I love watching folks who really enjoy agility. I don’t mean theoretically, I mean in a wholehearted, embrace the sport, embrace the dog kind of way! Isolating 10 key good agility handlers traits was fun ..and prompted by a list for riders I tripped across (again with the horses!)  This list is not about the “winningest” handlers but a list of traits I aspire to have. I suspect there is crossover with other  dog sports  too – but agility is my thing. What have I missed?

1. Persistence: Good handlers are willing to try, try again. They know that there will be more runs, more days, and the slow and steady approach always wins. They understand that frustration is part of the learning curve and don’t threaten to quit after every mistake. They don’t make excuses, they don’t blame others. They carry on. 

2. Open-mindedness: the best agility folk know there is something to be learned from everyone, even if to see proof of why NOT to do something. They are not handling preachers, and are always aware that good handling is good handling no matter the style.
3. Responsibility: Good handlers understand that they made the dog they run. They celebrate an error as a gap that they can work on. They take responsibility for the holes rather than being upset by the dog. They “get” that they are the one with the ultimate responsibility for both training and competition.  
4. Enough is enough: This may seem counter-intuitive, but knowing when over facing or drilling a dog into the ground is critical. They can quit when ahead. They remember the age and needs of their canine partner. The best agility players have dogs who always want more! They seem to intuitively know when enough is enough. They have the patience to invest the time to develop the skills needed. 
5. Timing: Great agility handlers have fabulous timing. Timing in training progression, timing in rewards, timing in progression of training. You don’t see them stalling out on a 2 set weave pole, or running a teeter between 2 tables for months on end. 
6. Self-Improvement: The best agility people work to understand their whole dog. That doesn’t mean jumping on a bandwagon for the sake of it (chiro, acupuncture, raw fed, animal communication, whatever!) but it means thinking about what their dog really needs and making it happen (which could be any of the aforementioned things). They seek to be better handlers of the dog they love. They understand that this takes money, time and humility! 
7. Seeing the Big Picture: Good handlers enjoy the “play” and the path as much as they do the goal achievement. They know that each day and each step is as important as the other and is a natural progression in development. All comes in the fullness of time – any day might be your last day to play so they let them all count, and find things to celebrate whenever they can. 
8. Joyful Role Models: Good handlers know good handling when they see it and seek it out. They embrace those who will not only help them improve on a competitive level, but also on a personal level as well. They bring joy to those around them including their dog partners. 
9. Positive Problem Solving: Good agility people can tackle issues in a variety of ways to solve them. They understand that different dogs may require different strategies to be successful. Further they embrace the uniqueness of each agility partner they play with. They understand that punishment is not necessary in agility and is destructive to relationships generally. 
10: Good Listeners: Good agility people have open ears. They are aware and sensitive to the feedback from their dogs, and aware and not defensive about feedback from other sensible agility folk. They take the information they hear and adjust their responses and plans accordingly.