Outdoors with a pet

In general in Finland, pets are allowed in national parks and most other nature reserves as long as they remain on a leash. Pets are not allowed to roam free in any national parks or nature reserves.

A woman and a dog are standing on the duckborads by the lake. The dog is on a leash.

Be responsible when hiking and camping with a pet. Never let your pets roam free and chase or disturb wildlife or fragile plant life. Even if your pet responds well to voice commands, keep in mind that dogs (and cats) are predators by nature and will instinctively chase birds and wild animals. This can cause a lot of damage and disturbance especially during the nesting season in spring. Also make sure your pet does not disturb other visitors.

Some nature trails or other sites might have restrictions on hiking with a pet. Make sure to check local regulations before venturing with a pet. Remember some trails can be very steep, rocky, wet, or slippery. Some trails may require wading across rivers or streams, walking on duckboards, or climbing staircases. Sometimes these staircases are made of steel with open steel grating on the steps. Trails may be very challenging or impossible for some pets.

Each open wilderness hut, reservable hut, rental hut, or day trip hut has its own rules concerning pets. Check if pets are allowed to enter the hut by reading the rules on the hut’s online homepage. Always consider the needs of other hut users. Pet owners are solely responsible for their pet’s behaviour.

Check list for hiking with your dog

  • Dogs must always be kept on a leash in national parks and other nature conservation areas. Even a well-behaved dog must be kept on a leash to set a good example if nothing else.
    • National parks are protected areas where plants and animals must be left alone. Allowing your dog to run free in a national park is prohibited by the law at all times of the year. This can cause damage to young birds and other animals simply by scaring them.
    • In reindeer herding areas, dogs may get excited by the reindeer, which can exhaust weak calves even when the dog just wants to have a bit of fun. The barking of a dog can also hamper reindeer husbandry work by frightening the reindeer and causing them to run in the wrong direction.
  • Let your dog fetch sticks and dig holes before you enter the national park.
    • Digging holes and pulling twigs and branches off dead trees is forbidden in national parks and other nature reserves – and this also applies to dogs. For example, dead trees provide a home for many threatened insects.
  • Do not disturb other hikers.
    • Not everyone likes dogs and some people may be afraid of them.
  • Please pick up your dog’s waste and keep the trails clean. When out and about, you can use a branch to sweep dog poo into the forest. In yard areas you must collect it in a bag and put it in a mixed waste bin. Do not leave dog waste bags on tracks or paths.
  • Check to find out if dogs are allowed in the huts.
    • The pet rules for open wilderness, rental and reservable huts vary by region. (You can find the hut-specific rules on the website for each hut).
    • People accompanied by guide or assistance dogs have a statutory right to access all locations. This also applies to Metsähallitus huts, visitor centres and restaurants.
  • As a general rule, dogs must be kept on a leash everywhere except in your own yard and in dog parks. Find out more about the regulations in the Public Order Act (finlex.fi) and Hunting Act (finlex.fi).

Dog sledding in the wilderness

Sled rides with a team of huskies have become a popular tourism service and hobby in Lapland. However, when you are out and about in the wild with a dog team, you need to show even more consideration for other hikers and the environment than when going out with a single dog.

Under everyman's rights, you are free to go sledding anywhere except in nature conservation areas, where the regulations often restrict dog sledding and allow it on certain trails only. Entrepreneurs who take tourists dog sledding must agree with the landowner on the routes they use, and for business activities on Metsähallitus' land, an agreement on rights of use is always required. Nature tourism in wilderness areas is guided by management plans.

Important in the reindeer herding area

Dog sledding is permitted in the wilderness areas of Lapland, but special care should be taken in the reindeer herding area. The reindeer must not be disturbed. When reindeer come across the smell and barking of dogs, they think of them as predators, and reindeer herders can incur significant amounts of additional work and costs from inconsiderate dog sledding. You must never under any circumstances stop the dog team near reindeer, not even for the purpose of taking photographs. Especially in late winter, such disturbance may cause substantial harm and result in claims for compensation. Always remember to close gates in reindeer fences after you. 

Overnight stays in huts

Show consideration for other visitors especially when staying overnight in huts. Huskies must not be brought inside open wilderness huts, or reservable and rental huts. Sledding equipment may also not be kept in the huts or the adjoining sheds. The dishes provided in the hut may not be used to feed the dogs. 

When you sleep in a hut, the dogs must be tied up at a sufficient distance, or approximately 50 m from the hut, ensuring that they do disturb other overnight visitors. To prevent the pollution of drinking water, make sure that the dogs are not tied up on ice. You must pick up the dog waste in the terrain and dispose of it in compliance with the waste management instructions. If the hut has a dog park, the waste should be placed in the bin intended for this purpose. Do not put any other waste in this bin. Straw used as bedding for the dogs must not be left outside the hut. 

Crossing the state border with dogs

Such trails as Kalottireitti in Lapland cross state borders. If you have dogs, you must remember that you may only cross the state border with a dog team if each dog meets the requirements of export regulations. See the website of the Finnish Food authority (ruokavirasto.fi) for all import and export regulations. If you are crossing the border to Sweden, you must report the dog to the Swedish Customs (tullverket.se)