The Steady Singles Championship (SS)
The Steady Singles Championship is run as a friendly marking competition for Flat-Coated Retrievers at the annual National Specialty. The stake consists of single marked retrieves of graduated difficulty, on land and water, with a process of elimination determining one winner, the Steady Singles Champion, on the basis of exceptional marking ability. Other finalists shall be awarded without ranking “Judges Award of Merit.”
This document provides a description of the stake, eligibility rules, handler rules, judges’ guidelines, and guidelines for clubs holding the stake.
Description of the Stake:
The stake consists of a land and water series with the following elements
- Land Series
- 2-3 single marked retrieves
- Moderate cover (ideally)
- Falls generally not more than 200 yards depending on terrain
- As the level of difficulty increases, one retired gun mark might be used, although this is not required.
- Birds shall be dead ducks
- Water Series
- 1-2 Single marked retrieves
- Cover to open water
- Falls are generally no more than 200 yards depending on the water and terrain
- Entries to water may be long and/or angled, at judges’ discretion
- Birds shall be dead ducks
- Optional Land and/or Water Run Off Series
- Upon completion of the land and water tests, , a third series run-off will be held, in case of a tie or when the stakes are divided..
- May be land and/or water
- 1-2 single marked retrieves
Marks should be clearly visible throws.
A test dog shall be used for each test/series.
Decoys may be used on land and/or water.
Gunners shall wear white jackets or shirts.
Gunners shall precede each throw with a popper shot; shotguns must be used.
Gunners shall not use any bird calls.
Handlers should be prepared for the possibility of one retired gun mark, as the successive series increase in difficulty.
Gunners may use wingers or strong arm devices to ensure consistency of marks.
Rules and Guidelines
This event is open to any Flat Coated Retriever:
- At least 6 months of age on the day of the test, and
- With an individual AKC registration number, foreign registration number, or an ILP number
Rules for Handlers:
- Handlers may wear light or dark clothing.
- Dogs must come to the line off-lead and without a collar.
- Dogs must be steady. Breaks or controlled breaks shall result in mandatory disqualification.
Creeping: If a dog creeps or jumps forward slightly as birds are thrown and the handler makes no effort to stop or restrain the dog, it shall not be considered a controlled break unless the dog goes beyond a point acceptable to the judges. If the handler does attempt to stop or restrain the dog, the judges shall consider the dog to have broken and shall disqualify the dog. The judges may require a dog which has crept or jumped forward within the acceptable distance to be brought back to heel position before releasing the dog to retrieve.
- Dogs shall not be sent for a bird until released by the judges.
- Dogs must deliver each bird to hand.
Mandatory Elimination or Failure at the Steady Stake:
- Handler releasing the dog to retrieve before the dog is released by the judge.
- “Breaking,” i.e. dog leaves the line to retrieve before being released by the judge.
- Loud or prolonged barking or whining in the holding blind or at the line.
- Dog refusing to leave the line when sent (one recast is allowed, in cases of confusion).
- Dog returning to the handler, either without the bird or without having been called in, except when the dog is obviously confused as to whether it was ordered to retrieve.
- Dog stopping the hunt, or requiring assistance from handler or gunners; use of a signal, vocal command, or throwing anything to direct the dog to a fall or to persuade it to enter the water.
- Dog failing to find a bird that should have been found.
- Dog giving up after a search for one bird and going to the area of a previously fallen bird, i.e. “returning to an old fall.”
- Dog ignoring a bird when found and leaving it, “blinking the bird.”
- Dog badly damaging game which, in the opinion of the judges, was caused entirely and solely by the dog without justification, “hard mouth.”
- Dog unwilling to release a bird on delivery until compelled to do so by severe means, extreme “freeze.”
- Handler allowing a competing dog to watch the location of a fall for another dog before its turn to run. This will be a mandatory elimination of the dog, and possibly an elimination of the handler from the test if the judges or event committee believe the violation is deliberate.
Judges for the Steady Singles Championship will see a wide range of training and experience, in dogs and handlers. Some dogs will have limited experience, including those barely steadied, while others may be seasoned competitors in field trials and/or hunt tests. However, if judges set up good test series, they should perceive that Flat-Coats are enthusiastic workers with fine natural marking abilities.
The tests consist of single marked retrieves of graduated difficulty, on land and water (see stake description section above). Judges are encouraged to creatively use terrain factors, cover changes, wind, distance, and influence of previous marks. Distances and difficulty of marks are to be adjusted to the quality of the field, but the distances generally should not exceed 200 yards. Cover conditions should be taken into account in determining the distance of marks, with heavy cover and obstacles dictating shorter marks, and lighter cover allowing for longer marks.
Because this is a fun event to challenge the dogs’ natural marking abilities, judges should avoid:
- Trick marks
- Marks set up to intentionally confuse the dog
- Marks where avoiding cheating is the main criteria
- Use of more than one retired gun. Scenarios should not include hidden guns.
All dogs are guaranteed two single marks, unless the dog is out of control in the field or with respect to bird handling. Typically, the first two marks will be land singles, with a possibility of a third more challenging land mark offered by invitation of the judges. Dogs that successfully retrieve all land marks will be called back to a water series of one or two single marks. When two marks are offered, only the dogs that successfully retrieve the first water mark shall be invited to run the second.
Judges are encouraged to be generous with their callbacks and not to eliminate dogs who have indicated awareness of the area of the fall, solely because of indirect lines, hunts in the area of the fall, brief hunts behind a gun, etc.
From the group of finalists, the judges will select one winner. When the size of the entry necessitates a division of the stake, the judges of each flight will select one winner to go on to the run-off, where the winner will be chosen. In determining the winner, the judges shall take into account the qualities of steadiness, style, trainability, and most especially, excellent marking ability. The judges shall reach a unanimous decision, and their decision is final.
The Singles Champion shall then be determined by a runoff between the winner of each flight and will be judged by all judges eligible to judge the runoff, i.e. owners or co-owners may not judge their own dogs. The winner of the runoff should be by unanimous decision of the judges.
The other finalists will be awarded, without ranking, Judges Awards of Merit. The generous awarding of JAMs is encouraged for all dogs that have successfully and honestly completed all of the series.
Guidelines for Holding Steady Singles Stakes:
Judge Qualifications: The Specialty Field Events Committee should select judges who are experienced Field Trial judges and handlers. They should be capable of setting up tests with creative use of terrain factors, cover changes, wind, distance, and influence of previous marks.
Dividing the Stakes: The Committee should have maximum flexibility in determining how to organize and run this stake, and when and how to divide the entry into different flights. Consideration should be given to the size of the entry, the adequacy of grounds, both land and water, availability of workers, fairness to exhibitors, time constraints and logistics. (See addendum for examples of the different ways this stake has been run in recent years.)
When the stake is divided, two judges will be assigned to each flight. Ideally, all sets of judges will set up all the marks as a group, to ensure equitability between the different flights. It may also be practical for the judges to share the land and water series set-ups, with one flight starting with the land series, while the other flight starts with the water series. In this case, both sets of judges must agree to the test set-ups in all series, without any changes. Call backs from the land test will proceed to the water test and vice versa. Judges stay with their own flights. This strategy is particularly useful when land, water, and/or time are limited.
Judges should be instructed to offer two retrieves to each dog whenever possible, regardless of success on the first mark, unless the dog is out of control in the field or with respect to its handling of the birds. Only dogs successful on the first two marks should be invited to run a third, or to go on to the next series.
Award of Steady Singles Championship and JAMS: After completion of the land and water series, the judges shall choose a first place winner. (When the stake is divided, the judges of each flight will choose a winner to go on to the run-off.) The judges will also decide on the group of finalists to receive Judges Awards of Merit (JAMs), without ranking, and they should be encouraged to be generous with these awards to all dogs who have successfully and honestly completed each series.
When the stake is divided, the run-off will determine the ultimate winner, the Steady Singles Champion. The run-off conventionally takes place at the end of the day, when all series have been completed, conducted by all the Steady Singles judges. The run-off may also be postponed to another day, in order to be held in conjunction with the field banquet. In this event, the Specialty Field Committee may decide whether the run-off should be judged by the original stake judges or by FCRSA members with experience in field judging. (FCRSA members cannot judge their own dogs, or dogs they co-own or have bred.)
The decision of the judges is final. The Steady Singles Champion will hold the traveling FCRSA Steady Singles trophy for one year, and the dog’s name will be engraved on it. The Specialty Field Committee may also want to consider the awarding of some special award to the run-off finalists.
The announcement of the Singles Champion and the JAMs should take place during the field banquet, whenever Specialty scheduling permits. Awards shall be published in the Specialty issue of the newsletter.
Gunner Eligibility: Gunners must meet the AKC age requirements and demonstrate gun safety at all times
Running Bitches in Season: Specialty Field Committees have discretion to decide whether bitches in season are allowed to run the Specialty non-AKC events. The decision to allow bitches in season may depend on scheduling of the other events, as grounds where bitches in season have run should not be re-used for AKC events. If bitches in season are allowed to run, they must run last, and logistics must be worked out when the stakes are divided. These bitches may have to be judged by two sets of judges, requiring cooperation between the handler, judges and marshals. (Marshals might need to ensure that Judges’ sheets for these bitches are provided to more than one set of judges.)
Addendum, to show recent scenarios for the running of Steady Singles:
GA – 2005 – 92 entries, 2 flights – flipped land & water
MO – 2006 – 107 entries, 3 flights – 2 flights flipped land & water; 3rd flight independent (results: flight A— 5 JAMs/35 entries; flight B—15 JAMs/36 entries; flight C—winner & 8 JAMs/36 entries)
MN – 2007 – 52 entries – 1 flight (results: 1 winner, 12 JAMs)
OR – 2008 – 34 entries – 1 flight (results: 1 winner, 10 JAMs)
CT – 2009 – 50 entries – 1 flight (results: 1 winner, 5 JAMs)
IN – 2010 – 82 entries – 3 flights – all run independently (results: flight A – 13 JAMs/27 entries; flight B—winner & 9 JAMs/28 entries; flight C – 11 JAMs / 27 entries)
MD – 2011 – no stake held