The "Old Kennel"
The construction of the "old kennel" began in the fall of 2003 and has been continuously expanded and improved. The complex is located on natural ground in the woods, just behind the staff house and close to the guest house. The old kennel houses 70 dogs, divided into 20 compartments, where the dogs live together in small social groups of mixed age. Each dog has access to a weatherproof cabin with a soft straw bed. During the daily kennel cleaning up to 30 dogs play at the same time in the large, fenced run area, dig holes, rage themselves out or enjoy - in summer - the direct access to the dogswimming pool in the lake Nurmijärvi. The whole area of the old kennel is forested, which provides lots of shadows for any dog during the hot summer months. A few agility obstacles and a large wooden platform with a ramp offer some variety and intellectual work especially in the summer.
The "New Kennel"
The expansion of our kennel started in 2007 and was gradually extended ending up with the last compartment in 2011. Today it is the home to about 70 dogs, divided into 20 compartments. The cabins are mostly insulated and each dog has access to a warm bed of straw and its 4 weather-proof walls. The new kennel is built on wooden floor and also has a large fenced exercise area, in which the dogs have fun during the daily cleaning of large groups. The huge "bouncy castle", consisting of a large hut in the middle of the outlet, equipped with ramps,stairs and landings, is loved and heavily used especially by the younger dogs. Over 100 years old thick trees, provide shade for the new kennel. The compartments additionally are equipped with umbrellas for shade orcamouflage nets where necessary.
Puppies, Breeding and Puppy-House
Puppies are normally born inside the house in a separate room, where they spend the first 3 - 4 weeks. Then they move outside to our special puppy-house with 2 large areas on wooden floor with a roof, protecting them from rain and a big doghouse on each side. The first few days outside they get used to their new live in this outside-world, then we get them used step by step to the fenced puppy playing yard with sandy ground, climping and digging possibilities, tunnels and other options to keep them happy. Every day they get - together with their mother and other adult dogs - walks in the forests to get them used also to react on their names, stay close to us and not run like crazy all over the area. The mother as well as other adult dogs joining for those walks, of course have an important role in this part of their education, teaching them not only to explore the nature, but also to stay together and close to us humans.
The mother stays with her pups as long as she wants. We start giving extra-food to the puppies at around 6 weeks of age, to reduce mums milk-production step by step. Latest at 8 weeks, all puppies have learned to eat from their own bowl.
At the age of 6 - 8 months latest, we accomodate the teenagers then in the big kennels to get part of the adult pack and have the same daily routines as them.
We start training the young dogs at the age of 10 - 12 months. Until they are 2 years old (or depending on their birthdate until the 2nd winter here) they run with guests only a few times for day-trips, but hardly ever on overnight-trips. Only when they are mentally and physically adults, when all bones and joints have finished growing, then they join for regular tours with guests, daytrips as well as longer safaris of 3 - 4 days and have fun in the job they are born for.
Since 2009, Eräkeskus is member of "Mush with Pride", an American oganisation of sleddog-kennel-owners. "Mush with Pride" is providing good informations on breed specific kennelsystems, good occupation/training of dogs, healthy feeding system and safe kennels without any injury risks, both for dogs and visiting persons. The kennel inspections are done by local representatives, mostly veterinarians, and are done during different seasons of the year. Their focus is mostly on:
- clean kennels, fresh water provided for all dogs, suitable dog houses, storage and preparation of dog food, state of the whole kennel and general appearance of dogs of all ages
- good social behaviour within the pack and towards humans, highest possible life-standard for the dogs, from puppy to veteran
- written dog journal, keeping complete files on every dog about all health issues, socially relevant details and all medical treatments including vaccination and deworming
More detailed information on this voluntary kennel inspection and certification system you can find at www.mushwithpride.org. We are proud that Eräkeskus got on all recent inspections the highest possible level of "Certification Plus", even more when knowing that in whole Finland there is not even an hand full of kennels that got any certification or take part in this voluntary inspection program for the wellfare of the dogs.
What our dogs do in summertime
Our dogs love the so called "free runs", walking or biking with them during summer through the forests, taking a refreshing swim in a lake or river, simply enjoying to run free in nature in small groups of 8 - 15 dogs. Swimming, running or just walking keeps then physically in good shape, happy and well balanced. And this makes it easier to start trainings again in autumn and running right from the start distances in front of the training carts of 8 - 10 km per training session.
Besides those free runs we focus during summer time on leash training, some easy agility games, stick throwing and bringing back, reacting on name-calling, simple games that gives them opportunity to do some brain training in the period of the year without physical work. All this of course makes the relationship human - dog even more intense, the pack-behaviour and the acceptance of pack-leader "human" gets more balanced and stable.
Old dogs and medical treatment of the pack
Old dogs enjoy here in Eräkeskus a relaxed veteran-life. Some of them move to our houses and get pets, some prefer to spend also their old days in the kennels together with their younger friends. Dogs are used as sleddogs as long as they want, they get age-specific training in front of the sled or training carts. Only the dog can decide, when his time of retirement is coming. Mostly at an age of about 9 years, they start a pre-retirement and are joining us and our guests only on day-trips. A 2nd step of retirement is to keep them completely out of the tourist work and run them only ourselves on regular, short veteran-runs. At 12 - 13 years of age, normally the final retirement arrived and they do not work anymore at all.
All needed medical treatments for our dogs is provided by our local veterinaries Mervi Saviranta from the clinic in Nurmes or with her mobile clinic visiting us here, as well as Katarina Pirtonen with clinic in Lieksa, one of the few vets in Finland acting on private base, not as state-employed person. They are available for us almost 24/7. Mervi Saviranta is also acting as race veterinarian in national and international sleddog races and as vet in many other events with animals.
Feeding is the most important part for a happy, long dog-live, that´s why we focus best possible on healthy, balanced food for our 4-legged friends. Main part of the feeding is a high energy dry food from the German brand Josera, mixed with a special meat mix. Our dry food is manufactured in Germany and then imported to Finland, the meat we get delivered in frozen blocks of 10 kg, directly from Finlands West Coast.
Depending on the season and the distances the dogs run, we get different meat mixes. It consists mainly of beef, pork, chicken and horse meat, added by stomach, liver, chicken fat and salmon oil. Of course the part of pure fat is higher in winter than in summer. Sporadically we add also eggs or cocos fat. Bones from beef of horse are very welcome as snacks during long summer days or after a tour when we arrive in the wilderness cabin. Other natural food supplements like carlic, psyllium or arctic seaweed is added whenever needed.