Nice postAll of this discussion is missing the point. The problem is simply the disappearance of the owner/handler. These individuals are the marshals, shooters, equipment guys, cooks and general gophers that keep the test moving. They are the people you call if you need a 4 wheeler, test dog, set up dog, pick up dog, extra equipment or anything else. They show up early and stay late. Simply stated, they know the game & are passionate about it.
In my area you can count the 1-2 dog amateurs on 1 hand with fingers left over still playing in the 3rd series of most Master tests. IMHO the tests are becoming tighter and more technical. Very difficult to earn a MH without access to technical water.
Why do we have pros running 20+ dogs?
#1: Money. It is cheaper to put a dog on someone's truck & split expenses. Covering gas, hotel and meals on a long trip makes handling fees with a pro a bargain.
#2: Success rates. A pro running 20+ dogs will get a feel for the series. His first dogs might not get that benefit but I guarantee his later dogs will.
#3: Knowledge: your average owner running 1 or 2 dogs will take a lifetime to learn what a pro learns in one season training & running a truck load of dogs.
#4: Time. Most amateurs do not have the time needed to train a dog to the higher levels.
This is in no way a rant against pros. Most are the very picture of the word "professional"! Without them most clubs would disappear into bankruptcy within a year.
My point would be to focus on what can be done to encourage the owner/handler.
#1: Mentor: we all have something to offer. Train with these newcomers. The sharing of knowledge, equipment & grounds is a huge help to someone starting out.
#2: Demonstrate. Most people have no idea what our dogs are capable of doing. The first time I saw a dog run a true blind retrieve, I knew I would someday own such an animal.
#3: As a club member push for more training days. Advertise them and make them open to all,
#4: Encourage. We have all crashed & burned at a test or trial. I don't remember who congratulated me when my dogs succeeded. However I remember every word of a conversation when my dog failed. It was my first hunt test dog & 157 whistles to pick up the Seasoned memory bird was a few too many. I left the line totally humiliated & ready to quit the game. A few kind words from a nice lady to the effect that most had experienced the same thing gave me the courage to come back Sunday. Failed that one too. Trained harder & passed the next ones. That lady was a pro.
Just my thoughts