A Chat With the World’s Best in Dog Agility: Take One

Posted on 11/15/12 48 Comments

The year’s FCI world championships were such an amazing event for me. John and I had a little vacation with our friends Martina & Carlo (ok mostly it was Martina and I talking about dogs). We did some sightseeing,  I did some shopping and then the actual agility event was amazing.
Due to the way schedule laid out I was finished all of my agility for the day before 8 AM on Saturday morning. So I had the rest of the day free! Of course I sat and watched my teammates and the other many amazing agility runs but I am not the best person to sit still for long so I decided to do some “spur of the moment” interviews. Not having prepared for this in advance, I really didn’t have the proper equipment for such an adventure. I didn’t let that deter me and did several interviews with some of the world’s most successful agility handlers. What a blast I had!

In the end not only did some of the interviews not get recorded (had to get volunteers who didn’t know my camera very well and sadly the record button was not pushed) but the audio quality was so terrible I was just going to forget the whole thing. But, I figured I will post them anyway and let you all decide if you want to listen. I learned a lot while I did these interviews both about the process of interviewing and about the sport from these very knowledge handlers. You will have to listen closely but I promise it will be worth it, next time I will be better prepared! For those of you with great hearing, please post your biggest take aways from these interviews so others can benefit as well!

First up my first with my friend Jaakko Suoknuuti from Finland. Jaakko is always a great competitor and has had a long successful career in agility already.

**Note thanks to one of our rockin’ blog readers (Mary Anne) we now have the transcripts to this interview for those of you that are hearing impaired (or just can’t hear the audio), I will post it below. Thanks Mary Anne!

You can read more about Jaakko and his partner Janita’s way of agility on their website http://www.kelpokoira.fi/onemind.html

Thank you Jaakko for being such a great sport and my first official interview! More interviews to follow!

Today I am grateful for Jaakko and all he and Janita bring to the world of dog agility!

Interview Transcripts:

A Chat with the World’s Best in Dog Agility: Take One (Jaakko Suoknuuti)

Susan Garrett:  I’m here with Jaakko Suoknuuti from Finland.  Jaakko is an amazing handler, always aggressive, always going for it.  That’s what I love about him.  I know his dog Zen; I saw him for the first time a few years ago at the world Championships.   Amazing team and I always love to watch Jaakko and Zen perform.  And, year after year, he’s always here at the World Championships. Which is very hard to do in Finland, Isn’t it?  It’s a very tough process.  To make it on the team.

Jaakko Suoknuuti: Ya.

S: it’s one of the hardest in the World.

J: Ya, probably so.

S: To make it on the team. So, Jaakko, you’ve won the World Championship? Or the team?

J: No, no.

S: You’ve got medal.

J: I don’t even got a medal, but I have won the jumping.

S: Yes, won the jumping. And, this year what place are  you in?

J: I think I was 4th

S: And, Zen is 7?

J: yes, 7.

S: So that’s very impressive.

J: Thank you.

S: She is amazing.  OK, so, one of the things I love about Jaakko is he is an aggressive handler. And, he can run like the wind, even with this belly (appears that Susan is rubbing Jaakko’s belly).  You can run so fast.

J: Yes, timing is everything.

S: And it’s inspiring. And, he’s not like one of the very, tall, tall Europeans. He’s such a good runner.

S: So, Jaakko, if somebody wanted to get to the world championships what do you think is most important for them starting out to think about?

J: Well, um, I think, you must be willing to accept you making mistakes. In training, in competition, because you really, really have to go flat out learn actually how to do it in the competitions. So you have to be able to let go of the idea of making mistakes.  You can’t ever be thinking that I have to make sure or I’m afraid of making mistakes.  I am never afraid of mistakes.  If it’s a FCI final I still run flat out and then I see what happens.

S: That is brilliant! I love that. Love that answer. Because so many people especially with dogs, they want to be perfect.

J: Exactly.

S: And when they can’t be perfect, they get down on their dog or down on themselves.

J: Exactly.

S: That’s brilliant.

J: Yes, you have to kinda accept, uh, I don’t know the term – you are “not perfect”?

S: I’d say it’s “roughly right”.

J: Yeah, you have to be “roughly right”. But you just have to give everything; you have to put your heart into it. Um, and trust your dog. But, for me, I trust my dog, 100%.  Sometimes she makes herself but well that’s what she is for me. (mab – I could not understand what exactly he stated.)

S: And, who do you think when you think of all the agility teams of the world how do you think Finland is compared to the rest?

J: Oh, I think we are quite close to the top.  That’s why it’s very hard to make each team every year. Um, and I think, uh, overall in Finland people are, taking the team, everybody is more or less thinking that they really go flat out. And I think that’s been moving us (mab – unintelligible – I cannot understand his last few words)

S: And, agility is so exciting to watch

J:  It’s all the time going on the edge. That’s what agility is for me. Always on the edge.

S: OK.  Jaakko, very important question now. On a scale on 1-10 how do you think I rate as a runner?

J: You rate as a runner?  Um, let’s say 6.

S: Oh, not bad. Not bad.  Thank you Jaakko my good friend.  It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for stopping by.

J:  OK, one more word.  Um, handling wise, and uh, how she prepares her dogs I think she is an actual 10.

S: Ha, ha, ha, ha.  You’re the best Jaakko.  Thank you.

48 Comments

  1. Michelle says:
    Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 3:58pm

    I just wanted to add my own special thanks to Mary Anne for transcribing these interviews! I saw them when they were first posted but I’m hard of hearing and had trouble with understanding what was being said so didn’t watch them all. I came back across them today and it was a delight to find the transcriptions!

    Reply

  2. Jaana says:
    Monday, November 19, 2012 at 7:10am

    I have had the pleasure of attending a Jaakkos seminar and he has been a big influence on some of the greatest of my country (Estonia). His philosophy- teach the dogs their job and then JUST GO FOR IT as hard as you can- is one that might seem a bit upside down at first. After all, a slower dog with less points wins, right. But when you look at what agility is, it gets clearer. Agility is not a sport for playing safe. It is not a sport to overthink it during the run- this is the time to place all your bets on what you have done in training and just go all in. Agility is not a sport you can get to the core of by planning on being careful and cautious. This is training until you feel confident enough so you can go and floor it. People, training for playing it safe, never get the real feeling. Got to love agility!

    Reply

    • Maggie says:
      Monday, November 19, 2012 at 7:22am

      This says it all – Thank you Jaana x

      Reply

  3. Mary M says:
    Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 8:14am

    Oh and trust your dog ( I would add trust your training with your dog)

    Reply

  4. Mary M says:
    Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 8:13am

    Biggest take always: go flat out, be okay with mistakes!

    Reply

  5. Angi Buettner says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:58pm

    Yo, what a great idea to do these interviews and letting us get a glimpse of the FCI world champs. Thank you!
    My dog Tuhi and I are a brand new agility team, just been to our first champ show where we both kind of went, ‘Wow, whoops, lots more to learn on how to actually do this’. I got quite depressed about not being able to do this, and that I haven’t trained my dog properly because we didn’t do so well. So this interview came at the right time for me 🙂
    My take from this: Go flat out and accept that you’re going to make mistakes in training and in competitions. Go flat out, don’t be afraid of mistakes and learn how to do it in the competitions. And trust your dog … and, this is my interpretation: go and enjoy going flat out together with her. Go run!
    Thanks, Susan. This just made me decide not to give up agility.

    Reply

  6. Sharon says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 4:27pm

    Thanks for not throwing them away 🙂
    Love the go all out don’t be afraid to make mistakes attitude – definitely need to incorporate this into my life not just dog training. How much more fun will that be 🙂

    Reply

  7. Keli says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 11:41am

    Loved the interview Had to go look and see him run (see link below if anyone interested) after the interview. He really doesn’t look like he is running, yet you watch his dog who is booking so there is some running involved, but he makes it look effortless! Thanks Susan!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1yVKrGE4fA

    Reply

    • Jackie says:
      Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:07pm

      Keli,
      Thank you. Icing on the cake. Susan, once again, you have done it. Something noone else has done. At least not that I know of. You started a trend of on line, in depth wonderful courses. So simple. Now, Interview the tops. Make it available to us down here. If not already, you are going to be a millionaire! ANd have a blast doing it! Yes, magazines like Clean Run do it. But not quite the same way. Keli, you finished the job with a video of what Susan was talking about. Wouldn’t you think the major tv networks would have thought of this? HA! No. But Susan did. Thank you very much. Susan, you are altogether way too much fun! And not afraid to ask for help, like the transcript for those of us with hearing issues. MORE!!!!!

      Reply

  8. Anne Stocum says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:37am

    Thanks for not throwing this away! Looking forward to the next.

    Reply

  9. Esther says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 5:48am

    You have to trust your dog!
    Recently during an obedience competition Gabriella Cenderelli (who participated at several world and european championships) said exactly the same words. She explained that if you doubt your dog, he will sense, and this will make him more insecure make him doubt and so he will probably make more mistakes. If you trust your dog, you work as a team, the dog will know what you want from him.

    Reply

  10. Mandy Melville-Love says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 5:12am

    Don’t be afraid to make mistakes…what is it you’ve taught us Susan….a dog cannot learn if it doesn’t make mistakes. I know Jakko is meaning don’t be afraid to make mistakes when running in an important qualifier/competition, etc, but I still think you should allow your dog to make mistakes. You can then go away and know what you need to work on.

    Reply

  11. iamplume&lollipop says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 2:21am

    What a cool idea ! I love this interview … I’m just tryning to guess who will be the next interview …

    Reply

  12. Sam says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:43am

    Not being afraid to make mistakes is so important. It might not sound like much to most people, but Inka has learnt to ‘be a bear’ through making a mistake (in trying to teach ‘give paw’), and is beginning to learn ‘wave’ from a mistake I made also. Mistakes are just opportunities for learning something else, beside what you intended.

    Reply

  13. Billie says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:42am

    How fantastic, thank you! I love how you use your inability to sit still for something great we can all share! Big take homes for me ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and go for it’. Sounds simple enough, but as a first timer on Team Australia this year at the IFCS world champs, I can definitely say from experience it’s easier said then done. I have new found admiration for those who leave their egos behind and go for it – that is what makes the sport great to watch regardless of the result.

    Reply

  14. Michelle says:
    Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:07am

    What a great interview. And how modest too. Very refreshing. Love the all out attitude. I bet they train with a lot of energy too, would love to watch them train their dogs!!

    Reply

    • Janita says:
      Friday, November 16, 2012 at 9:19am

      http://www.youtube.com/user/JanitaLeinonen

      Reply

      • Susan says:
        Friday, November 16, 2012 at 9:26am

        Thanks Janita!

      • Michelle says:
        Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:12am

        Awesome, thanks so much, love watching the top trainers do their stuff.

  15. Rick Ebbinghouse says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:49pm

    I’ve transcribe it for the hearing impaired person and tried to have it as close to verbatim as possible.

    Susan: I am here with Jaakko …

    Jaakko: Suoknuuti

    Susan: I didn’t want to try mispronouncing that one. Jaako is from Finland. He’s an amazing handler, always aggressive, always going for it – that’s what I love about [him]. Jaakko’s dog, Zen, I saw for first time a few years ago at the World Championship, an amazing team. I always love to watch Jaakko and Zen perform. Year after year he’s always here for the world championship which is very hard to do in Finland, isn’t it? It’s a very tough process …

    Jaakko: Yeah, Yeah …

    Susan: to make it on the team. I think one of the hardest in the world.

    Jaakko: Probably so.

    Susan: So, Jaakkoo, you’ve won the championship, or the team

    Jaakko: No …

    Susan: You’ve won medals.

    Jaakko: No, no, I don’t ____ medals, I’ve won jumping

    Susan: Yes. And this year what place? {Not sure I’ve accurately got this on the following exchange}

    Jaakko: Fourth place.

    Susan: _____, Seventh. That’s very impressive, really amazing.

    Jaakko: Thank you.

    Susan: Okay – so, one of the things I love about Jaakko is that he’s an aggressive handler and he can run like the wind. Even with his belly, he can run so fast.

    Jaakko: Yeah, (laughing) timing is everything.

    Susan: ____ He’s not like one of the very tall , tall Europeans . He’s such a good runner.

    Jaakko: (He bends his knees so he is down to Susan’s height).

    Susan: (laughing at what Jaakko did in bending down to her height.)

    Susan: So, Jaakko if someone wants to be at next year’s World Championship, what do you think is most important for them starting out to think about?

    Jaakko: Well, I think you must be willing to accept you making mistakes. In training, in competition because you really really have to go flat out, and learn actually how to do it. The competition, so sometimes you have to be able to let go. The idea of making mistakes – , you can’t ever be thinking that I have to make sure, I’m afraid of mistakes. I’m never afraid of mistakes, no matter if it’s ____ finals, I still go flat out and then see what happens.

    Susan: That’s terrific. I love that. I love that, because so many people, especially with dogs want to be perfect.

    Jaakko: Exactly.

    Susan: When they can’t be perfect, they get down on the dog and down on themselves.

    Jaakko: Exactly.

    Susan: That’s brilliant.

    Jaakko: You have to kind of accept, ah err, searching for a term, would be, less perfect …

    Susan: Yes.

    Jaakko: Is that a term?

    Susan: I’d say roughly right.

    Jaakko: Yeah, roughly right. Yeah, but you just have to give everything , you have to put your heart into it, ahh, (unintelligible) trust, I trust my dog 100%, Sometimes she’s amazing, sometimes who knows, well that’s [okay?], too.

    Susan: That’s right. And, who do you think, if you think of all of the agility teams of the world, how do you think Finland is compared to the rest?

    Jaakko: Well, I think we are quite close to the top, I feel, I feel like, and that’s why it’s very hard to make these teams every year.

    Susan: Yes.

    Jaakko: I think, ah, overall, Finland’s people are how do you say, everyone is more or less thinking that they really go flat out. (unintelligible) we are not afraid to make mistakes.

    Susan: In agility is so exciting, you want to .

    Jaakko: Exactly, all the time going on the edge. That’s what agility is for me, always on the edge.

    Susan: Okay Jaakko. Very important question now. On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you think I rate as a runner?

    Jaakko: Rate as a runner?

    Susan: Yeah.

    Jaakko: Ah, um, let’s say 6.

    Susan: Oh no, man. I love that! Thank you as a friend it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for stopping by to chat with me.

    Jaakko: Okay, one more word.

    Susan: Yes.

    Jaakko: Handling wise and how she prepares her dog, I think she’s an actual a 10.

    Susan: Ha, Ha, Ha.

    Jaakko: Yeah.

    Susan: You’re the best, Jaakko. Thank you.

    Reply

  16. GeneT says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:06pm

    A-Maz-ZING! Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply

  17. Edgarfoot says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:06pm

    wow..what a great idea..! Thanks for sharing and introducing us to Jaakko…he seems very humble. My new motto and what I’m going to start saying to myself and my dog before each run:

    “Let’s Go Flat Out!”!!

    Reply

  18. Debra Jones says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:43pm

    I think from reading all the posts above that “Letting go”, trust your dog 100% and, “don’t be afraid of making mistakes” stood out profoundly! I have to agree with them! But I also agree with Jaakko when he said you were at the top on your handling of your dogs….that is a great compliment….

    Reply

  19. Gabi says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:42pm

    So cool you always publish a topic i’m working on in my mind or Training!! My Dog is a real agility rescue dog 🙂 so i have to learn to REALLY trust him! Great article and Interview! Thank you for this!

    Reply

  20. Ronna says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:22pm

    Great words of wisdom! I thingk the idea of not worrying about making mistakes is awesome, and trusting the dog. Once you are in the ring, it’s too late to worry about ‘fixing’ anything!Like susan says, the dog is a product of how WE have trained them If they screw up, it’s most always OUR fault. It shows US where WE have failed to communicate as a trainer.

    Reply

  21. Anji says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:08pm

    Loved it!

    Trust your dog and let go of mistakes!

    Reply

  22. sharon empson says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4:52pm

    Major point in this interviews that I caught are:
    Go for it! don’t worry about mistakes, trust your dog, put your heart into it! a very clear message. Lord help me live it out!
    And all that adds up to having fun! I would add don’t take yourself so seriously.

    Susan, love the interview, keep these great things coming! sharon and her pups cody , bindi, terra

    Reply

  23. Dorothy says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:45pm

    Major points in this interview, which was fun to watch as you guys were so obviously having fun, were:
    Be willing to accept making mistakes in training and in competitions. Never afraid of making mistakes.
    Go flat out, put your heart into it, trust your dog 100 % and be willing to allow that the dog will make mistakes so sometimes you make it sometimes you don’t. Just never get down on yourself or your dog.
    These are things that I am trying to instil in myself and my students.
    Great advice.

    Reply

  24. Maggie says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:39pm

    I agree – not to worry about mistakes, go for it. Can I ask for some advice? Sometimes at a trial (very low level stuff) I will come out of the ring, with faults, feeling fabulous because something that I tried worked well, or for whatever reason, and someone will say ‘oh bad luck’ or ‘never mind’ I never know what to say! I want to explain that I am happy, but at the same time I do not feel I have to justify myself, and anyway it sounds like an excuse. But I feel deflated. What do others say or do?

    Reply

    • Joanne Leslie says:
      Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:54pm

      Some of my best course runs have been with faults, but I always take a positive out of
      each run. He may have executed a very difficult part of the course easily, or whatever; every course run is a learning experience. Always Q’ing isn’t what it is about.

      Reply

      • Lesley Weihs says:
        Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 2:47pm

        We lost an incredible handler in our area this past year, but she left us with a legacy – find the joy!! So celebrate each of those little accomplishments like it was a MACH 100!!

    • Craig says:
      Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4:24pm

      Typically, something along the lines of “I need a few minutes to collect my thoughts.”

      Reply

    • Kay says:
      Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 6:12pm

      Because most handlers saying this aren’t doing so out of ill intent, I’ll usually say “Thanks” (in response to their taking time to watch us and to talk to us) and then immediately reach down or jiggle the dog in my arms and say in a happy voice to him “and what a good boy you were for doing that serp perfectly this time, that’s a good buddy for watching me this time.”

      My dog probably won’t connect this to his perfect serp/weave/tunnel entry/etc on the course, but he will understand the happy tone & “good boy/buddy” and it helps remind me what our little team of 2 did out there and remain in a happy mood for his next time out.

      Reply

    • Claire says:
      Friday, November 16, 2012 at 7:34am

      Maggie, why answer ? Why even listen ? In that kind of situation, just laugh, and say “haha – yeah”. They can see for themselves you’re happy. I’m only interested in constructive criticism, so I might answer “I’ll give your suggestion some thought”. Often times I get the opposite, people tell me I did a great run when there were actually faults, so I say “thanks – we’ll do better next time”.
      Great interview, thanks !!

      Reply

  25. Tiina says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:35pm

    Jaakko is the best <3

    Reply

  26. Anthea Rocker says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:32pm

    Thank you for this Susan. I loved that “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”. Definitely have taken that on board.

    Reply

  27. Susan says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 2:29pm

    I just go this email from a reader . . .

    Dear Susan

    I can follow your books/dvd and do apply your ideas in my training and I wold like to get advantage of what you are referring me to yet I cannot, I’m hearing impaired !
    I believe you may find volunteers that could do a transcription.

    Soooo anyone out there feel like helping out someone who is hearing impaired and typing out the conversation between Jaakko and myself?

    Reply

    • MaryAnne says:
      Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7:39pm

      Susan,

      This is a great interview. I am not a professional, however I have created a transcription of your interview with Jaakko. There is only a portion of one of Jaakko’s comments that I cannot quite comprehend. But, I got 98% of it.

      How may I get this transcript to you?

      Cheers,
      MaryAnne

      Reply

      • Dawn says:
        Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:51am

        Thank you so much MaryAnne for the transcript. My internet connection is SO slow and video links are awful, so it was great to be able to read the interview!

        Cheers
        Dawn

  28. Joanne Leslie says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 2:13pm

    Thanks for sharing Susan.

    I like that ‘trust your dog’ and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I think so many of us worry about that too much to the point where it demotivates our dog.

    Reply

  29. nellie.marsh says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 2:12pm

    Thank you for the interview, and a great big thank you for directing us to their website! What a fascinating story about their deaf dog! Great example showing that our own attitude decides whether we deal with limitations or possibilities…

    Reply

  30. Mary says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:48pm

    Awesome advice! I’m only 1 year into competing (Rally and Obedience so far) but have learned volumes already from each of my handler errors and to embrace them as opportunities to improve. Excellent 1st official interview, looking forward to more. 🙂 Thanks Jaakko and Susan!

    Reply

  31. Nicki Gurr says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:47pm

    That was awesome Susan!! What a GREAT idea. Don’t worry about mistakes. GO FOR IT. Trust your dog. Loved that you kicked off your series with Jaakko – he is inspiring. Who’s next? Who’s next!!

    Reply

  32. Carol says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:44pm

    Audio wasn’t all that bad. I could certainly understand it. While the main take away from Jaakko, as I interpreted it, was to leave it all on the line and not be overly worried about making errors, the main take away for me is making sure the dog has the needed foundation skills and prep work in order to be able to go all out. Thank you Susan for helping us with that MAJOR piece of the puzzle with the online classes, blogs and articles.

    Reply

  33. Aino says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:41pm

    Jaakko is SUCH an inspiration for me. Thanks for posting this Susan!

    Reply

  34. Deb Seline says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:38pm

    I like the idea about being free to make mistakes–not to be afraid of making mistakes. That idea is so important, especially for new people who are afraid to try because they are not perfect yet–no one will ever be perfect.

    Running 6 Handling 10–yes

    Deb S.

    Reply

  35. Ainsley Sykes says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:36pm

    I am glad you didn’t throw these away – I thought that was awesome. Great to hear some of the best in the world that I watch all the time live on my laptop during world events!

    Jaakko had a number of key things – all that I need to work on!!

    Accept making mistakes and let go, never be afraid of mistakes and go flat out

    Put your heart into it 🙂

    Trust your dog 100%

    And I think he said early on, timing is everything.

    Loved this. He made me smile the whole way through the interview. So Susan, how is the running training going? 🙂

    Reply

  36. Michelle says:
    Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 1:35pm

    The biggest take away that I got from this interview was to TRUST YOUR DOG and to BE WILLING TO ACCEPT MISTAKES! Two things that I will take with me to our trial this weekend. 🙂

    Reply

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