Analysing WAO 2018: An interview with Jessi Landen


World Agility Open 2018 was absolutely amazing. The WAO organization has done a great job developing the event and The National Hippic Centre was the perfect place for the competition.”

Well-designed courses

In addition to being Team Finland’s team manager, Jessi Landen is also a fresh agility judge. For this reason, she paid a lot of attention to the courses: “The courses were great. It’s hard to design a course in which one performs each obstacle only once. In WAO, however, almost all the courses were designed in such way. Its benefits are that obstacles don’t have to be fixed while a dog is running the course and, also, when there are no dropped bars lying around, it increases safety.”

“Normally we’ve seen courses very typical to WAO, but this year the courses resembled FCI courses, or, should I say, typical Central European courses. For example, the distance between obstacles was shorter than we’ve normally seen in WAO, and the start line jump was always jumped towards the field whereas the finish line jump away from the field.”

According to Jessi, one of the rising trends at the moment is passing traps on the course. These traps are obstacles which are placed in a way that they would be logical for the dog to perform but instead need to be passed. The same trend was also visible in WAO.

As a judge, Jessi thinks that in big and important competitions the courses shouldn’t be too difficult. The big event itself builds pressure for the competitors which already makes it harder to nail runs in comparison to small town competitions. “In WAO 2018, this was also taken into consideration well” she states.   

The most interesting courses of WAO 2018

Ingenious snooker course 

Jessi praises the snooker course by Gianfranco Ricci: “The snooker course was ingenious! There were so many possibilities for variation, and the competitors really needed to think when building their tactics. It was possible to collect the maximum amount of points, but it was really, really hard. Even the choices made by the top ranked dogs differed from each other.”

Snooker course by Gianfranco Ricci

Gambler course more challenging than expected 

Also, the gambler course by Hisato Tanabe was interesting for Jessi: “The gamble part looked so easy on paper, but it definitely wasn’t. Only a few dogs managed it.”

Gambler course by Hisato Tanabe

Biathlon agility offered excitement

“At the end of the biathlon agility course by Gianfranco Ricci, there was a challenging tunnel – dog walk differentiation. For us Finns that part was a bit vexing since it cost Juha Orenius the medal,” Jessi ponders. But for the audience, this part offered a lot of excitement and evoked an atmosphere of a big sporting event.

Biathlon agility course by Gianfranco Ricci

Biathlon agility course by Gianfranco Ricci

Interesting tunnel section on biathlon jumping course

The most interesting section of all the WAO courses, according to Jessi, was Barrie James’ tunnel section on the biathlon jumping course. Two tunnels were next to each other and they were performed three times. There was a good chance of disqualification in those sections.


Dogs are better trained, oral cues are increasing

“The amount of verbal cues has increased insanely. There are different verbal cues for example for different turns,” Jessi states. “The dogs are much better trained than before and if one wants to keep up with the sport, one needs to pay attention to this. Take, for example, Jessica Patterson, I watched her training on Thursday and she did so many tricks with Lux in that short time frame that I was simply amazed.”

According to Jessi, better training is needed for the dogs because the speed in agility is increasing. “Before we had either technical but quite slow courses, or more linear, fast courses. Now we’ll see more and more technical but, at the same time, fast courses. In AWC 2018 we’re going to see that the dogs’ skills and the speed will resolve who wins.” Jessi says. When speed and dogs’ skills increase, agility will be more and more impressive for the spectators.

In Jessi’s opinion, the biggest challenges in agility are connected with speed: “The increasing speed now requires more from dog training but also from the handler. You really need to develop your physique to be able to succeed at a high level. Well, there are, of course, some exceptions such as Finns Ulla Viholainen or Mari Kaplas, who have done a remarkable job training their dogs so that they can succeed even if they cannot run as before. But if you have no restrictions, by paying attention to your physical development, your propability of succeeding is much higher.”

“Now that the sport is developing fast and getting more challenging, in addition to training your dog better and developing your physique, you really need good coaching,” Jessi concludes.

The most memorable moments in WAO 2018

“We had great team spirit in Team Finland. Everyone on the team had deserved their place through qualifications. Teammates respected each other highly and the more experienced competitors helped those not as experienced. The newcomers, such as our team’s youngest, Josefina Sipilä, and Mauri, managed to really exceed all expectations,” Jessi comments.

  • For Jessi, the most memorable runs in WAO 2018 were Janita Leinonen’s and Fu’s Gamblers final, which gained them third place. Also Berit Kittel’s and Nupsi’s Gamblers final made an impression on her. “And, of course, Team Sweden. Well, they have one Finn there, so that’s why they are always so impossibly good”, Jessi jokes, and points out that the next qualifications for Team Finland are 3.2.2019 with Jessi and Lee Gibson as judges.

How to keep up with the sport?

  • Train your dog further
  • Develop your physique
  • Get high-quality coaching

Trends in agility right now

  • Passing obstacle traps
  • Oral cues
  • More training for dogs
  • Fast, technical courses

Keep track of your training and development in agility with the help of AgiNotes tools!