Somehow none of this is making sense to me. In a real hunting situation, it's pretty common for a bird to be flushed and missed. The dog is expected to immediately get back to work, just sort of shrug it off and move on.
Same thing in the flushing spaniel test. If the gunners miss, you just say "no bird, heel" to the dog and immediately resume your hunt.
I can certainly understand why this doesn't make sense ... unless you look at the nature of field trials and their offspring, hunting tests. (I run field trials, so that's my only legitimate perspective ... okay, full disclosure, I've run a total of TWO dogs in ONE Junior Test and ONE dog in ONE Senior Test [they all passed
], nonetheless I don't pretend to be an expert on hunt tests after only a few visits to the line in that venue. Full-full disclosure: I got scolded for a couple of things in the Junior, but I guess the judges felt sorry for my dogs, so they passed them despite my gross ineptitude.)
Unlike the spaniel and other bird dog tests, the dogs in retrieving events all start from the same line, so a bird that doesn't land in the general area of the fall has the potential to create either an advantage or a disadvantage for the dog on the line as well as subsequent dogs. And, importantly, in the AKC Rules for Retriever Field Trials, a provision states that the judges are to provide each dog with a test that is "substantially the same" or words to that effect. From a practical perspective, with a no-bird, whether one that is hit but sails out of the area or one that is totally unscathed, where it lands (yes, untouched pen-raised mallards will only fly a few hundred yards at most) is anybody's guess, so that bird must be watched, followed, found, and then (hopefully) taken care of and removed from the field. Otherwise, its presence has the potential to mess up yet another dog ... or two ... or .... So, the proper thing for a judge to do is call no bird, instruct the handler to take the dog off the line and to return to run either right away or after a few other dogs run.