A day as a handler

It’s just past 7AM and I cross the courtyard to greet the dogs. Far the in the front of the dog kennel is Kompis, who, before my alarm goes off, know it is time to get up. However, this early hour is for me and a hearty breakfast, the Huskies are the priority at other times. It is still light at this time, even if the sun no longer comes around the mountaintop. Soon when the polar nights begin, I always have my headlamp within reach. A quick glance at the sky foreshadows a rather gloomy Autumn day. We’ve already been training for a couple of weeks, and have so much fun that the bruises and twisted fingers of the first days have been forgotten, and the sore muscles long gone thanks to the sauna. Now, we’re waiting for the snow, which can’t come soon enough.

42 sledding dogs and 5 XXX, for which their first season approaches with great strides. First order is to learn names and do it fast, because it is an indispensable foundation for good teamwork. Only then can individual commands be addressed correctly. In the dog kennel there is always something to do.

Before we can hit the training trails the quadbike, a monstrosity at first glance, has to be equipped with chains because the trails are often slippery. Until there is a sufficiently thick layer of snow to use the sleds we use Quad for training. If there is minimal sludge allowing me to keep the vehicle steady whilst being pulled by the hard-working powerhouses in the front we train in teams of 10, and only with 8 in rougher conditions. We have just opened a new course for our training. An old trail and two connections were cleared by two of us armed with chainsaws and bush cutters. Now we explore the new trail daily. The dogs aren’t bothered by the noisy quadbike, making its way over stones and sticks behind them, they are in their element.

However, before we start doing our rounds the pack gets breakfast, a meat soup to ensure that everyone receives enough liquid. Then the dog kennels have to be cleaned. Already one and a half hours have flown by. Then once the quad or sled has been brought to the starting line and the harnesses have been dragged out, deafening barks and squeals break out in the kennel. They are ready to go now and are making themselves heard. Getting these explosive balls of furs into their harnesses is a real tour de force and requires a lot of patience, not only from those already waiting in their harnesses. Soaking in sweat I swing onto the training vehicle and off we go.

You will get good friend with the dogs!

We’re almost done with this round, one last right up the hill and we’ll reach the farm. However, Speedy my lead dog is denying my last “gee”. I call “gee” once again but Speedy insist on the path straight ahead leading us to a crossroads. I have two “Halbstarke”, for which it has to be only fun, without complications and especially without any bad experiences before their first season. I keep the quad slow only with difficulty, because all others in the team want to keep going yet the direction is still not right. Speedy still doesn’t seem to agree with me and suddenly the entire team pulls the quad to the right. The experienced team members at the back had long understood what I wanted. I can’t hold the skidding quad and we land in the small ditch next to the road. I come to my feet and check on the dogs luckily no one is hurt. The young are excited and the other pull on the entangled lines. I try as best as I can to untangle the dogs and push the quad back on track, but without a chance. We need help. With the dogs pulling in all directions I can’t get the quad up on my own. Luckily, Ane and Jan quickly come to our rescue and half an hour later we’re back on track albeit with a somewhat battered quad.

Sometimes the tone in the dog kennels can get a bit rougher. Even the smallest disputes, like a jealous snap after the lucky dog who’s just been allowed into the team, have to be dealt with immediately. Additionally, there should be absolute calm during feeding.

An undertaking, which may leave your vocal chords strained at the end of the day. But only clear and consistent instructions ensure that everyone has fun on the tours and they aren’t spoilt by disputes and rivalries.


Much attention has to be given to the feed of the dogs. Not only does the dog food need to be prepared every four to six weeks, taking up a whole day; but every day there has to be enough dog food available, which in varying temperature and corresponding training intensity requires a lot of attention.

Should the temperatures drop drastically, it’s not unusual that I have to break the now frozen dog food into the right portion, rather than hanging up my wet clothes and enjoying a nice book next to the warm oven. However, after a diligent training session the dogs deserve only the best, so I put my own wishes aside.

Only once it’s quiet in the dog kennels, everyone retreats to their cabins, the northern lights flickering above us and I do one last round of massages is another wonderful training day complete. Ane and Jan have, like every evening, spoiled me with delicacies and we sit together speaking about the dogs and hatching plans. I fire up the oven and enjoy this evening until we start again tomorrow.