Thuin, Canine Capital of the World!

In 1954 the General Secretariat of the FCI settled in Thuin. It is curious to note that dog lovers throughout the world know the name of the town in which the FCI operates and offers the services that its 13 employees provide on a daily basis. Thuin now figures on the world map in the hearts of all dog enthusiasts on all continents! This is a reality that, although not on a grand scale, has not escaped the town’s elected representatives, who have on several occasions expressed their delight in counting an international organisation celebrating its centenary amongst their population of 14,650 inhabitants!

Conscious of the role that the FCI plays as an ambassador for Thuin, Philippe Blanchart – Acting Mayor – and the Town Council have named the city “Canine Capital of the World”. In this centenary year, this designation crowns the good relations between the FCI and the town that welcomes the Federation by focusing attention on Thuin, which would become a Mecca for dog fanciers, providing a positive window to the world by displaying knowledge, projects, initiatives and other breakthroughs concerning an animal that in this day and age has an important place in our society.

What could therefore be more natural than this designation knowing that Saint Roch, the Patron Saint of Thuin, is also the protector of animals and frequently portrayed with his dog?

Marie Luna Durán
FCI Marketing and Public Relations Manager
Junior handler : Vilhelmiina Walldén

© Svetlana Valoueva
Vilhelmiina Walldén
Hi Vilhelmiina, thank you for accepting this interview with us. Please, tell us something about you in few words: who are you, how old are you, when did you meet dogs for the first time and which breed do you have at home?

My name is Vilhelmiina Walldén, I live in Sweden but I am from Finland. I have been living in Sweden for 10 years, but I can still talk Finnish! I was born in 1995 so I’m 15 years old today. We have always had dogs at home, 6 at the moment - my mother also had dogs when she was a child. Nowadays we have Australian Terriers only under Kennel name “Jaskarin”, but we have had Welsh Terriers and Lowchens too. During the week I go to school, I study and I meet my friends. Sometimes, I train our dogs. In the weekends we travel around Sweden, sometimes Denmark, Norway or Finland for dog shows.

You said your family is breeding Australian Terriers and we saw you many times on the show grounds handling many different breeds belonging to the same Group (FCI III). Can you describe this special feeling between you and Terriers?

Yes, usually I show different Terrier breeds. As we have Terriers I mostly know people who also have Terriers! They have an alert and lively behavior, like I have! People often say that I show dogs like a real Terrier handler. I think they mean you must be firm when you show this kind of dogs, and maybe I am. It’s easy to work on some of them with free staking and I feel very comfortable with this kind of training. Furthermore they often move with so much speed!

Nowadays you are a successful Junior Handler. When did you start showing? Do you remember your first experience in the ring?

I started with Junior Handling when I was 10 years old, but my very first time in the ring was at the age of 4. It was when my family and I were living in Finland, in a competition where kids from 5 to 10 years could compete. I can’t remember it but we have many pictures of that moment. I also helped mum in best of breed and breeding group competitions. Then we moved to Sweden and the year I turned 10 I started with Junior Handling. A friend of my mother helped me at the beginning. I also get much help from XLNT Marc Linnér on my first Championship. Even today I think about what he said to me.

Which breeds do you prefer to show in Junior Handling competitions?

I prefer to have one of our Australian Terriers. Of course I have tried other breeds too and this year I’m going to show even more breeds. In the finals I have always have our own dogs but at World Dog Show 2010 in Denmark I borrowed an Australian Terrier from a friend, so it was very thrilling!

In which countries have you competed till now and which are your major awards?

Besides Sweden, I have just competed in England at Crufts and Denmark at WW-10. I was happy with the job I have done at both shows and they really were unforgettable experiences. I have been at a World Dog Show before and it was the same but I never been at Crufts. You get a totally unknown dog to compete with, the whole show is so big, there are so many dogs and you can make a lot of shopping! I can just say that my first time at Crufts is surely not my last one.

Congratulations on all your great results. The most recent and thrilling achievement is Vice World Winner Title. Tell us something more about that amazing experience!

I was representing Sweden so I just had to compete in the big final on Sunday. I knew who the judge was, Mr Nicolas Pineiro from Argentina, but I had never been in his ring so I didn’t know at all what he was looking for. I was so nervous because there were many guys I met at Crufts and all of them did so well there. When he picked me out first time I was so proud. But then he took the three he wanted to place, and I was one of them. I’m so honoured to do it to Vice World Winner, because it really means a lot to me. All handlers did super!

© Svetlana Valoueva
Vilhelmiina Walldén

How is Junior Handling organised in your country?

In Sweden you can start competing when you are 10 years old, until 17 years. We often have a Swedish judge, but the Final Swedish Championship Competition is judged by a foreign person. On normal shows, we usually are among 10 and 15 competitors, so they make small groups. In the groups we make our individual judgement, show the dogs’ teeth, answer questions and make some figures. Very often we make a dog’s change. Then the judge picks 5 who are going to the final and will get a placement. The first and second winners get qualified to the Swedish Championship. If the first are already qualified the third will qualify etc.

On your opinion what is the most important skill to be a good Junior Handler?

To be a good handler you have to be happy, positive and have a good contact with the dog and the judge. You should also be kind to the other participants. I think the handlers have to change dogs because they maybe have a very well-trained dog and, when they change, she/he can’t show the new dog.

Many times people say that parents are often cause of tensions in the sport. Should parents encourage Junior Handling or leave Juniors caring about it?

I think that it is very annoying when my mum is telling me what I did wrong or right, so when I went to Crufts I chose to take dad with me because he doesn’t say so much if I don’t ask! Anyway when people, who are handlers, say what I could do better I always listen to their suggestions and I think that it is good what they are saying to me. If my parents say that I did something wrong I can become angry! This way I go in the ring while I am still a bit angry and that’s not fair. So I would prefer if my parents leave me to do by my own. However, everyone thinks different and maybe they want their parents to be ringside.

Are you showing dogs professionally too? Do you take care about grooming?

No, I’m doing it for fun. Sometimes people are very happy that their dogs did well when I was showing them and so they give me a fee. I have started to learn how to groom just Australian Terrier and Flatcoated Retrievers. I want to learn much more about grooming and other breeds.

Have you ever worked as assistant for a Professional Handler? What are your plans for the future?

I’m planning to go to Great Britain or USA to learn about grooming on other breeds and Australian Terrier even better, as I said before. I also want to show dogs, go to big shows and see all professional handlers working. So hopefully, next year, in the summer time, I will visit kennels in the United States of America or United Kingdom.

Thank you for this interview, we wish you good luck for your next show!