When Gina Piffarerio first joined 4H, she probably didn’t expect to end up at the Westminster Dog Show one day. Last June, this is exactly where she and her rottweiler met at the prestigious event in New York.
Piffarerio and TCB’s Professor Minerva McGonagall, better known as Maggie, competed for Best of Breed at the 2022 Westminster Dog Show. It was a tight competition with 30 dogs all jostling to win in five different categories, but Piffarerio and Maggie held on despite not winning. .
“I was just excited to be there and to be invited,” Piffarerio said.
She started handling dogs when she was around 11, and when she had Maggie three years later, some people doubted she could handle such a big dog. But Piffarerio didn’t let that stop her, and instead she focused on building a bond with Maggie — who she says is unbreakable — and it helped her both in and outside the context of the competition. Since then she has been involved in AKC and UKC competitions, with Maggie and handling other dogs.
Dogs have become a passion for Piffarerio, who, in addition to training dogs for shows, also trains them for service work. She is also passionate about teaching others the art of dog training and handling.
“Training dogs can be very, very difficult, and I don’t want anyone to give up just because it’s hard,” she said. “When I was [first] training dogs, I had a lot of support and it made a huge difference.”
This support is essential for Piffarerio, especially since dog handling has been such a big part of his life. Not only has it taught her to be more confident, but it also gives her the ability to connect with others.
So, when it comes to the Westminster Dog Show, that’s how Piffarerio approached it — a time to be with Maggie and to connect with other people who care about their dogs just as much.
“It’s really difficult, and it’s obviously very competitive… [but] it was fun just being with my dog.”
To follow Piffarerio’s dog training adventures and competitions, you can find her on Instagram @piffarerio_dog_training.