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17-year-old Hannah Krabbenhoft of Moorhead, Minnesota, credits dog agility with helping her to work through anxiety. Krabbenhoft has been involved in dog sports since she was 12 years old and currently trains and competes with her black Labrador Retriever, “Eddie” and her yellow Lab, “Ellie.” She also borrows a Shetland Sheepdog named “Boo” to run in Agility.

Krabbenhoft, who recently finished her senior year of high school, plans on staying involved with the dog community long after she ages out of Junior Showmanship. When she isn’t on the agility field, she loves practicing photography and enjoys trick training with her cats.

Getting Involved in Dog Sports

A month after her family brought Ellie home, Krabbenhoft’s mom’s coworker introduced her to agility, and they decided to give the sport a try. “[We] started classes and have been there almost every Tuesday since!” she explained. A lot of effort goes into helping junior handlers prepare to show their dogs, and Krabbenhoft is grateful that her parents have been so willing to put in the work to support her to achieve her dog show dreams. Krabbenhoft especially appreciates her mom, who “wakes up at the crack of dawn for dog shows on the weekend.”

Krabbenhoft and her dogs primarily compete in Agility, but they’ve also tried Fast CAT and Diving Dogs and competed in AKC Rally. After Krabbenhoft and Ellie began competing in agility, her family brought 8-year-old Eddie home, and she began training him in Agility right away. Eddie earned his Novice Jumpers Title before he retired at 10 years old. Since then, they’ve also got involved with dock diving. Krabbenhoft says she considers it a privilege to do dock diving with Eddie, describing it as his favorite activity. In addition to training with her dogs, Krabbenhoft borrows Boo from a friend to work on her handling skills.

Hannah Krabbenhoft with "Eddie" (Riddle Me This II)
Sayra Crary

Overcoming Anxiety Through Agility

Getting involved with agility has been life-changing for Krabbenhoft, who has struggled with anxiety since middle school. “Just going to school was nearly impossible,” she explains. But, she says that agility has been extremely helpful for her. When she first started competing, she appreciated that everyone treated her with kindness and respect but also didn’t “baby” her. Krabbenhoft remembers that at her first trial, about two years after she began training, she was so nervous and cried. Even though she felt very overwhelmed that day, the agility community rallied around her and encouraged her to keep going.

Not only did agility help get her out of the house, but it also helped her to process the anxious feelings that were overwhelming her. “Agility has really opened things up for me and kind of siphoned my anxiety into focusing on my dog and what we do,” Krabbenhoft says. “It’s pushed me out of my boundaries many, many times and given me a purpose.”

Training and competiting in agility also helped build Krabbenhoft’s comfort around people. “I’m more confident in public and with people, and I still get more confident with each trial,” she notes. “My Tuesday night agility class is kind of like my second family, and I always look forward to a fun, laugh-filled night.” She also enjoys connecting with other agility competitors through social media.

Hannah Krabbenhoft with "Eddie" (Riddle Me This II) and "Ellie" (Lovable Labrador)
Exposures By Kelli

Recognizing Ellie’s Hard Work

Krabbenhoft describes Ellie as “the most perfect beginner dog.” She encourages every junior handler to make sure they appreciate their dogs and their hard work. “They may not always be the best at what you want them to do. But, you guys are a team and will learn to work with each other,” she explains. Regardless of your success in the ring, she adds that the connection you share with your dog is most important.

Krabbenhoft recalls that when she first started competing in agility, she would go home from trials crying and feeling that she wasn’t achieving success in the ring. “Throughout the years, though, I learned to appreciate my dog. Ellie may not be the fastest, but she loves the game and will do anything for me,” she explains. Recognizing Ellie’s passion and willingness to give any sport her all continues to inspire Krabbenhoft. Win or lose, she always recognizes the importance of having fun with her dog.

Lovable Labrador PAL276918
Kaytlin Winkels

Looking to the Future

Krabbenhoft will soon be turning 18 and aging out of junior handling this summer. She says she is extremely grateful for the experience of getting started in dog sports. “I have just been so very happy to start out as a Junior. In the six years of being a Junior, I’ve gotten to dabble in many sports and learn about so much more,” she says.

She appreciates both of her local dog clubs for supporting her. Plus, she’s met many friends along the way. Even though Krabbenhoft is aging out of being a Junior, she won’t be leaving the dog world. “Being a Junior has really gotten me hooked on the dog world,” notes Krabbenhoft. She says she plans on staying involved in the dog community for the rest of her life.

In the immediate future, Krabbenhoft plans to keep doing agility with Ellie for as long as possible. Plus, the pair have recently begun competing in Rally. Eddie, on the other hand, is enjoying his retired life. Krabbenhoft also says she plans to get a puppy in the near future and hopes to compete in confirmation.

Related article: What Are Titles in Dog Sports, and What Do They Mean?
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