For those in the UK.......
I felt like writing a bit about how we do things here. Hopefully it may clear up some misconceptions and give you an idea about how we field trial. Hope it makes sense as sometimes I’m even confused. lol
There are major differences between our expectations and yours that is certain. We don’t have any tests at all on dummies as rules require ducks and or pheasant be used. As we use farm raised game we have no restrictions on running trials out of hunting seasons. We do not drive or flush birds at field trials but rather hand toss birds from fixed locations. The only time we don’t conduct actual field trials are the 2 or 3 months of winter and summer when most people concentrate on training, moving to south in winter and north in summer. Field Trials are always 3 day events that flow north or south from one week to the next with the seasons. As we place great emphases on dogs water ability we prefer not to trial in freezing water though it may occur. In order to reduce the risk of injury to our dogs, many of whom are worth more than a Range Rover, we do things different here. Judges will walk and inspect field for hidden dangers, we never climb up high walls, jump fences or barbed wire. We do not set tests were birds or dogs path will be near natural dangers like ground hog holes, thick sticker thorns, dangerous rocks etc. We try not set tests where it is clear dog will be out of our sight for more than a few seconds.
In the US & Canada, Marks are the Dogs Responsibility. Blinds are the handlers Responsibility. It is somewhat the reverse overseas as I understand it.
So basically we relinquish control to dog on the marks, dog yields control to us on the blinds.
Our rules require that each Mark, as it falls to ground, be visible to the Dog and his view of fall shall not be obscured. We value a dog with Memory. If dog can't count to 3 or 4 and remember where each bird fell he will end up a pet dog somewhere. Birds are presented to dog with dog sitting by Handler at heel. (most of the time). Each of ~80+ dogs sees and retrieves the exact same marks and blinds as the other dogs. That is, all dogs run from the same door mat, guns are in fixed positions designated by judges and toss birds to same spot for each dog. Normally, a dog is visible to the judges and handler at all times. Our marking tests are 3 or 4 birds shot one after the other (to save $ one live bird is shot, the rest are cold birds hand thrown, with a 12Ga shot). Essentially each dog must do a better job, eye wiping the poorer jobs in the judges eyes to survive and move on to next test. On our marking tests if a handler needs to blow the whistle to help dog he is often eliminated. (the exception being a quick crisp handle occasionally bests a long protracted hunt). All else being equal a dog stepping on a bird on first pass will defeat a dog requiring 2 passes or a handle. In our field trials marks are normally in the 100 yard to 400 yard range, the same for blinds both on Land & Water. Generally about 7 dogs can be run on a marking test within one hour. It is not unheard of for a water marking test to take 20 minutes of swimming for one dog to complete. The most difficult water retrieve occurring near the end of those 20 minutes when dogs memory of it has likely faded. With ~12 dogs typically surviving to the 4th series water marks, often with similar work prior, a dogs performance on the very last bird may determine if he wins or slips to award of merit.
For land & water Blinds judges identify the precise location of birds to every handler. Since blinds are often 300+ yards distant some folks have difficulty "seeing" the location. Binoculars hung around neck are the norm for running blinds, as are whistles that can be heard 400 yards away, in a stiff cross wind, while dog is swimming. Main reason no one here would use 401 Spaniel whistle.
On our Blinds, by rule, dog should not go out of sight of handler for but a moment. (there are minor exceptions). Essentially FT blinds are a demonstration of our control over dog and dogs willingness to relinquish his senses and accept our direction in the face of contradictory factors. Yes, I know you smell a bird over there but I want you to go here and I’m not telling you again! lol
On a blind imagine driving dog through a field or pond keeping him within width of a road for 300 yards while trying not to let dog stray off to either side if he happens to see or smell something inviting. A dog who complies with our direction to the bird WE want without too much zig-zag or handling along the way will normally be judged to have done a good job.