My name is Alessandra Wagner. I am 15 years old. I live in Nebraska and have been showing dogs since I was four years old.
Where do you live? Where do you go to school?
I live in Seward, Nebraska, and go to Seward High School.
Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do you have a job?
I am involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA). I used to show rabbits in 4-H and hope to show my dogs and sheep in 4-H this year.
Have you grown up in a doggy family? What is your breed(s)?
I’m very lucky to have grown up in a dog family; my mom has been showing dogs since she was nine years old. Our breed is the Toy Fox Terrier (TFT), but I show Chihuahuas for my mentor, Sue Sunnenberg, who’s like a grandma to me!
How were you introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did you start competing?
I was introduced to Juniors by my mom. I started showing in Casper, Wyoming, on my ninth birthday.
What do you remember about the first time you showed as a Junior?
I remember being extremely nervous about it, and winning third out of a hard class with my dog, “Charlie.”
How do you prepare your dog and yourself for the ring? Any rituals? Any good luck charms?
I get my dog out 10-15 minutes before we show to help us calm down our nerves because we both can get nervous.
Do you have a mentor in the sport? Have you assisted any Professional Handlers?
Being raised in a dog family, I have my mom who’s like a mentor. Sue Sunnenberg, who’s helped me get better at showing and with my grooming skills, has become like a grandma to me! I’ve helped a few handlers at shows, and I’ve learned a lot from them.
What do you think about the Judges? Do they seem to enjoy the Juniors ring?
I think the judges are very kind people. All the judges I’ve shown to have seemed to enjoy what they are doing. There would be no dog shows if it wasn’t for them and their hard work!
Are there any wins for which you are particularly proud? Any memorable losses?
One win that’s been the most memorable is going Best Junior Handler at my first Toy Fox Terrier National! Another memorable win was going Select Dog with my Juniors dog at the Toy Fox Terrier National in 2022! I can’t think of any memorable losses.
How is your breed shown? How do you accentuate your dog’s breed type in the ring?
My breed’s movement is smooth and flowing, with good reach and strong drive. The topline should remain straight, and head and tail carriage erect while gaiting. I show my dog on a loose lead and let him go to the end of his lead. Most of the time I have him free-stack, but when he wants to be a “turd” I get on the ground and hand-stack him.
Is your breed generally well-suited for a Junior Showmanship career?
My breed is not a typical Juniors dog. Normally, I am the only Junior at a show with a TFT unless my brother is showing one.
Have you bred or co-bred a litter? If so, can you share what you’ve learned from the experience?
I had my first two litters that I co-bred last year. That felt like a major accomplishment. I can’t wait to hopefully have a litter this year and get the chance to possibly show one in Bred-By!
With so many “low entry” breeds, what are your thoughts on breed preservation?
I feel breed preservation is very important, especially because I own and show a low entry breed.
Are there any breeds that you would love to show but haven’t shown yet?
I would love to show a Doberman Pinscher.
If you could choose only one breed to live with forever, which breed would it be and why?
I would choose a Boxer, even though they are complete “dorks.” We got one back in July and I’ve been in love with the breed since!
Can you share a word or two about your relationship with your current dog? What does s/he mean to you?
My dog is my absolute best friend. He’s been there for me since the day he was born at my house!
What are your goals for the future? Do you see yourself continuing in the sport once you’ve aged-out?
I hope to graduate college with a business degree, assist a professional handler for 3-5 years or until I feel comfortable to become one myself, and also open a grooming shop.
Is there a funny story that you can share about experiences as a Junior Handler?
I cannot think of any.