Natasha Coulter and Lucinda Robertson travelled all the way from New Zealand to attend the OneMind Dogs CAMP 2014. Read a story about their trip to Finland!
Following our return from the Australian Nationals, Lucinda Robertson and I went on a walk with our dogs at the park. We were reflecting upon our trip to Australia, the results of the Paw Blacks Team and dog agility in general. Lucinda said “you know that One Mind Dogs Camp is coming up in Finland”. I replied that I did know and Lucinda said that she would love to go. Never one to shy away from a subtle challenge I replied that I would also love to go, and that was the start of a very exciting adventure.
Our preparation was frantic, with only a 5 week period in which to organise work, dog sitters and our trip away. Initially we thought we would go as auditors but after some consideration we both agreed that is not our learning style. We both learn better by doing, so we put in a cheeky request for handling spots with Finnish dogs. To our surprise OneMind Dogs were more than happy to arrange this for us, nothing is a bother to these guys.
OneMind Dogs camp was held in the town of Turku, about 2 hours from Helsinki. Lucinda found a fabulous apartment for us in the city, and transport was arranged daily for all OneMind Dogs camp goers from the city to the ATT arena where the camp was held. We were both a little nervous when we arrived, not knowing what to expect from the 7 days to follow, with total immersion into the OneMind Dogs Method.
We were welcomed to Finland by OneMind Dogs CEO Noora Keskievari on a little island called Ruissalo, joint to mainland Turku by a causeway. It was at Noora’s suggestion that we visit the island and we meet her, and Kayl McCann (an OneMind Dogs Coach from Canada) for an afternoon stroll around the island. Lucinda and I hired bikes to get out to Ruissalo and had a lovely day out in the only sun we saw for our week-long visit to Turku. Meeting both Noora and Kayl set the scene for the entire camp as they were both extremely engaging and inclusive.
OneMind Dogs camp was attended by an international mix of people and dogs. We were the only two campers from the southern hemisphere, and the rest of camp was made up of handlers from Poland, Sweden, Russia, England and the US (many of whom flew their own dogs to the event given the ease and low cost of flying dogs between these countries).
Prior to beginning camp we first needed to decide on our dogs for the week. We were offered an Australian Kelpie and a Sheltie. A coin toss was the fairest way to make this decision, but here ensued an epic fail! After borrowing a coin we chose our toss and threw the coin to decide. Sadly we forgot that Finnish coins don’t have heads and tails! After a re-match, I chose the Kelpie and Lucinda got the Sheltie. Unfortunately the first Sheltie was not happy working for a stranger so Lucinda worked with a lovely 9 year old Collie called Juju (pronounced you-you). I had fun with a 3 year old Kelpie called Armas who was extremely driven and a little loose in the brakes!
Days 1 & 2
The first two days were pretty exhausting as there were so many new turns and moves to learn. These techniques sessions were led by Tuulia Liuhto and Jenni Leino, and were joined by Minna, Mikko, Mari and Kayl at various stations for each move. All of the coaches for these sessions were extremely attentive and very good at explaining the moves and what was happening when we didn’t execute the technique quite right. The best thing about the techniques days was there were no more than 2 people per coach, allowing everyone to get the most out of each session by practicing continuously. We were both feeling very overloaded by the end of the second day so we decided to give ourselves a break and go out for a nice dinner in town. When we returned we lay the TV remotes down on our apartment floor and used them to practise our new moves (much to the amusement of the OneMind Dogs pack when they found out).
Not only were the handlers overloaded by the end of day two, but our dutiful dogs were also due a break. OneMind Dogs camp organisers cleverly planned in a non-dog day for day three which consisted of a very useful round table discussion led by OneMind Dogs camp helpers. We were then treated to a talk from Kayl McCann. She talked at length about her background and how she became an OneMind Dogs Coach.
Following a lunch break we then had a presentation on mental training by Vappu Alatalo, a sports psycologist, fondly referred to as "the crying coach". Her lecture featured a case study of Tuulia Liuhto, one of the OneMind Dogs Coaches, and her quest to win gold at world champs. It was an incredibly moving lecture which must have been extremely difficult for Tuulia who was brutally honest about her struggle. Lucinda and I did not know how to react as we were sitting immediately in front of the OneMind Dogs coaches who knowing Tuulia very well, were killing themselves laughing, as tears streamed down Tuulia’s face whilst recounting her struggle to the top. I should point out here that Tuulia did win a silver at worlds in France in 2011 after working with her crying coach. I have to take my hat off to her for putting herself through that experience as it must have been very difficult but we all learnt a great deal from it.
Following the end of day 3, Wednesday night, we were all invited to Noora’s house for a BBQ and sauna. Noora lives on a 3 acre property right on the Archipelago. After dinner a few of us headed down for a traditional Finnish Sauna (traditional except on this particular night everyone wore a bathing suit). We were very surprised to see that they also let the dogs come in for a sauna. Apparantly the dogs love it. Lucinda was much braver than me and jumped into the Archipelago after her sauna to cool off. I amused myself by standing on the dock and taking photos of her after hitting the cold water! It was a lovely evening spent relaxing and getting to know a bit more about the handlers in our group but also spending some time with the handlers in the advanced group who had been working the ring next to ours.
Days 4 & 5
Day 4 and 5 were dedicated to putting our handling techniques into practice on some pretty tricky courses. Our first session was with Jaakko! (pronounced Ya-ko) Jaakko is an excellent coach and we had a lot of fun trying to master his course. Each handler and dog were given a time frame and it was up to you to get as far as you could on the course in that time or to work on specific areas that you felt you would like to perfect within the course. I loved this session with my little Kelpie. He was extremely fast so he really pushed me to get my timing right while trying to remember all the new moves. By this stage Lucinda was running a lovely little blue merle Sheltie, Hilma, who was a great partner for her for the session with Jaakko and the rest of the OneMind Dogs camp.
Day 5 of camp, Friday, we had the morning to participate in a panel discussion with the OneMind Dogs Coaches, moderated by Kayl. We had been asked to prepare questions and we could ask anything we liked about dog training, OneMind Dogs Method, Dog fitness and agility in general. It was a very useful exercise to be able to listen to the questions from other campers as that meant the discussion was varied and a very useful learning session. Following the panel discussion Kayl led a flyball demonstration with her dog Grand Slam. The speed and timing of these dogs was incredible. Some of the coaches who had not participated in the sport before were shown some of the training techniques so that everyone could see the steps involved in training a flyball dog.
Course training with Kayl McCann resumed in the afternoon. Kayl is a very patient, encouraging coach with an extremely good eye for detail. Both Lucinda and I thoroughly enjoyed this session. It was however, a little daunting turning up to a course set out with 43 obstacles, but again we worked on the parts of the course that we thought we would learn the most from. This is the type of course that, every six weeks or so, the coaches use in what they call “Clean Run” training. So they start at obstacle one and try to get through the entire course without making a mistake. If a mistake is made, they start again at obstacle 1, a real kicker if you made the mistake at obstacle 43!!
Friday night was dinner out at one of the hotels in Turku. All the campers and coaches attended this dinner and it was a time to relax a little and have some fun and talk about our lives back home and our interests. On day one of camp we were informed that there would be a social media challenge. This involved hashtagging all social media posts with the tag #OMDCamp. Lucinda had heard of hashtagging but neither of us had actually used it before. Immediately Kayl began hashtagging everything she posted. Always up for a challenge, I was not going to let her win. We got off to a rocky start as our hashtags were not showing up in the OneMind Dogs camp counter. Eventually we got it sorted and came from behind to whip Kayl’s butt. Our win was announced at the dinner, apparently there was only one hashtag in it. Thank goodness we had taken a tonne of photos and hashtagged each one individually. We were presented with a book and an OneMind Dogs gear bag, which Lucinda lugged the rest of the way round Europe.
Days 6 & 7
Saturday we competed in the OneMind Dogs Cup, an unofficial agility show, which was open to the public to compete in as well as camp participants and was judged by Veronica Bache from Sweden. The day comprised of running two courses with our borrowed dogs and watching our fellow campers and competitors attempt the courses that had been set for us. My highlight of the day was finding two lovely Finnish Pyr Sheps owned by a Finnish facebook friend.
Sunday was a chance to review the OneMind Dogs cup courses with the coaches. We were able to break the course down and analyse each obstacle and which technique was best suited for a particular sequence Armas was rested this day and I ran a lovely little Sheltie owned by the same lady that lent Lucinda her little blue merle. I had a very enjoyable day running Kirppu (flea) and trying some different moves on the same course.
We were very lucky to have borrowed fantastic dogs for the duration of the camp, their owners were extremely encouraging. All the instructors were amazing, and although some of them were a bit worried about their English, communication was never a problem. The Finnish people are a very relaxed bunch and we really enjoyed the coaching we received and the fantastic support of the camp crew who looked after everything from the transport to the amazing meals we received everyday. So amazing in fact that we got very fat very quickly after being introduced to the delights of the Finnish pastries backed by Noora's family bakery!
After saying our last goodbyes, heads filled with information from a week long camp, we headed to the ferry terminal to begin our next adventure, a 12 day express tour of Europe. From Turku, to Sweden, to Poland, to Latvia, on to Estonia and back to Helsinki. Highlights included, walking around Stockholm site-seeing. Visiting the birth place of Euro, Posh and Sequel and having a lovely time on with their breeder Monica. Old town Krakow and the great restaurants. Lucinda, not a drinker, beginning a love affair with the mojito, just to keep me company with my vino in the evenings. The Baltic Beach Hotel Day spa in Jurmala, ahhhhh. Train ride to and epic walking trails around Sigulda. Tour of Tallin with the funniest tour guides ever. Linnanmaki Amusement Park in Helsinki, maybe not my highlight after one of those rides, but Lucinda had a ball.
Although only 5 weeks in the planning and 3.5 weeks in the execution (becoming 4 weeks after an unexpected delayed trip home, argh), this spontaneous trip to Finland really was a great way for us to learn a new approach to agility training and to see for ourselves how agility works in other countries. I would, without a doubt, do this again!
Written by Natasha Coulter
See photos of the OneMind Dogs CAMP week: