At just 15 years old, Alessandra Wagner is already a veteran in the world of dog shows. Hailing from Seward, Nebraska, Wagner has shown dogs for over a decade, qualified for the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin five times, and won more than 30 Best Junior Handler Awards as part of the AKC Junior Showmanship program.
Wagner has ranked as the number-one Toy Fox Terrier Junior Handler since 2018. That accomplishment, she says, “meant a lot to me. It’s taken a ton of hard work and hasn’t been easy.”
Wagner’s mother has shown dogs for nearly 35 years. Wagner herself started showing dogs when she was just four years old. Competing in both Junior Showmanship and Conformation, she now primarily shows her Toy Fox Terrier GRCHS TNT’S Mind Your Own Biscuits RATI CGC TKN, also known as “KC.” With Wagner, KC has earned Grand Champion, Bronze Grand Champion, and Silver Grand Champion titles.
Wagner has also put the National Owner Handler Series (NOHS) bronze and silver levels of achievement on KC. Besides KC, Wagner co-owns and shows several other dogs, including the Australian Cattle Dog CH Twin Springs Sweet Love of TLC, known as “Zoey,” the young Toy Fox Terrier TNT N TOCUTE’s Till You Can’t, known as “CJ,” and the English Springer Spaniel Spaniel Echo’s I Ain’t Lyin, known as “Abe.” To date, Wagner has finished Championship titles on seven Toy Fox Terriers.
Showing a Unique Breed
Wagner, a high-school sophomore, stays active in her local 4H group shows and participates in events with her dogs and rabbits. In addition to showing in the breed ring, Wagner and her canine companions are involved in Fast CAT, Barn Hunt, Agility, Rally, and Obedience. Conformation remains her favorite dog sport because of the friendships she’s made in and out of the ring.”My favorite part of showing dogs is all the amazing bonds I’ve created with the dogs I show and the people I’ve met along the way,” Wagner explains. Her support system includes her mom, stepdad, and her mentor, Sue Sunnenberg, who has become a grandmother figure in her life.
During her time in the ring, Wagner has been the only junior handler to show Toy Fox Terriers year-round. She feels that handling an unusual breed has helped her to stand out. “Most people recognize me as that one young girl that shows Toy Fox Terriers,” she explains. Wagner describes her overall proudest moment so far as “going Select Dog at the 2022 Toy Fox Terrier National with my Toy Fox Terrier KC.”
It’s All About Community
Support from adults and peers in the sport has been vital for Wagner. She explains that she has received tremendous encouragement, coaching, and support from not just her family but also many other handlers. Wagner describes the guidance, coaching, encouragement, and support she’s received from fellow handlers of all ages as invaluable. “I truly cannot thank all my supporters enough,” she says.
Before Wagner ages out of Junior Showmanship, she wants to inspire more kids and teens to get involved, especially with Toy Fox Terriers. “I only have three years left in Juniors,” she says, “and I would be more than heartbroken to see no Toy Fox Terrier juniors that show year-round.” Wagner encourages prospective Junior Handlers to get involved and stay involved, even when it feels challenging or the competition is fierce. “Stay committed and no matter how many haters there are don’t listen to them, do you, be you, and stay strong!” she encourages.
Contemplating becoming a professional Handler as an adult, Wagner has an eye on fostering the next generation of excellent show dogs. In 2022, the first two litters that she co-bred were born. Wagner, who describes the experience as “very cool,” is proud to continue her family’s breeding program.