I've never worried much about Laddie's behavior at the start line. He's been an exceptional marker for years and he generally takes good initial lines on blinds, so I've always felt that his line behavior must be reasonably well suited to the job at hand.
However I've recently learned that some trainers don't think Laddie and I do a good job at the line. For example, I'll often need several verbal cues to bring him to heel position and/or to get him to sit. It doesn't bother me particularly, and as I said it doesn't seem to hurt his performance, but I've learned that some trainers feel that he should come to the line in heel position and sit immediately on my first cue.
He trained for five days in a row last week, and will do the same next week, so I didn't want to run him hard today, but I thought we'd go out and work on sit-at-the-line for a couple of hours this morning. Here's how we worked on it:
I picked up two assistants and took them to a local meadow where we often train. I sent them out with chairs, blank pistols, and white bumpers -- no radios or white jackets needed.
Then we ran a total of nine doubles, with a water break for Laddie after the first six. All marks were less than 100y. The locations and orientations were all different, but for most, both throws were in the same direction, though for the last one I used converging marks. These were all intended as easy doubles for Laddie, so we could focus on his behavior at the line.
Meanwhile, I brought out a rubber mat. and for each double, I sat Laddie some distance from the mat, then heeled him to the mat (he usually heels on my right), brought him around to my left side if that's the side I wanted to run him on, and said Sit. If he sat down immediately, we went ahead and ran the double. If not, I said Nope, turned around, and heeled him back off the line so we could try the whole thing again.
The first time, and one other time, he did not sit the first time I cued it, and we moved off to start again. In both cases, he sat immediately the next time we came up. In addition, for all the other setups, he sat immediately the first time. So it seems shine learning may have taken place.
How well this will carry over when we resume training with the pro tomorrow remains to be seen. I'm pretty sure the pro will not mind me taking a few extra seconds to use the same procedure if needed, assuming it's effective training and doesn't just waste time.
By the way, I'm saying "pro" rather than "pros" now because I think that starting next week, it will just be the one guy who invited me to train with him in the first place.