Inspiring Transformations in Dog Agility

Posted on 01/11/16 36 Comments

Trans·for·ma·tion /tran(t)sfərˈmāSH(ə)n: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.

Who amongst us wouldn’t want a “transformation”? Maybe a transformation of our fitness level, our cluttered house, or yes possibly even our agility abilities. Transformations require the desire for a change. That desire may come from a place of frustration, pain or maybe even a drive to just progress forward. It could be an external struggle, like not being able to execute handling moves with good timing, or it could be an internal struggle like wanting to be better for your dog or wanting to achieve goals on a more accelerated timeline than you have in the past.

Over the next week we are holding a video contest for the members of my online agility handling class, “Handling360”. Eventually you will see the top 15 videos in our contest but I thought I would share this one here today.

This is the story of Levi, a rescued Beagle cross.

IMG_3623_3738Levi came to live with Shelly Diehl and her husband Steve, when he was 8 weeks old. He was unlike any of the dogs they had ever previously owned. He would run off, and chase their horses. He had drive for everything and everyone one other than his owners. In short, he was a pain in the butt for this unsuspecting couple.

At one point Shelly took Levi to an animal behaviourist for help. She was told “rescue hounds, can be highly inbred leaving them with a brain that isn’t fully developed resulting in the dog being untrainable.” Shelly was heartbroken but she pushed on and one night while googling ‘dog training’ she happened upon our Recallers classroom and joined immediately. From there she continued on to Handling360. In the video below she shares the story of her transformation with Levi.

Some may look at this video and think “yeah but she has a big back yard” or “Shelly is able to run with her dog” or any other number of things that this video portrays. However, comparing what others have and you don’t have is a pessimistic outlook towards your challenges. With that mindset a transformation of your own would be difficult if not impossible.

IMG_3795_3881Shelly is almost 50 years old, and she has never trained a dog in agility before, as a matter of fact, she has done very little dog training at all other than what any other “average pet owner” would have done. She has two other dogs at home in addition to six indoor cats, three horses and her chickens. She trains alone guided only by the lessons and inspiration of Handling360. That, and her determination to bring a better life to Levi has brought her to where she is today. That is a point of a total transformation. I hope you are as inspired as I am.

Today I am thankful for Shelly who doesn’t see what her dog isn’t, who doesn’t look around at the resources she doesn’t have, and who looks only at what lessons she can teach Levi today in order to progress their relationship one step beyond where it was yesterday.


  1. Pam says:
    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 12:40pm

    Amazing, touching and inspiring. It truly touches the heart to see that you found each other and the relationship that has grown through hard work, determination and love on both ends of the leash.


  2. Sage Lavine says:
    Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 2:37pm

    Wow, so touching, your video made me cry.


  3. Susana says:
    Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 2:37pm

    Congratulations Levi and Shelly!!!
    I have a beagle, Canela, she is 5 years old. We are from Costa Rica. We started practice agility training 3 years ago, every day is a new challenge, and we always take our time together with motivation and positivism.
    Every dog can learn and enjoy agility, training and special rewards: liver treats.
    Your story made me feel very emotional and proud because people like you teach us every day we can achieve our goals.


  4. Christine says:
    Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 10:36am

    WOW!I have tears steaming down my face! That is the most inspiring story! It reminds me there is hope for my puppy brain boxer who I adore! I look forward to doing agility with him in the near future! He’s a rescue too!


  5. Michelle says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 5:02pm

    Amazing! Brought tears to my eyes. Truly inspiring what can be done when one truly keeps trying to work with the dog they have and accepting those minor triumphs however incremental they may be as another step forward, and then another and another. LOVED it! Thank you so much for sharing.


  6. Wendy says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 3:14pm

    This video should come with a hankie warning 🙂 Beautiful!


  7. Dorothea says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 3:13pm

    Thanx sooooo much for the video … It definitely IS inspiring! and, mentioning Shelly’s age IS important. I’m in my seventies, in denial about the ageing process, and I need all the inspiraton I can get. Xena, the other half of my team is a wonderful very high spirited German Shorthaired Pointer … who should have been re-named “zephyr”!


  8. Lamolina says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 1:25pm

    WAY TO GO SHELLY!!! And of course Levy 🙂 I really, really admire your work and your patience. Levy sure is lucky that he found you, and you sure are lucky that you found him and Say Yes 🙂


  9. Naomi says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 12:13pm

    Awesome! Wow! Shelly you are an inspiration to us all! Your hard work has paid off and what a wonderful bond you share with Levi!! How fantastic is that!!!


  10. Sue says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 12:09pm

    Shelly – you area true inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing your story


  11. BrittsDeux says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 11:24am

    Shelley, Levi is so lucky to have found you and I am so glad that you found Say Yes! Watching your achievement, I am re-inspired! Thank you for sharing.


  12. Karin says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 10:44am

    Wonderful video and impressive work by both human and canine. Inspiring!


  13. Jan F says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 10:01am

    Amazing, Shelly!
    Not only are you now a fantastic agility team but it’s plain to see how much fun you’re having together.
    Lovely, lovely story 🙂


  14. Marianne Hovde says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 9:05am

    Great story, love the video 🙂


  15. Kerstin says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 8:35am

    This video is so great and so encouraging. Living with a shelter dog (got him 1 yr old, not neutered, no education – sit for him was “that’s what??”) who is a high drive labrador-australian shepherd-husky-mix, I know a lot about obstacles in training. Many people told me that this dog would need an electric collar for recall, but I wanted to try all other options before. Yes, he run away all the time to see other dogs and recall was when he was tempted to. This was specially disturbing at agility and training classes. Thanks to recallers I became the center of his universe and I can call him back now even when he is playing with other dogs. And I do not have to mention that not only his recall is better!!


  16. Eve says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 8:07am

    Great story, loved it.

    …But why mention the age of 50 for the handler as that is something old?

    I started agility at age 65 with a 2 year abused rescue with lots of baggage. Where there is a will there is always a way.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 9:23am

      Eve, as a nearly 55 year old handler myself I would never say 50 years old is OLD. However if I this video had Featured a fit, athletic 25 year old some may have looked at that and said “ah ha…thats why she could do it!.” #NoExcueses


  17. Jenny Haskins says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 2:46am

    I have a Beagle Cross — and I know EXACTLY what you mean by “like no other dogs you’ve known before.”
    Having her was a very steep learning curve for me — SO unlike “real dogs” (aka German Shepherds and Kelpies and Cattle Dogs 🙂
    But she is proving a real delight — so far no “agility” outside of our fenced yard, as her default behaviour seems to be “I’m off!! I’ll be back some time!”


  18. Cheryl Black says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 1:41am

    Watched this this morning and just had to watch it one more time before going to bed. So exciting and helping me regain a glimmer of hope…but I know that hope has to be coupled with a ton of consistent work. Slowly becoming motivated again. One step at a time. Thanks, Shelly


  19. Jim Davis says:
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 12:19am

    Shelly, you are an inspiration to anyone that has or is having challenges with their dog training. You have truly become the cookie! I wish you all the best in your continuing journey.


  20. Sharon says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 10:52pm

    I loved this video–what a transformation!

    I would argue, however, that a “rescue” dog does not equal “problematic” or make a dog necessarily more difficult to train. Especially a “rescue” that’s 8 weeks old when it arrived at the house, almost certainly fostered until the by some shelter volunteer in a home, with all the amenities of any 8 week old puppy.

    Shelter dogs can be domineering, fearful, inattentive, hyperactive… or they can be hard-working, attentive, obedient, come instantly when called, and talented in sports. Both are also true for dogs from show/sports breeders.

    I got a 9 mos. stray shelter dog; and another almost 5 mos. puppy mill bust dog whose littermates had almost all starved to death, and who had spent the 5 months with virtually no human contact in an outdoor cage surrounded by dead puppies and adults. From the first day they came home, both dogs were social, trainable, sports-loving and loved everybody and all animals. The puppy mill dog later became state herding champion (combined sheep/cattle) in MO and AR.

    I bought a third dog from the same breed as those two, but from a respected show/sports breeder. That dog had a ton of aggression issues, as did his littermates, despite a stellar upbringing and all going to experienced obedience/agility/tracking/herding homes. In my small sample of 3 dogs, it was the dog from the breeder that was the problem child, and the rescue dogs that were the easily trainable angels.

    In closing, I’d say that no matter where this dog came from, it had some big problems with attentiveness and bidability at the beginning. I would not blame this in any way on being a rescue, though. (I would blame at least some on being a hound, though). Kudos to Shelly for going to the trouble of learning a whole new sports so she could bring out the best in her dog. They look incredible! I would not want to be up against them in USDAA Biathlon, with all their fancy Euro-handling moves!


  21. Katie says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 10:07pm

    ❤️???? Awesome! You made me cry! Training is so very much more, finding the buttons that turn your dog on to you and then feeling that relationship blossom. It’s a beautiful thing ????


  22. Linda Morrell says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:32pm

    Fantastic to watch this of Shelley and Levi.
    Learned a lot and you can train yourself and your dog anything.
    Well done. My husband and I will keep at it with our Ziggy girl.


  23. Janet Ortega says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:31pm

    Wow, I was so flabberghasted after watching this video, I was speechless. How can I do this with no groups near me and rock for a yard? I live in high desert in Arizona. I have the absolute best dog for this that I adopted from the pound 2 years ago. He’s a pure Australian Cattle dog that has endless energy and fantastic speed.


    • Lynda says:
      Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 12:22am

      Where there is a will there is a way Janet…you can do much of our dog training programs in your home and seek out your local parks for green space… As Susan mentioned we have our Hamdling360 video contest coming up… watch closely … Farmers fields, local parks, indoor soccer arenas are playground for our program!


    • Jenny Haskins says:
      Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 2:51am

      Ah, with Cattle Dogs, just give them to book to read and then say, “Go do it!!”


  24. Kathleen Rende says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:24pm

    awesome. Keep up the good work.


  25. Jan Schultz says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:10pm

    Absolutely awesome!


  26. ileana says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:07pm

    That is so cool! Levi now has a reason to focus on Mom…he has fun!


  27. Bronwyn says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 9:00pm

    Love this, thank you for sharing!


  28. Liz Grewal says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 8:32pm

    what a great story & NO dog is untrainable, just need to have the time & energy & patience to be what they need to be with YOU.


  29. Karleen says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 8:15pm

    Wow! I’m a bit speechless. That is the most amazing transformation I’ve ever seen. Determination, consistency and a never-give-up attitude gave Levi focus and a purpose. Way to go Shelly! It proves no dog is untrainable. If they say it can’t be done – just do it!


  30. Debbie Bailey says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 8:12pm

    This video made me cry. I volunteer at a dog rescue and we have many Levis. This shows what patience and persistence can do.


  31. Sandy says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 7:57pm

    Happy Tears!!! So happy Levi found Shelly (and vice versa) and that she found Say YES!


  32. Michele Fry says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 7:46pm

    This video made me cry. Agility is so healthy for both dog and handler if treated as fun, and I was glad to see that H360 teaches the new handling techniques, as of course it would. They make what we used to learn in agility just a few years back look so dorky!


  33. Joy says:
    Monday, January 11, 2016 at 4:38pm

    Super story….gives me hope that age and agility level does not matter…..
    that this course(Handling 360 would be perfect for my dog.
    We have had no Q’s (clean runs) in 11 months and have only done Jumpers with Weave competitions. My dog is afraid of the teeter. I hope to sign up when it is offered in 2016.


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