3 Traits of a Successful Agility Handler

How Handlers Begin to Create Superstar Agility Dogs

In my article 6 Vital Tips This Dog Agility Trainer Needs You to Embrace, the first item I share is:

All handlers have the ability to create agility superstars in their dog.

“Yes, this means you! Unfortunately, a large portion of handlers won’t believe they have the capabilities, so I’m going to assure you right now. You. Absolutely. DO! The trick is to be open minded, constantly learning and to commit to always be teachable.”

How do I know YOU can create a superstar in your dog?

Like the majority of others, you likely made the leap into the sport of agility intending to mainly have fun with your dog. First, that’s an incredibly positive intent which says a lot about the quality of your heart. Second, the fact that you continue to be involved in agility despite the steep learning curve tells me there isn’t much you wouldn’t do for your dog’s benefit.

As an agility trainer, I recognize and want to verbalize to you, what those two very special traits represent. They are your purpose and commitment to your dog. These are two very powerful attributes when it comes to developing a dog and reaching mutual goals, especially in agility training.

Purpose is to have fun with your dog. Commitment is to improve yourself for your dog’s benefit. – Lisa Selthofer

So how does one have fun while plunging into the constantly developing lessons we face in agility training?

3 Traits of a Successful Agility Handler

Be Open Minded

Being open-minded can be really tough sometimes. Most of us are brought up with a set of beliefs and values and, throughout our lives, tend to surround ourselves with people who share the same values and beliefs. Therefore, it can be difficult when we’re faced with ideas that challenge our own and, though we may wish to be open-minded, we may struggle with the act of it from time to time. – Dani DiPirro

In dog agility, being open minded means that we consciously and lovingly refuse to limit ourselves on the agility journey. Some examples of being open minded include:

  • Exploring all handling methods
  • Accepting all dogs (no matter their breed or cross-type)
  • Accepting all handlers (regardless of their uniqueness)
  • Adapt your training and reinforcement techniques so it is applicable and understandable to your individual dog
  • Choose to not have an opinion on a topic that does not impact you
  • Recognizing that we ALL will make mistakes
  • Understanding that mistakes are simply a means to learning
  • Congratulating ourselves for being brave enough to get out there and being open to the learning experience
  • Letting go of the need to be in control
  • Skip the judgement (on ourselves and others) as this effort will not aid your purpose or commitment
  • and so much more! Go to Dani DiPirro’s website for more information

Constantly Learning –

I’m told that the most successful people never stop learning. While I don’t have any evidence to prove that, I can share that every person I admire, consider a mentor and love to learn from, all embrace and live that motto. Both in and outside of agility.

When it comes to dog agility in particular, the types of challenges, equipment performance requirements and course types are always evolving. After 20 years, I’ve come to realize that in agility, there is no end game. Oh sure, you might hit the highest titles with a particular dog, but the moment you begin the journey with a new dog, the agility landscape changes instantly and the personal challenges start again. That’s because the dynamic and uniqueness of the agility team is rarely the same from dog to dog. It seems with each new dog, there are new hurdles to conquer and new things to learn about ourselves along the way. So be kind to yourself during this process and accept that agility truly is a journey, not a destination.

Always Be Teachable –

Being teachable is a choice. We choose whether we are open or closed to new ideas, new experiences, others’ ideas, people’s feedback, and willingness to change. The key to teachability is not just that we try ideas on for size, but that we actually learn from others and change our point of view, process, and future decision making based on the what we have learned. – John C. Maxwell

Being teachable has two main parts.

First, it means that we are on a sincere mission to embrace answers and/or solutions and chose to see the benefits of each item presented to us for learning. There are many times I took the time to learn something that wasn’t currently applicable to my situation, only to have it be the key of knowledge I needed later in my agility career.

Second, it means that we are voluntarily willing to change. I’ve been to countless seminars where a participant made it the trainer’s responsibility to ‘convince’ them to change from their current process. It’s important to understand that it is nobody’s role to convince you of anything, even if it’s for the better. Don’t cheat yourself by neglecting to add the mindset of willingness when presented with the potential of change.

Teachable People (1):

  • Observe before acting
  • Close their mouth and listen to hear vs. respond
  • Are aware of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Accept that other’s opinion might be better than theirs
  • Learn from criticism rather than choosing to take a situation personally
  • Take responsibility for their failures and seek lessons to learn
  • Focus on solutions rather then get caught up in the why or seek to place blame
  • Embrace going out of their comfort zone
  • Admit when they are wrong
  • Are aware that they don’t know everything


Purpose is to have fun with your dog. Commitment is to improve yourself for your dog’s benefit. – Lisa Selthofer

Where To Go From Here

Stay tuned for for my next blog post where I’ll discuss why ALL Dogs Have the Potential to be their BEST at Agility.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to automatically receive the next upcoming blog post in your email, please complete the form below. Also, sharing is caring, so please forward this blog post to 3 friends and post on your social media account now. Your friends will thank you!

Happy Handling!

Lisa Selthofer

Articles In The Superstar Series:

  1. 6 Vital Tips This Dog Agility Trainer Needs You to Embrace
  2. 3 Traits of a Successful Agility Handler
  3. All Dogs Have the Potential to be Their BEST in Agility
  4. Dog Agility Superstars Aren’t Born. They Are Made
  5. 10 Simple (But Important) Things to Remember About Your Agility Goals
  6. Never Compare Your Agility Journey to the Journey of Others (coming soon)
  7. It Doesn’t Matter What Others Think (coming soon)

(1) some of the points were shared from Steven Aitchison, 6 ways to Develop and Maintain a Teachable Attitude

As a 20+ year dog agility coach, I am passionate about producing quality resources for dog agility teams by promoting self-development and delivering clear and specific training solutions that enable teams' to perform with clarity and confidence!

My unique experience as a hands-on trainer and 18+ year dog agility judge led me to create Sequencing For Success and the highly successful 2on-2off Contact Training DVD.

Our household has included Dalmatians, Labradors, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collies and engaging cats.

Contact Lisa via email AgilityOne at Gmail.com (replace at with @ sign)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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