let the ground “rest” and prevent it from becoming too tightly packed.
Horses should have shelter from the elements and mosquitos even in temporary locations, such as
during trail rides. Trees also provide protection from the elements.
Horses must have
room to withdraw.
Fresh water should be continuously available.
Horses must have
room to withdraw.
Trees provide protection from the elements.
Portable fencing and a solar charger, for exam-
ple, can be used to create a temporary pasture/
paddock for horses where they can move around
so that their muscles do not stiffen or legs swell
after a day’s journey. This also allows them to have
social interaction with the other horses. Horses
are sometimes tied to a tree overnight, but that
involves a risk of the horse getting tangled up and
hurting itself. Some horses are also capable of un-
doing knots and releasing themselves. However,
an easily opened knot is a safety measure just in
case the horse needs to be released quickly in an
emergency. Of course, escape from paddocks is
also possible.
A loose stable offers shelter and companionship if
the horse wants it.
When one stands guard, the others
can rest in peace.
6.7 Feeding
The main feed for horses is hay. In the wild, horses spend most of the day moving around and eating, so
piles of hay should be placed at several points in the paddock. There should be at least one more feeding
point, such as a pile of hay, than there are horses so that the horses at the bottom of the hierarchy also get
to eat. Any supplementary feed should be given individually in the loose stable, for example by separating
the horses for feeding.
Hay quality is monitored through sensory evaluation and feed testing. Deficiencies or excesses of
energy or nutrients may also cause problems for the health and well-being of horses. Dusty or mouldy
hay is also a problem. Hay must be clean and smell fresh and it must not be allowed to heat up. Attention
should be paid to the sugar, protein and energy contents of hay and the digestibility of feed, and the indi-
vidual needs and limitations of horses, such as being prone to laminitis, should be considered. All changes
in feeding should be implemented carefully and gradually over the course of a week or two.
In order to stay healthy, horses must be able to chew on food throughout the day. However, modern
hay is so nutritious that either the horse will gain too much weight or the intervals between meals will get
too long. Eating can be slowed down with slow-feeding nets. The feed only remains in the horse’s stom-
ach for approximately 3 hours, but gastric juice is secreted continuously. In an empty stomach, its acidity
causes sores that lead to colic symptoms, reduce appetite and hinders performance.
A freedom of choice increases horses’ mental well-being. Horses benefit from being able to choose
what they eat from among several options on a pasture. Horses can also be offered low-energy snacks,
such as high-quality straw or Christmas trees after the holidays.
An average-sized horse needs approximately 30 to 50 litres of water per day. Water should be availa-
ble at all times. In winter, a de-icing water trough increases water intake significantly. Drinking too little,
for example due to frost, makes horses prone to colic. Horses can be given water mixed with molasses,
for example, after exertion to get them to drink enough.
Freely available hay. Slow-feeding solutions help eating hay take longer.
6.8 Training
Horses used for tourism must be carefully trained in the basics because they often have to deal with in-
experienced people who do not know what to do when a horse is startled, for example. Not all horses are
suited to tourism, especially those that are easily stressed. On the other hand, even young horses may
behave well on the trail if they can follow a familiar herd.
An opportunity to choose what it eats increases
a horse’s well-being.
A water break is needed on trail rides.
Horses used for tourism must be good at the basics:
Trust in humans
Desensitisation to various things (handling from either side, touch in any body part,
skiers, snow mobiles, reindeer, etc.)
Ability to follow the leader’s signals and commands
Ability to stand still
Reaction to riding aids
Experience with different kinds of handlers
Tolerance of riders who shout or scream
Ability to rest, eat, drink and stand calmly while tied during breaks
Mastery of the one-rein stop
The horse is desensitised to touch.
Each person teaches a horse something, even without intending to. Horses learn all the time, and they
learn best when relaxed. Tense horses also learn, but they learn the wrong things – at the very least, they
learn the wrong state of mind that they had at the time. During training, horses must be watched to ensure
calmness. If a horse starts to show signs of agitation or frustration, for example (see horse mood diagram),
training should not continue until the horse calms down. According to studies, horse welfare is significantly
improved by the use of training techniques that generate positive emotional experiences. Horses do what is
rewarding for them. On the other hand, only a horse can decide what it considers as a reward.
Stepping onto a bridge can be a little
nerve-wracking to both parties at first.
“The day-to-day routines should not be too set in
stone. Horses are slaves to routine, and they should
be ‘desensitised’ to new and different practices, a little
every day.” (Horse entrepreneur)
Horses are bad at generalising. After a horse has
learned a new skill, such as entering a trailer, at 6 to
8 different locations, it finally starts to generalise, or
learn to do the same thing in different situations. New
things are taught to horses in many different ways, in
different places and under various disturbances. For
example, they should be taught mounting from both
sides. Along the trail, it may be easier to mount on
the “wrong” side, but it must not be a new thing to the
horse in the situation.
Horse mood diagram (Rautioaho 2016).
6.9 The work
Whereas dressage horses are required to be skilled at collection, have airy steps and be obedient, horses
used for tourism must above all have a calm and steady temperament. Horses working in tourism carry
both inexperienced and experienced riders and passenger in the wilds and through various terrains. They
should get used to different kinds of handlers already during training, and a familiar herd on trail rides
gives them security.
Most of the tourism companies in Lapland keep their horses in herds. The relationships between the
horses are known and their order in the trail-riding string is carefully considered in order to give each
horse a position that fits its nature and to avoid conflict.
A familiar herd gives a horse security. During breaks, horses get to eat next to their friends.
Horse mood diagram
Curious, social
Learns quickly
Calm, fearless
Diverse and calm body language
Responds to known requests
without delay
Discomfort, fear, agitation,
- reflexive behaviour
Failure to notice
aids, pains
Throwing itself
on the ground
Rearing up
Whites showing in eyes,
rolling eyes, blank stare
Pinning ears,
behaviour Opening mouth,
grinding teeth,
twisting tongue
Raising head,
tensing neck
Pawing ground
Tense ears
Flared nostrils,
shallow breathing
shoulder first
Failure to react,
Staring, startling
without reason
Swishing, raising or
pressing tail down to
shaking head
Trouble focusing
Division of work and leisure for horses
The work shifts of horses are tracked and the individuality of horses is taken into account in shift planning.
According to the instructions, during longer rides in the field or with changing riders, horses can work continu-
ously for no more than three hours and in total no more than four hours per day. On full-day trips and trail rides
lasting several days or in very light tasks – such as walking – horses can work longer hours, assuming that they
have been conditioned for it and the speed is proportioned to the distance (km) and duration (h). Rest needs are
determined by, for example, the horse’s age and condition.
Frost limits are often necessary for the customer’s sake. At a walk, when horses do not sweat or breathe hard,
they are not bothered by frost during rides any more than they would be in their paddock.
The company must have a plan regarding whether to cancel or change activities in case of slippery ice, bad
ice/snow ball weather, a thunder storm or very hot weather, for example. Similarly, instructions are needed for
whether to blanket sweaty horses in cold weather and allow them to dry indoors.
In Lapland, the insect season with its biting midges is hard on both customers and horses. During biting
midge season, the most difficult times of the day are morning, evening and night-time. On the other hand, in
horsefly season, trail rides can be done at night when there are no horseflies. It helps if the trail goes through
dry terrain with strong winds. Horses that suffer from the summer itch, in particular, can be helped with
insect repellent or fly sheets. Summer itch is a medical condition in equines caused by hypersensitivity to
the saliva of Culicoides midges, where the horrible itch leads horses to rub themselves and especially their
mane and dock raw.
Frost may restrict riding. Fly blankets are useful, especially for horses that
suffer from summer itch
Lapland Material Bank, Markus Kiili
Guest Column
Anna Kilpeläinen, Riding Instructor and Animal Trainer, Finland
A horse working with customers must be as safe as possible. The importance of steady and predicta-
ble behaviour is emphasised when customers change often. Even though one can never be completely
sure of a horse’s behaviour, safety can be promoted through many means.
A horse that works in a relaxed and happy manner and has been well-trained for its tasks rarely
acts dangerously. It is important that the horse is mentally and physically balanced and experienced
enough so that it can tolerate the inevitable clumsiness and conflicting signals of customers.
Behind mental endurance is a strong trust in humans and work situations created through suf-
ficiently long and careful training and good experiences. Thanks to it, the horse does not need to be
nervous of the things it encounters. Even in surprising situations, a relaxed and trustful horse will
usually react calmly and predictably, which promotes the safety and well-being of customers and the
horse itself. A horse that moves in a relaxed manner is also more likely to stay healthy physically than
a tense horse.
The calmness of a horse is influenced by many things. One part is the horse’s inborn tempera-
ment. Even with age and experience, a horse that reacts quickly and strongly may not become steady
enough to be a suitable mount for inexperienced customers. A horse that reacts calmly is often also
treated calmly and so has good chances of remaining trustful.
The physical well-being of a horse always shows in its behaviour. Pain or discomfort often makes
horses either restless and wild or slow and apathetic. It is especially important to protect the horse’s
mouth from sudden or rough rein handling by inexperienced riders and ensure that the saddle fits the
horse as well as possible. Even a single bad experience can sometimes cause long-term problems.
It is important to make customers to understand their responsibility for the horses. An inexperi-
enced customer may not realise how their behaviour affects the horse’s well-being. It is important to
emphasise in advance that intoxicants have no place near horses. Horses must be spoken of as feeling
individuals, and the importance of calm actions that take the horse into account must be emphasised.
6.10 Safe and healthy customer-service horse
It is vital to give particularly specific instructions on the handling of the bit and reins. It is also im-
portant to explain that, for reasons of safety and the horse’s well-being, riders must sit steadily and
calmly in the saddle.
There may also be situations where a customer cannot be allowed to interact with horses. Intoxi-
cation is an obvious reason, but a total incomprehension of or indifference to the instructor’s direction
or actions that are detrimental to the horse may also qualify. Sometimes, a customer’s large size or
inadequate coordination may pose too much risk to the horse. Such customers could instead be taken
on a horse-drawn carriage ride with a professional driver.
Horses should be familiarised with different kinds of people who act in different ways so that they
are not surprised and startled by sudden movements or sounds. Familiarisation with traffic and, for
example, grazing cows should be done gradually with an experienced trainer. Familiarisation is most
successful and quickest if the horse never has a chance to be startled badly by the item in question. A
single intense situation involving fear can make further training significantly harder. For this reason,
it is advisable to plan the first encounters with new things in advance and familiarise the horse with
them gradually and at such a distance that the horse is only slightly concerned and not yet afraid.
In the end, the biggest influence on the good life of horses is people. People’s choices, behaviour,
knowledge and skills give horses the opportunity to be well and work happily.
Horses have an extremely
sensitive mouth.
Factors that influence horse behaviour.
(Anna Kilpeläinen)
Genetic characteristics
TrainingPremise conditions
• Structure
• Temperament characteristics
• Sensitivity for stress
• Typical flight responses
• Learning in a herd
• Experiences with people
• Weaning
• Possibilities to move
freely when young
6.11 Instructing guides and grooms
In encounters between tourists and animals, the company’s employees play a very important role. The
guide is responsible for ensuring the welfare and safety of both the animals and people. It is important to
know horses, large prey animals, as individuals and as a species. Different nationalities and languages and
modern people’s alienation from nature bring additional challenges to tourism services. It is not enough
that the guide is good with animals – they must also have good social skills with people of all ages and
types as well as the ability to instruct and support them, solve problems and create a positive atmos-
phere. A good guide can recognise risks connected to activities and act to prevent them, for example by
giving instructions to a rider when their horse gets nervous.
Grooms know horses individually
It is important to know what is normal horse behaviour to be able to recognise abnormal or undesirable
behaviour. If a horse in a herd acts differently from the others, the issue needs attention. As a prey animal,
the horse does not display pain in obvious ways.
There should be very detailed oral and written instructions for activities. The HevosAgro Tallikansio
(“stable folder”) can be used as a template. A new employee needs time to learn to read the animal and
become familiar with each animal’s individual habits. There are no self-evident truths, and it must always
be possible to ask questions. Each stable has its own operating practices, which must be explained to new
employees. Horses like routine and changes are stressful for them.
Individual descriptions of the horses:
Looks, special distinctive marks for identification
Feeding, time outdoors, exercise
Normal behaviour
Daily care
Brushing, hoof cleaning, health monitoring
Tack maintenance
Daily observation
Foot condition, shoes, chafing, summer itch?
The horse at work
Temperament, equine friends, position in the string
Tack inspection
Work journal
Stall cleaning and bedding
Putting things like cases of illness with care instructions and observations on horses on the notice board
Product descriptions
Routes and scheduling in different situations
Special features and stories of the area
Safety, such as what customers are allowed to do with the horses
Instructing customers
Example instructions:
In order to prevent the spreading of disease, it
can be required to treat any gear used at another
stable with Virkon S disinfectant or to keep it in a
sauna at 60 °C for an hour.
Example of tacking up a horse:
You should be able to fit two fingers between
a noseband and the bridge of the horse’s nose.
Horses only breathe through their nostrils. If a
horse keeps opening its mouth during a ride, it is
probably feeling uncomfortable.
6.12 Customer and horse
A horse is not a machine. It is also not human. It is common for tourists to interpret animal behaviour
based on human behaviour, or humanise the animal. There may be divergent views on horse welfare, such
as the necessity of blankets or how fat horses should be. On the other hand, customers may get distract-
ed by the scenery and forget that they are sitting on a living creature.
Advance information provided by the customer can be used for a preliminary distribution of horses,
but that will probably change once the customer arrives at the stable.
A suitable horse is selected for the customer based on their skill level and size. A heavy beginner puts
more strain on a horse’s back than a competent rider. A beginner who is unable to sit calmly on the horse
can strain a young horse, in particular, because its balance is not fully developed yet.
Plans are always carried out according to the least experienced customer. The inexperienced may
need guidance with obvious things connected to equine behaviour and handling. It is also important to
check that the customer has not been pressured to participate.
The challenge lies in ensuring that the customer truly understands – and believes – the instructions
and knows how to handle the horse correctly. A good rule of thumb is that if there is no common language,
you should not set out at all. Customers need to be instructed on many matters, such as the order in the
string, whether they are allowed to pass other horses, safe following distance, the gait to be used, poten-
tial problem situations and how to handle them.
Stables have different policies on whether customers are allowed to feed the horses. If it is allowed,
customers must be instructed on what they can give to the horses and what method to use. Horses can
easily learn bad habits or get indigestion.
During breaks on trail rides, even customers should know how to tie a horse with a slip knot so that
the horse can be freed easily, if necessary. You should explain why things are done a certain way. The
customer may be used to doing things differently.
“Not all horses can be used for tourism, no mat-
ter what you do. Some can’t take the constantly
changing customers and different types of rid-
ers. The situation must be considered based on
the horse’s well-being.” (Horse entrepreneur)
Anything can happen – man is a completely un-
predictable creature.” (Horse entrepreneur)
“Never believe what the customer tells you
about their riding skills. Always see for yourself
in a safe environment indoors or in a paddock.
Check their balance and control. Switch horses,
if needed.” (Horse entrepreneur)
Tense rider
The stable staff can influence the interaction between the customer and horse and their experiences of it.
When the customer encounters the animal for the first time, it is important to create a good first impression
and connection. This helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between the horse and person. The horse
is a large animal and the customer may be tense and fearful. In order to help the customer make a good con-
nection with the horse, they should be allowed to make the horse’s acquaintance before mounting. A good
encounter and trust between the horse and person is important; human fear is easily transmitted to the animal,
making it more tense and skittish.
The instructor’s duties include tacking up the horse and providing the customer with gear or checking their
gear. The customer’s gear partly affects the safety and well-being of the horse. Proper riding gear includes a
helmet, shoes with a small heel that are not too wide for the stirrup, preferably gloves, a high-visibility vest,
flexible trousers that are not too tight or slippery and possibly a protective vest. The clothes should not have
any strings, hoods or anything that flaps.
Using a mounting block saves the horse’s
back and the saddle.
The guide knows the best route and gait to use.
Is that horse planning to kick?
A guide answers all manner of questions.
A horse’s acquaintance can be
made on the ground at first.
A high-visibility vest
helps make the horse
and rider stand out.
Autio, E. 2015. Hevosen ruuansulatuselimistön rakenne ja toiminta. Suomen hevostietokeskus ry. Available at www.
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“This is perfect,
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“This is perfect,
could not be better.
José-Carlos García-Rosell (PhD, Management) works as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute.
Sanna Koljonen (Bachelor of Natural Resources) worked as a Project Planner (Trainee)
at the Lapland UAS.
Outi Kähkönen (MA) works as a Senior Lecturer at the Lapland UAS, Multidimensional Tourism Institute.
Veikko Maijala (M.Sc.) works as a Senior Lecturer at the Lapland UAS.
Karoliina Majuri (Master of Natural Resources) works as a Project Planner at the Lapland UAS.
Jaana Ojuva (M.Soc.Sc) works as Communications Specialist at the University of Lapland and at the
Multidimensional Tourism Institute (University of Lapland and Lapland UAS)
Eija Raasakka (Bachelor of Hospitality Management) works as a Project Manager at the Lapland UAS,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute.
Mikko Äijälä (M.Soc.Sc) works as Researcher at the University of Lapland,
Multidimensional Tourism Institute.
ISBN 978-952-316-247-1 (pdf)
Today, promoting the well-being of animals is a significant and
visible part of providing responsible tourism services. Interna-
tional tourists and travel agents arriving in Lapland require that
the animal-based companies provide their services in a respon-
sible manner, taking also care of the well-being of the animals.
Lapland’s tourism operators are well aware of the great signifi-
cance of animals as a part of the tourism service selection.
In this guide we present information about the role of the three
key animals used for tourism in Lapland: sled dog, reindeer and
horse. We have compiled a comprehensive package of good
practices supporting their well-being. Good practices are exam-
ples and practical tips from which each entrepreneur can pick
the ones that are best suited to them.
Publication series D. Other publications 7/2018
... Like tourist centres around the world, at Christmas Finnish Lapland relies heavily on the labour of relatively low-paid, often young female employees, employed in the majority on seasonal contracts alongside a number of non-human animal species such as huskies, reindeer and horses (Casado-Díaz et al. 2016;Fennell 2012;Valkonen & Veijola 2008;Valtonen 2009). While huskies and horses play an important role in Lapland tourism (see Bohn et al. 2018), none of these are more significant or central to the Christmas mythos, and indeed more popular with the majority of tourists, than the reindeer. Originally introduced as an albeit magical draft animal in the service of the American Santa Claus in around 1821, it was with the then anonymous publication of the poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas two years later that the idea that Santa Claus was transported around the world, each Christmas Eve, by a team of eight flying reindeer -Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blixem -was fully established. ...
... As a result, a predefined number of reindeer are sacrificed annually. An estimated of 34 reindeer farms operate in tourism, keeping around 700 well-trained male reindeer used largely to pull sleighs (Bohn et al. 2018). According to Bohn at al. (2018) the yearly turnover per reindeer is approximately 5500 euros. ...
... An estimated of 34 reindeer farms operate in tourism, keeping around 700 well-trained male reindeer used largely to pull sleighs (Bohn et al. 2018). According to Bohn at al. (2018) the yearly turnover per reindeer is approximately 5500 euros. In addition to reindeer tourism farms, there are also individual reindeer herders who may rent some of their reindeer for organized tourism programmes. ...
In this chapter, we aim to contribute to the development of the 'diverse and morally challenging issues' associated not only with the question of animal rights and ethics per se., but also with the interrelationship between non-human and human animals as objects of workplace management and exploitation. In order to achieve this, we consider the relationship between animals and business ethics through the work of the German philosopher and social critic Theodor Adorno, along with others associated with the first generation of thinkers attached to what is commonly known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. To illustrate the dialectical interface between the exploitation and domination of both non-human and human animals, we draw on research into what is a somewhat novel, yet instructive working environment; namely Christmas tourism in Lapland, and the labour of those reindeer, and associated human workers who help create memorable experiences for visiting tourists. In particular, this research sheds light upon tourism as a global industry based on the work of low-paid, young female workers, and a wide variety of animal species. Through this chapter, we want to show that the ethical treatment of animals at work requires us to question the structures of economic activity including its implication for both human and non-human workers.
... In modern tourism, destinations without any kind of encounter with animals are the exception rather than the rule (Bohn et al., 2018). Tourist attractiveness is a result of the values and development of tourism, as well as the accessibility of transport. ...
Full-text available
Fauna, which is an important element of tourist attractiveness, plays an essential role in tourist experience all over the world, and is intended for tourism use in multiple ways. The situation of animals and the approach to their use in tourism differ depending on location, and each of those places has its own legal and cultural approach to animal welfare. This article refers to a variety of examples and-most importantly-controversies from Poland and abroad. The results presented in the paper are based on the information acquired from scientific sources, statistical data, tourist opinions, reports in English and Polish, as well as own observations of the authors and opinions of tourists. The aim was to put forward experiences and practices concerning the use of animals in tourism, highlight its key ideas, and encourage other researchers and students to reflect critically on the place of animals in Polish tourism in particular.
... The content used relates to 45 Lappish tourism companies and consists of 304 reviews systematically collected from Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and YouTube during January and February 2018 by one Master's student under the supervision of the first author of the chapter (Klos, García-Rosell, & Haanpää, 2018). The companies were selected based on their social media presence from a list of 158 animal-based tourism service firms operating in Lapland (Bohn, García-Rosell, & Äijälä, 2018). Furthermore, only companies which offer animalbased activities involving sled dogs, reindeer, and horses were considered in the study. ...
Full-text available
In this chapter, our aim is to examine how animals are tourism stakeholders by applying this feminist framework to animal labour. We note that the wellbeing of many animals in organizations can be seen as of key strategic importance, especially within animal tourism branding itself ‘responsible’ or ‘ethical’, and as such, the care of the animal workers can be seen as a vital aspect of the business strategy. However, we go further than merely suggesting that animals are of key strategic importance in these contexts. We suggest that animal stakeholder status is of inherent moral value and that the human-animal relationship already existing in practice supports this understanding.
Rekikoirien hyvinvointiin vaikuttavat riskitekijät-luento
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