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Personality Profile: Rachel Sanders (Part 2)

Learn more about long-time competitor Rachel Sanders! By Deborah Davidson Harpur

This article is continued from the first part, which appeared Monday, July 1.  

How often do you teach seminars away from home?

Fairly frequently in the winter. I train outside and the weather is unpredictable in December through February. For the past four years, I have left California for two months in the summer and taught at several camps across the country. I love that time as it is also the time I get to train and talk agility with friends that I don't get to hang out and train with often. 

Why do you think you are such a popular instructor for seminars/camps? 

I don't think I am the best person to answer that question so I will let others answer it with some portions of emails I have received:

"Thank you for a really fun session this morning and for being such a great teacher! You recognize the importance of understanding your student as well as knowing the material. And on top if it all, you like to laugh which makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable." 

"I can't thank you enough Rachel for all your support and encouragement. Your courses were very challenging and I felt we were really able to do some good work. I think of all the seminars I have been to, this was the best of them all. We were not stars but we sure were able to work things through with your help."

"Thanks for another great session, I admire your patience when I 'just don't get it.'  You are always able to break things down into smaller steps so I do eventually understand."

Are there specific subjects you feel you specialize in when you teach your seminars?

I hope I provide a balance between handling skills and dog training skills. I like to help people with problems. I am comfortable teaching a large variety of subjects but there are subjects I enjoy teaching more. I truly want people to be the best they can be with their dogs. I want them to be challenged, to learn, and through that, build a better relationship with their dogs. I want to help them so that they can walk courses confidently and think for themselves. I hope I provide a balance between handling and dog training and have a good laugh along the way.

Do you have an agility website? but it seems like I have been on the go for a while and it is horribly out of date - I hope I can fix that this summer!

Rachel coaching the 2012 IFCS World Agility Championships Team in Texas. Photo courtesy of Lynne Brubaker. 

Personal Life:

Where do you live?

Atascadero, California.

Where are you originally from?

Wellington, New Zealand, and then England.

How did you choose that part of the USA to live in currently?

Michael and I wanted to move out of the city. The Bay Area, California (Sunnyvale and San Jose) was the first metropolitan area I have ever lived in. It was great for a while, but I love trees, the countryside, not having to drive in traffic... I like running into someone I know at the grocery store. The Central Coast of California seemed to have everything: equidistant from the Bay Area and Los Angeles, close to the ocean, warm (I don't like the cold, fog, or rain except as a pleasant change to the constant sunny weather) with affordable land with trees, hills, and scattered rocks. It really is beautiful and I love living here.

Were you a good student in school?

Not particularly; I was at first and then I just seemed to be able to get by with very little effort. I'm not sure what happened, but I lost focus and didn't really have a goal to push me to work harder.

What types of activities did you enjoy when you were younger?

Ballet, swimming, camping, waterskiing, sailing, English obedience competitions, competitive sports, outdoor activities.

What non-agility activities do you enjoy now?

Not very much lately. I have so little time with all my agility stuff. When we lived in San Jose, Michael and I had season tickets for the San Francisco ballet and the San Jose Rep (Repertory Theater).

What is your guilty pleasure?

Laying in bed, watching TV and snoozing then rewinding the DVR on a rainy day at home.

What is the last book you read?

Kay Scarpetta - The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of this interview!

Deborah Davidson Harpur has been competing in agility since 1999 and is known as a handler of a wide variety of breeds of all shapes and sizes. She offers agility training classes in the Port of Los Angeles area for both recreational and competitive agility students. You can find her on facebook at or read about her dogs at


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