How many people can say that they’ve either coached or competed in dog agility in 14 different countries? A Finnish globe trotter and agility coach, Jenna Caloander, is one of the few that has done so. “Do you want me to list them all?”, she asks, “Well, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Germany, France, the Netherlands, oh, and Singapore!” Impressive!
Major shifts in the agility world
Jenna’s experiences in several countries have given her a unique perspective to the sport. And since she has coached for a long time, she’s already seen major shifts in the agility world. “There are many differences between countries, and things seem to keep changing. For example, when I first started coaching, Finland seemed to be ahead of Sweden, but, in my opinion, now it’s the other way around, despite us having good agility knowledge in Finland. In Sweden, in effect, the skills of the dogs as well as speed have developed massively. And then there are countries like Mexico, where agility is still quite new and, for that reason, on a basic level.”
When Jenna is asked who we should be following and where can we find the forerunners of dog agility, she has a clear answer: ”The skill mecca of dog agility at the moment is in Central Europe. We should definitely be watching what they do there and learn from them.”
Dogs’ skills and speed in training - keys to success
What makes Central European agility so good? According to Jenna, the key to their success lies in two things, both connected to dog training: “Firstly, they concentrate on training their dogs well. They have many different verbal cues for different turns, backside send and in-in. The dogs also know how to turn from contacts, perform weaves and other obstacles, including running contacts, well and independently, and they can handle disturbance from the handler’s movement well. In other words, the dogs are very well trained. Another thing worth mentioning, is that they also pay attention to speed. With young dogs, it’s very important to strengthen the natural speed and avoid doing only complex technical course profiles.”
Jenna feels this is the direction where agility as a sport is going. Due to good dog training, dogs can be given more responsibility, which reduces handler anxiety and allows freedom to move faster. “When you can trust your dog’s skills, you don’t have to be so perfect yourself in every single situation, and you get to move more freely. For example, you don’t have to turn in threadles which allows you to move to the next spot faster.” In addition, Jenna thinks that running contacts will be the new norm, instead on 2on2off.
Who to follow to keep up with agility trends?
Keep up with agility trends by following the people listed below picked by Jenna (and she had some difficulties in choosing - the list could be much longer). Here’s the list and Jenna’s comments about each person:
Annika Af Klercker
Annika Af Klercker because she has a great attitude and she’s highly skilled in dog training, in how to build an agility dog.
Silvia Trkman to get an alternative point of view to running contacts. Target training is great but not the best option for every single dog. And she is an amazing dog trainer, there’s no question about that!
Anne Lenz, who’s done an amazing job with running contacts and is a very positive coach. Read The secret of fluent running contacts: an interview with Anne Lenz
Silas Boogk, exactly the same comments as for Tobias: An amazing trainer who is reaching very high speeds with his dogs.
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