Many think that each time you set foot in the show ring, you step in expecting to win. Though winning best in show may be the ultimate goal, you must set smaller, realistic goals for yourself and your dog too; especially if you are showing a puppy.
Puppies, in all their glory, are somewhat unpredictable. At our last show, Barkley was 5 months old and behaved like an angel. She was a little bit too enthusiastic returning towards the judge, but the judge appreciated her excitement and personality. Now, you may think that showing her two months later would go even smoother than last time. That is where you would be mistaken! She did not appreciate the judge touching her butt, and then proceeded to jump and prance around the ring because it was so much fun! Wasn't focusing enough to give me any kind of free-stack (this is where the dog places all four feet squarely to show off their conformation, without you actually touching and placing their legs). We walked away with a second place ribbon for her age group, and a kind word from the judge. We did not take first today because of her behavior. Ah, the joys of puppy-hood. Was I discouraged and filled with remorse? Nope.
Our goal today was not to win, although it would have been a nice perk. I know that I have an awesome dog. We received multiple compliments, both from the judge, others who are familiar with the breed and many who are not. However, my dog did not show as well as the dog that won, and that is okay. I congratulated the winner and walked out with a smile. You see, our goal for the day was to gain experience. I wanted her to be in a real ring, with a real judge, surrounded by a ton of distractions and noise, and learn to still focus on ME and try her hardest for me. We achieved that goal. Each positive experience she has in the ring helps her become a better show dog. As the judge told me today, "Her excitement is good. Just reward the right behavior and ignore the rest." and that is what I plan to do. I want her to have fun, I want her to enjoy herself, I also want her to not leap around like a goat, but that will come with time.
My opinion is, you don't show puppies to win. You show puppies to gain experience, so that when they are grown, you can show to win. It is a time consuming process, but well worth it in the end.