Agility and especially Boxer Agility in Finland   

by Riitta Laitinen and Melli

Melli on the See-SawI have a great pleasure to tell you something about agility and especially Boxer agility in Finland, while my own boxer Melli is sleeping on my sofa tired and happy after the agility competitions.

Agility training started in Finland in Scandinavia in the middle of 1980s. First time when I saw agility was in the Helsinki International Horse Show 1985, where a couple of dogs were showing some interesting things with different obstacles. That time I didn’t have my own dog, but I already decided, that in the day I would have one, this would be our hobby.

Now, about 15 years later, agility is very popular dog sport in Finland. All of the clubs belong to the Finnish Kennel Club, which is coordinating the competitions and training the coaches.   We have about 4000 actively competing pairs and a lot of different kind of dogs. The Finnish mini dogs are in this moment on the top of the world. During the last two years the winner in World Championships has been a Finnish pair. Also the team of mini dogs has been very successful. In the group of standard dogs the success has not been as good as in the mini class, but positions in the group of world’s 10 best standards have been seen. In this year 2000, we are very proud to have a possibility to organize the Agility World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Today we know already that 28 teams from different countries are taking part in this agility happening this year.Tyres are fun for Melli!

As I mentioned earlier, numerous dog breeds take part to the competitions in Finland. In standard class in addition of very popular Belgian Tervueren and Malinois, Border Collies, Collies, Bearded Collies, Pumis and so on, also some Boxers are actively training and competing throughout the year. During the summer 2000 about 15 Boxers with their trainers actively took part to the agility competitions. Boxers are not very popular agility dogs, because usually people think that a Boxer is quite a difficult to teach and that it isn’t fast enough. That was partly true earlier in the group of agility dogs in Finland, but nowadays we have quite a many promising young Boxers, which also have enough energy to this hobby. Every summer a nice competition where different dog breeds are competing as teams against each other is organised. In this summer there were about 140 teams and two of them were Boxer teams. The best Boxer team was in the position of 16 in this big group of teams. We think that it was quite nice result for our young team.

Melli concentrating on the A-FrameMy own boxer ‘Melli’ is now five years old. We have had many difficult moments during our agility career, which we started three years ago, but today things goes quite smoothly. We compete in the class 3, which in Finland means that you are in the most difficult stage in agility competitions. All championships are held in this stage. This year we didn’t had enough clear runs that we could have taken part to the Finnish Championships, but the years 2001 and 2002 will be our main targets.

Now when the winter is coming again we are starting our training session in order to be ready when the important and interesting competitions start again in next spring. Agility training in Finland during the wintertime is not always so simple because of cold weather (even under -30 deg. Celsius) and a huge amount of snow. In our club, however, we are lucky while we have our own training hall. Even it is cold, it is always dry and the wind and snow stays out of the walls.

Melli and I would like to wish to all Boxers and their trainers/owners very nice moments within agility training sessions and competitions. It is important always to keep in mind that agility should have fun for both the dog and trainer.

With best regards

Riitta Laitinen and Boxer Melli

Oulu, Finland

Melli weaving at warp speed

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Agility in Finland

Host to the World Agility Championships 2000

The Fifth Agility World Championships will be held in September 30th - October 1st 2000 in Helsinki, Finland, the most successful country ever to compete in the annual FCI show. This article, written by Kaj Gumpler of Agility Sports Bulletin, started life as a press release. The English translation, with some enrichment, is by Mari Hurskainen of Jyväskylä Agility Team.

The foundations

The first time the Finnish dog fancy got to see agility in action was at the Finnish Winner Show 1986 in Helsinki. This annual show, put on by the Finnish Kennel Club itself, is the biggest and most prestigious one in Finland. The presenters were beginners, too: the rumour has it some of them tried the equipment for the first time on-site!

The Kennel Club invited Peter Lewis to train the first agility judges in fall 1987. Unofficial shows were organised in many cities from early on, but the first official agility show was organised in March 1989 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary festivities of The Finnish Kennel Club.

The new dog sport gathered enthusiasts steadily. By the end of 1991 around 1,000 people had trained their dogs in the art, out of whom 500 were competing. There were 2,000 registered competition starts that year.

The growth of the hobby exploded in 1992. It could have been due to the first Finnish agility book Agility ABC (by Kaj Gumpler and Jarmo J. Husso) and the dawn of regular information from the Kennel Club. Or maybe the time was just ripe for agility! New judges, instructors and competitors were being trained both locally and nationally.

The present

At the Millennium shift agility is still the fastest growing dog sport/hobby in Finland. Estimates of the people included circle around 10 000, out of which 4,000 (with dogs from 130 different breeds) make up the 30,000 annual starts in the 300 official competitions. To give you an idea of the scale of this, there are five million people in Finland and a little over half a million dogs. Around 32,000 pure-bred puppies are born annually, and some mixed breed ones.

The 120 clubs that offer training in agility have put together almost 200 obstacle sets. Most clubs offer a wide range of activities (obedience, utility etc), but ca. 20 clubs specialise solely in agility. In the official competitions individuals from 120 different kennel clubs or breed organisations took part. You may have heard of the Northern Dimension Finland has launched in the EU. It is reality in agility, too: the northernmost competitor is from Sodankylä, around 100 km north of the Polar Circle.

Finland goes by the FCI rules that are a bit different than the ones used in Great Britain. Jump heights are lower and the A-frame gets lowered for mini dogs. For Maxi dogs the angle at the top is 90 degrees, for Minis 70 degrees. Crosswalk, wishing well, pause square and cavalletti are not used. The rules are undergoing a change, and the changes that may come as early as 2001 may create a third height division (Midi, dogs that are 35 - 45 cm at the withers), exclude the water jump and lower the A-frame for Midi and Maxi dogs, too.

The eyes of the agility world will be on Finland

This year between 30 September to 1st October Finland will play host to the Agility World Championships 2000. Sixteen years after the very first agility presentation in Finland the Champion candidates most definitely will have reached a skill level light years above those first presenters!

Anna-Leena Rosenholm from Friskies Finland has collected information on the distribution of European and World Championships. Finland leads the statistics! The FCI has given Finns eight golden, six silver and eight bronze medals. France has gotten eight gold medals, too, but has not placed second or third as often. So, dear agility friends from all over the world - 28 countries in all- you are welcome to try and beat our records!

UPDATE: Click here to see the results of the World Championships.  


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