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Command Training For Border Collies: (6 must-know basics)

Giving your border collie puppy, or adult, appropriate command training is in my opinion the true backbone of obedience, maturity, and good behavior.

I wasn’t always consistent with this, but for the last couple of years I’ve made it a priority to focus on short daily command training routines. And the results have been unbelievable.

In this article:

  • What basic command training is
  • Why basic command training is so powerful
  • The 6 basic commands & how to teach them
  • How often to give command training
  • When to start with your collie
  • How command training helps house-training

Although I don’t believe there are shortcuts to a well-behaved dog, this is pretty darn close!

What Is Basic Command Training

Basic command training teaches your border collie the commands you would use on a daily basis. This gives you important control over your collie’s actions and their safety.

👉 These commands include:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Drop
  • Come
  • Leave it

These commands are crucial for your collie to understand and are used all day in endless scenarios. These are the must-know basics that every dog should know, and when they do, life is a whole lot easier!

The key to drilling home these basics in to repeat them consistently, long after your collie has learned them. I’ll explain more about this later, but for now let’s explain why there are more benefits that most owners realize.

Why Basic Command Training Is So Powerful

👉 Something I don’t often see many trainers explaining is how the benefits of success command training extend WAY beyond the ability to just perform the actual command.

In my experience with my collies, command training seems to be the backbone of an obedient, mature, and well-behaved dog in all areas of their life. Not just when you need to get them to do something.

Why this is the case…

By consistently giving short daily command training, you’re doing a few positive things without realizing.

You reinforce to your collie that you are their leader:
By consistently being the one to instruct, praise, and show attention to your collie, it reaffirms to them that yes, you are the one in charge. And collies LOVE having a clear leader to follow. This automatically makes them more attentive to you.

You reinforce general obedience:
The simple fact of consistently giving commands that your collie follows reinforces the idea that they need to listen to you when you speak. This has a huge overflowing impact on all areas of daily life. In the end, your collie is so used to doing what you say that bad behavior simply never happens.

You’re giving consistent stimulation:
Mental stimulation is a crucial part of every border collie’s day, and having their minds put to work (even if it’s easy for them) is something they love and crave. This alone improves behavior and reduces stress, frustration, and anxiety. And we all know just how pent up some collies can be! ➡️ 8 tips and brain games for border collies

The other bonus is of course learning to perform essential commands that make life a lot easier and safer when owning a dog.

Getting your collie to instantly “leave” or “drop” something they shouldn’t have in their mouth could save their life. Just like getting your collie to wait patiently while you need to leave the front door open.

  • Scenarios like this happen all the time where you as the owner need to have control over their actions.

The 6 Basic Commands & How To Teach Them

Below are the six most important basic commands to teach your collie. The first is always sit, as this is required to initiate some of the other commands after.

  • Use high value treats that will interest your collie. I suggest plain boiled turkey breast (tiny pieces) or something like Zukes Mini Naturals which are small, low-calorie natural dog treats.
  • Remember that training is always done with positive reinforcement, never punishment. Do not get frustrated and be ready for some failed attempts. Your collie will pick up on your energy, so make this a fun and positive experience for them by ensuring you remain calm and positive.
  • Choose one single command and never change it to avoid confusion and disobedience. “come” is different from “come here”. Consistency in the command is important.


The first command to teach is the classic sit. And it’s an easy one your collie will grasp in probably the first session (even puppies).

🎯 How to: Hold a treat out in your hand by her nose, and slowly move your hand up/back (progressively) allowing her to follow it. She should look up/back until she eventually sits. Do not move it up too much otherwise she may jump. Repeat only the phrase “Sit” while doing this. When she sits, give her an enthusiastic “good girl” and the treat. Repeat several times. After a while, start doing this without moving your hand, just ask her to “sit”.


A good progression from sit is the “stay” command. And this is important for so many scenarios. It’s also easy to train and you can make this one interesting with simple progressions.

🎯 How to: Ask your collie to sit. Let her know you have a treat. Hold an empty open palm to her face and repeat the word “Stay” while you take a slow step back. If she stays put with one step back give praise and reward. Repeat the process constantly using the word “Stay” while you move further back.

Advancing: You can increase the distance you move back, and you can also increase the time you make your collie wait. This is an easy way to progress this movement and make it more challenging. This is excellent for their self-control, and really has an overall impact on their behavior. I still do this with my collies every day, even though they mastered it years ago. Simple, but powerful.


An important one to know in order to keep your collie calm and secure.

🎯 How to: Start with your collie siting. Let her know you have a treat. Hold it to her nose and move it down the ground between her paws while she follows your hand, she will likely lay down. If she doesn’t, keep trying until she does, it won’t take long. Repeat the phrase “down” constantly while you do this. Once she does it, praise enthusiastically and reward. Repeat.


An essential command used for many scenarios. Not only is this great for playing fetch and games, but also vital when needing your collie to drop something they shouldn’t have in their mouth.

🎯 How to: Give your collie one of her old toys. Now get a high value treat (small piece of turkey breast) and hold it in your hand and give an immediate command of drop. Your collie should be willing to exchange the toy for this high value treat. Now, repeat this but keep the treat hidden behind your back while you reinforce the command “drop”. You may need to get your collie excited about the toy once again so she actually has something to drop, so give a little play time, before asking her to “drop”. Once she drops the toy, praise and reward immediately.


Recall is another basic yet fundament command that used in a wide range of situations. From successfully calling your collie back inside from the yard, to calling your collie back to you when off-leash at the dog park. Recall will forever be a crucial command to have nailed.

🎯 How to: Have your collie sit and stay in another room, while you go to another room. Call their name immediately followed by “come”. Repeat the command as your collie comes and finds you. Reward when they reach you. Remember, “come” is different from “come here” so choose one version and make that the one you reinforce. This prevents confusion.

Advancing: Practice this game when your collie is least expecting it, and be sure to reward them for successfully coming to you after saying “come”. You can also turn this into a fun game of hide and seek. Get a partner to hold your collie while you move to another part of the house, and then begin by calling their name and repeating “come”. Reward when they arrive and repeat.

Leave it

A potentially life saving skill to prevent your collie from picking something up in their mouth. This also works to prevent your collie from rolling in something foul when outside.

🎯 How to: Hold a tennis ball in your open hand facing your collie. As she goes to get it, say “leave it” and close your palm and bring it close to you. Reward. Now move this training to the ground with the same principle, wait for your collie to reach for the toy, but use your foot to cover the toy while saying “leave it”. Reward when she backs off. Keep going with this until your collie no longer tries going for the toy, repeat the phrase “leave it” consistently throughout this process, and reward her for not reaching.

Advancing: Once mastered the simple lesson above, practice this command when your collie is more excitable and playful. This will require more obedience, self-control and greater understanding of the command.

Consistency Is Key 🔄

I hate to be so cliché, but consistency is key. Owners should continue command training LONG after their collie masters each command. This is how you reap the full benefits. All it takes is 20-30 minutes per day and your collie will continue to improve and build upon existing obedience, even if you’re doing the same routine. Not to mention, this is an easy way to provide valuable mental stimulation every single day.

Quick update! We’ve been reviewing Brain Training for Dogs 🧠 recently and we have to say that their techniques on training and mental stimulation are quite incredible. In addition to the tips given in this article, I highly recommend checking out their site and viewing what they teach. I’ll be implementing this myself into my current training activities. It’s absolutely worth it. (imo!)

How Often To Give Command Training

Your border collie will make the fastest progress if command training is given every single day.

In the beginning your collie may only pay attention for 5 minutes, and that’s okay. But in the end you should be able to carry out command training for 20-40 minutes at a time.

To begin with it’s best to master sit and stay before moving on to the others.

As your collie gets more advanced you can practice the commands as and when you like.

You might like to practice all of them every day, or bunch them into pairs and rotate the training.

Just be sure to emphasis each command and stick to that for a good few minutes or so. Don’t confuse your collie too much to begin with by introducing too many commands before they master any of them.

Once they master all the commands, you can pretty much make a routine that combines all the commands. And you’ll only need to reward once at the end. This is what I do on a daily basis. And my collies are now happier and more obedient than ever before.

When To Start Training Your Border Collie

Command training can start from the moment you bring your border collie home, puppy or adult, it doesn’t matter.

Of course, if you’re talking about an 8 week old puppy then keep it simple, and stick to mastering sit, before moving on to stay and more advanced commands.

  • The quicker you start command training, the quicker your collie will benefit from greater obedience, self-control, and mental stimulation!

Basic Command Training Speeds Up House Training

Another amazing benefit of ensuring your puppy understands basic commands quickly, is that it helps with house training and during teething.

Your ability to effectively communicate with your collie will make house training go much smoother. Not only will they trust you more, but you’ll find that your collie will listen to your guidance, and be able to understand the lessons you’re teaching them quickly.

This happens because your pup already understands the concept of being trained something.

I rarely see trainers mentioning this but basic commands are so helpful when it comes to quick house-training.

Last thoughts

Basic command training is essential to teach your border collie puppy. This improves their overall obedience, self-control, and happiness on top of being able to perform the actual command. The benefits and importance of this are much greater than most realize. So I strongly recommend everyone to get training today!

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