At the end of the trial the judges announce the places. Then you will sometimes see an interesting occurrence. Sometimes the judges will not award any places and will give instead several awards of merit which carry no points toward a field champion title. You sometimes see them award a first and second place but no other except awards of merit. Judges in the UK are very aware of the importance of field trial titles in breeding selection and they typically want to see two behaviors from a dog to which they award a place. Those two behaviors are sitting for driven birds, and tracking down a crippled bird. If a particular dog doesnít get the chance to demonstrate both, then he is probably going to get only an award of merit.

One other factor heavily influences UK field trials and breeding selection. Ninety per cent of the field trial titles are won by dogs owned, trained and handled by amateur field trailers. The structure and small size of British field trials precludes the rise of professional trainers as a major factor. British retriever trials are a maximum of 12 dogs for a one-day trial or 24 dogs for a two day trial. Thus a field trial title for a given dog tells you that the dog was probably easy to train. Ninety percent of the winning dogs are trained by hobby trainers with limited experience compared to professional trainers. When a hobby trainer gets a dog that he has trouble training, he usually gets rid of the dog and gets another one. They keep the easy to train ones and win trials with them. That drives breeding selection for dogs that are easy to train.
The typical puppy buyer and the typical breeder look to pedigrees to make their purchase or breeding choices. They count the number of field trial titled ancestors in the pedigrees and generally will select the dog or the breeding with the highest number of Field Trial Champion titles. If the behavior sets behind those field trial titles are valuable for a gundog then the pedigrees give you a good baseline of probability of a particular puppy becoming a good gundog. The UK Retriever field trial system definitely drives good breeding selection for gundogs.

The UK Retriever field trial system has been operating since the first field trial in 1899. It has been very successful in driving breeding selection to produce the dogs high in the behavioral traits that make great gundogs. Those traits boil down to being high in impulse control and low in reactivity, plus being highly intelligent.