Heffner had grown so tolerant of her and she was just eating it up!
In October, I took a week day off of work and took the dogs out to the coast for Miley's first taste of the beach!
Overall, it was a success. However, we did have one little event that pissed Miley off. You see, all water that Miley had had so much fun playing in had been not even up to her chest. She had no concept of water that was deeper than that or that maybe she should try to get a read on the depth of a "puddle" before she romped right through it. And as you can see from the pictures, the wet surface on the sand was pretty reflective and deceptive. Long story short, the ground went out from under Miley in a rather large "puddle" near the surf and she was insulted that the ocean had the nerve to pull such a nasty stunt. There was much barking to be had and it took a fair bit of coaxing to get her back near the water...
As with everything, she got over it and there were some great beach moments to be had.
Also in October, Miley and I began private obedience lessons! It was so awesome to get back into the swing of things with her. I was excited, but I was also overwhelmed, intimidated and a little nervous about starting over with a puppy. I have more experience this time around and I know what I'm getting into with this breed, but Miley is a whole unique little being. Her attitude is different. Her personality is different. And her relationship with me is different. I have this ever happy and raring to go little girl that I don't want to mess up with. I don't want to make any mistakes with her. I don't want to do anything that changes what she is or dampens her happy outlook on things. Obviously, "mistakes" are inevitable. It's just a matter of how I look at them and move forward from them. Regardless, I these and many more thoughts going through my head leading up to our first lesson. It's that anticipation of starting into something relatively unknown. While I've been down this path with the other two, it's a whole new game with Miley. Thankfully, once the lesson got under way, my anxieties were eased just by the act of doing something and starting down that path. I have a great instructor who is also great at working with the goals that I have as well as working with the dog that I'm partnering with. I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm comfortable and I feel that Miley and I are getting challenged to work better as a team. Miley is happy, energetic and.....wait for it.....sassy!
The end of October saw Miley entered in her very first conformation show! My expectations were appropriate. We had gone to a few handling classes and practiced at home, but she was also a six month old puppy. What I wanted most for her was a positive experience. I've seen enough puppies in the ring with their tails plastered to their bellies because they're so terrified of the experience, that I wanted the complete opposite of that for my puppy. Doesn't stack perfectly? Eh, she's six months old. Would rather make out with the judge and wag her tail so hard that her whole body was involved than stand rock steady for the inspection? She's a six month old puppy. Didn't really want me to hand stack her in the ring? Did I mention that she was a six month old puppy at the time? Did I also mention that I'm not expecting a six month puppy to behave like a special? Cause I don't. As I said, my expectations were appropriate.
What she did do fabulously was take in the experience like it was no big deal. She wasn't phased by any of it! There was her adoring public to greet. There were things to sniff. There were things to see. And there was a floor to roll around on. She wasn't stressed, she wasn't unhappy, she wasn't miserable. She was having a good time! You know what else she did well? She moved like I hoped that she would. She moved around that ring solidly, unperturbed, unimpressed, like it was no big deal. Because it wasn't. She was six months old. She had an experience at her very first show that has lent itself positively to her continuing to be a happy dog inside and out of the show ring. THAT was the important thing. THAT makes her a great dog already.
I felt the need to say all of that because I think there are a lot of people out there who have really high expectations when their puppies enter the show ring. Yes there are danes who finish their championship under a year old and that's incredibly exciting! And a lot of those dogs' owners/handlers put a lot of time and effort into training them to be excellent conformation dogs from the get go. That is just fine. However, what I'm not okay with is people having the expectation that a puppy behave like a seasoned special and not put a foot wrong from six months on. They are puppies. They have plenty of time to finish their championships (or not). Enjoy this time. Make it fun for you both. They're only this age once, so enjoy it!
With that being said, there was definitely some work that I needed to do with Miley. It wasn't until we got to the show that first day that I realized I hadn't practiced the judges exam with her in at least a month. Oops! Naturally, when the judge approached, she thought it was just another person who wanted to love on her. Admittedly, I'm perfectly okay with that attitude. However, I hadn't quite appropriately prepared my puppy for the ring and I felt bad about that. She did improve on the second day and she is now doing much better, but that first time was very wiggly!