Australian shepherds are extremely intelligent dogs. Training them is easy, though they can be stubborn. It’s also extremely beneficial to get them to respond to commands, both for their safety and the safety of others.
But what commands do you start with?
Effective training commands for your Australian shepherd include the essentials: ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’, and ‘come’. However, Aussies can also learn more advanced herding commands that are useful in daily life. These include ‘come by’, ‘away by me’, and ‘that will do’.
Below, we’ll look at why it’s important to train your Aussie with commands. Then, we’ll look at the top 20 effective training commands for your Aussie.
Why Use Training Commands?
Commands are just one of many methods to train your Australian Shepherd. It’s one of the most effective ways to get your Aussie to do what you want them to do, even when they are distracted or overwhelmed.
Unlike some other training methods, commands allow you to stay ahead of any situation you may encounter with your Aussie.
Commands can help them behave on the leash, keep them in check at home, and even help them be more polite in public. The main reason commands are effective and recommended, however, is safety.
If your dog gets away from you, you can easily call them back with a command. If your dog often chews on things he’s not supposed to, a command can stop him. If you can control what your Aussie is doing, you can keep them and others out of danger.
Of course, there are a few different types of commands. Control commands help your Aussie behave. Herding commands can appeal to their instincts and lead them towards a job.
Less essential commands can even teach your Aussie tricks! If you are consistent, you should have no problems training your Australian Shepherd.
Check out these related articles:
- 10 Goofy Australian Shepherd Quirks – Aussie Behaviors Explained
- 10 Effective Ways to Bond with Your Australian Shepherd
Command Training Tips for your Australian Shepherd
If you’re planning on training your Aussie yourself, keep these tips in mind.
- Consistency is key. During training, make sure that you deliver the command consistently and with an authoritative voice.
- Use Short Training Sessions. Shorter training sessions allow your Aussie to get the point without boring them. Spread training sessions out throughout the day.
- Praise or Treat Rewards. Use treats or excessive praise as rewards. This helps your Aussie learn that they are doing what you want.
- Be Overjoyed. Aussies thrive on making you happy. They are always eager to please you. When they do the right thing, make sure to praise them excessively.
- Use Commands Once. When issuing commands to your dog, don’t repeat them over and over. If you do, your dog may start to tune you out.
- Watch Your Tone. You want to be authoritative when you issue a command. However, avoid being aggressive or sounding frustrated. Your dog will immediately pick up on your tone.
- Train from Puppyhood. According to the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, puppies learn commands faster and more readily than older dogs. Train essential commands during your dog’s puppyhood.
20 Essential Training Commands for Your Australian Shepherd
These 20 essential training commands can help your Aussie stay by your side, alert you when something is wrong, or even herd animals! Start with small, consistent sessions each day. After mastering the basics, your Aussie will be ready for the advanced training commands in no time!
“Come” is the first and most basic command that your Aussie should learn. Some owners prefer to train their dogs to respond only to their name. However, when it comes to effective training, this is less than ideal.
Think of all the situations where you use your dog’s name. Chances are, you use their name frequently when talking to or about them. Your command words should be consistent.
They should be used only as commands, for the most part. Using your dog’s name might work, but your Aussie might not respond immediately.
To teach your dog to come, start with the leash. Make sure that you are in a safe place.
Take the leash in one hand. Stand across from your dog and tell your dog to “come”. As you say it, tug on the leash. This will help teach your dog what you mean.
Make sure that you issue the command in a firm, authoritative voice.
After a few days, your dog should understand. You can gradually go off-leash if you are in a safe space.
“Sit” is one of the most common, basic obedience commands to teach your dogs. It can be one of the easiest as well. Sitting can help keep your dog under control in situations where they are excitable.
You can use it when you’re giving out treats, when company arrives, and in a dozen other daily situations.
To teach your Aussie to sit, you might need to use a treat. Start by standing in front of your dog with the treat. Let him smell it, and then lift it slowly.
Getting him to lift his head is essential, as he will eventually sit naturally.
Once he is sitting, confirm the behavior by saying ‘sit’ and giving him the treat.
You can slowly transition to doing this without treats. Make sure to reinforce the command every time your dog sits.
This simple command still requires consistency. Once your Aussie knows what to do, it should be simple.
It’s important to avoid forcing your dog to sit by pushing its hips downwards. This can be dangerous and won’t reinforce the command.
Australian Shepherds are notoriously excitable. Your Aussie may like to jump on people, eager to get their attention. However, this behavior is extremely unfavorable.
Most of your guests won’t like to be jumped on, and it’s widely seen as impolite.
Teaching your dog “down” can help avoid this social faux pas and keep your guests comfortable. Plus, it works in most situations where your dog gets too excited and may put himself or others in danger.
“Down” is a little more complicated, but it can be done. Aussies are intelligent. If you communicate what you want, they should get it before too long.
For “down”, you’ll need a treat. Stand in front of your dog and have him smell the treat.
Next, put the treat on the floor. Wait for your dog to lie down to get at the same level as the treat. Once his belly is on the floor, give the command and let him have the treat.
This may take a few tries. It’s important to stay patient while communicating your expectations.
“Stay”, like “come”, is an extremely important command for your dog to know. You’ll use it daily, and it can come in handy during dangerous situations.
If taught correctly, “stay” will communicate that you want your dog to stop, sit, and wait. It will mean that they shouldn’t follow you and should instead watch from a distance.
It can be a bit difficult to teach, especially with your energetic Aussie.
However, some consistency will go a long way. It’s also beneficial to teach this command at a younger age. It seems to stick better when Aussies learn as puppies.
To start, have your dog sit. Back away from them slowly. Correct them if they move to follow you with a firm ‘no’.
When they stop moving and stay where they are, give them the “stay” command to demonstrate what you want them to do.
After, you can reward them with a treat and praise. Make sure to give them the “come” command before the treat to reinforce the desired behavior.
“Speak” can be an important command, but usually only if your dog is hiding or lost. Still, it’s an easy command to teach. It can come in handy in certain situations.
This simple command is taught mostly by watching and interpreting your dog. Watch her understand what she looks like right before a bark.
When you observe your Aussie beginning to bark, say “speak” loudly right before the bark.
Once they bark, give them a treat. Though this can start with unprovoked barking, you can teach your dog that you want them to bark if you follow this method.
Just make sure to reward them liberally when they bark on command.
Read this related article next: 20 Stimulating Jobs for Your Australian Shepherd
Once your Aussie understands the “speak” command, it’s time to teach them “quiet”. Australian Shepherds can be loud, especially when they are bored.
If your Aussie barks excessively, this can be a great way to train them out of it.
Plus, this can also be useful daily if you have a louder dog.
Unless you don’t have neighbors or are completely unaffected by barking, this command is essential.
First, give your dog the command to “speak”.
When they bark, say “quiet” loudly and authoritatively above the sound of their barking. You must say it as the dog is barking.
Otherwise, they might not understand what you’re asking them to do.
Once they stop barking, give them a lot of positive reinforcement.
Make a big deal out of it. This is an easy command to practice while you’re going about your day. Keep doing it until your dog understands.
“Wait” will undoubtedly be used around the house, especially when people arrive at your front door. It’s like “stay” but works exclusively with doors.
To train for “wait”, have one person outside your front door while another waits with the dog inside.
Have the person on the outside open the door multiple times, while you reinforce the “wait” command each time your dog moves towards the door.
When they don’t move or bark, give them a treat.
“There” can be a herding command or a positioning command.
Here, we’ll be talking about the positioning command. When you want your dog to be in a certain location, “there” is the command that will make them stop on the spot.
This command can take a bit of work and patience. Your dog may not get it right immediately, but persistence will pay off.
You can train this command by simply commanding your dog to stay put. Don’t use “stay” or “wait”, or your dog may get confused. However, simply add “there” to the training list for the same type of behavior.
Issue the command when you want the dog to stop and reward him when he does.
9. Walk On
“Walk On” gets your Aussie moving again after “stay” or “there”. It’s easy to train this command with a leash. Once your pup has mastered “stay”, get them to stay or “sit” in place.
Then, move ahead of them and urge them to move with the leash.
As you do, say “walk on”. When they do begin moving again, give them praise. Have them do this multiple times daily until they “walk on” faithfully every time.
“Steady” or “Easy” can be herding commands as well. However, they come in handy during everyday life as well.
These commands are especially helpful with excitable Aussies during leash walks, or when you are walking your dog off-leash in a safe space.
This command tells your dog that he needs to slow down, calm down, or match pace with you. However you decide to teach it, he’ll learn to decrease pace when you issue the command.
To teach “steady”, a leash is required. When your dog gets too far ahead, tighten the leash a bit.
Make sure that you are using a harness for training this command, so you don’t hurt your dog while you’re pulling backward on the leash.
As you’re reeling him in gently, say “steady” or “easy”. You can even say “slow down” if that suits you.
When your dog slows down and keeps pace with you, reward him liberally.
It might take him a while to get this command, but Aussies are great at picking it up quickly.
“No” seems like it would be one of the first commands you teach your dog. However, the frequency you use it will make it harder to train.
This is because you’ve probably said it to your Aussie before. At the time, you probably didn’t associate it consistently with a single action.
However, it’s still easy to teach. Getting the command to translate to different scenarios is a bit trickier, but your Aussie can figure it out.
To start, put your dog on the leash. Put a treat near your dog, but just out of his reach.
When he moves to sniff the treat, say “no” and tug on the leash gently. When he stops trying to sniff the treat, let him have it. It sounds simple, but it may take some trial and error to get your Aussie to understand what you want.
12. Watch Me
Some dogs need a little more help focusing. Australian Shepherds need a lot of help sometimes, especially in busy locations with lots of distractions.
Though it may take some work to get this command to stick, it will help tremendously in situations where you need your dog to pay attention.
You’ll also be using a treat to train “watch me”. Have your dog sit in front of you. It helps if there is something else going on, or someone else in the room.
This can help train your Aussie to have a sort of situational awareness.
Put a treat down in front of your dog’s nose.
Get his attention with it, then use the command. Make sure that he keeps looking at you as you bring the treat slowly towards your face.
Repeat the command when your dog is looking at your face. Then, give him the treat.
It takes repetition, but soon your Aussie will learn to stop and pay attention to you no matter what is going on around him.
Read Next: Red Tri Australian Shepherds: Everything you Need to Know
13. Drop It
“Drop It” is part of a series of commands that can be essential for your dog’s safety. You’ll use it a lot, especially with your curious Australian shepherd. You never want them to swallow the things they pick up, so training this one is a must.
To train “drop it”, you’ll need your dog’s favorite toy and their favorite type of treat. Let them play with the toy while you watch.
Once your Aussie is very interested in the toy and has it in their mouths, hold up the treat.
Say “drop it”.
When they release the toy, give them the treat. Do this repeatedly. Soon your Aussie should release whatever they’re carrying on command.
14. Leave It
“Leave It” is essential for long walks, hikes, and other activities full of interesting sights and smells. Your easily distracted Aussie might get pulled towards things you don’t want him to get into.
These include smelly roadkill, toxic plants, or dangerous creatures.
Thankfully, “leave it” is simple enough to train. You’ll just need two treats. Hold one in each hand, but make sure that your dog can’t see one of them.
Keep the treat in your hand, but close your hand into a fist. Say “leave it”.
Once your Aussie loses interest (after he can no longer see the treat), give him the one you have hidden behind your back.
Enough repetition and you’ll be able to pull your Aussie away from anything.
15. Take It
“Take It” can be useful during your days, but it’s also a great skill for your dog to have. It’s dead easy to train, and it’s likely your dog already does this without the command.
Still, train it with the command so you can use it if you need to. Simply hold out your dog’s favorite toy. Make sure to have a treat on hand.
Say “take it” and hold the toy in front of your dog. Once he does, reward him with a treat.
As always, doing this repeatedly will get the point across. Still, your Aussie will understand fairly quickly.
16. Do Your Business
The “do your business” command can be important if you’re in a hurry, or if your dog is easily distracted on walks. This is the command you’ll use to urge your dog to go to the bathroom while outside.
You can also tie this command into “outside” or “walk”.
However, you want to phrase it, a command that fulfills this role can be essential. For best results, start teaching this command while you’re potty training your Aussie.
Tying these ideas together will cement the meaning of the command for them.
First, learn when your dog needs to use the bathroom.
Every time you go outside or let them outside, say “do your business”. Keep saying it if needed.
Once your dog uses the bathroom, get excited. Give them a treat, give them a ton of praise, and make a big deal out of it.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a command that can be learned quickly. It usually takes a while for your puppy to pick up on the command.
“Shake” is one of the fun commands you can teach your dog as part of their obedience training. It helps them develop listening skills, and it’s fun to show off.
While it doesn’t directly impact your dog’s safety or have much of a purpose, it can help build your bond.
It also happens to be one of the easiest commands to teach.
Most Aussies will be able to pick this command up without any problem at all. However, if your dog is having trouble training effectively, this can be a great place to start.
Have your dog sit while you sit or crouch in front of them. Have the treats ready. Pick up your Aussie’s paw gently and hold it for a few seconds. While you’re holding their paw, say “shake”.
Then, give them a treat. Do this a few times in a row each day, and soon your Aussie will be more than willing to “shake” on command.
18. That Will Do
“That Will Do” is a specialized herding command. It’s most often used by trainers who are preparing Australian Shepherds for a herding job.
Still, if you’re looking into doing this on your own, this is a good place to start.
This command teaches your dog to back away from their charge, giving the livestock a rest and leaving them as they are.
It can be difficult to teach some of these advanced techniques, but your Aussie will catch on quickly.
This command is not exclusively for herding. You can also use it to calm a playful Aussie when the game is over, for example.
The easiest way to train this is by implementing it during play. When a game is over, or when it’s time to go inside, say “that will do” as you bring your dog inside.
Make sure that you keep repeating it until the dog stops the behavior. Then, give them a treat and some praise.
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19. Come By
“Come By” is another specialized herding command. When working with sheep or other livestock, this specifically refers to a motion that your dog takes to herd.
When used in this context, the dog makes a large circle around the livestock, herding them back in the opposite direction.
Traditionally, this command is used to move the livestock to the right. The dog’s left shoulder should be facing the livestock.
Even if your dog isn’t going to be herding sheep or cows any time soon, this command can help you teach your dog where to go. It also works well to stimulate your Aussie’s constantly working mind.
To train this command, use a long leash. Urge your dog to circle a pile of toys, balls, or stuffed animals with his left shoulder facing the pile. As this is an advanced technique, it will take patience, work, and a lot of praise.
If you want to attempt it, it can keep your dog busy for quite a while.
20. Away By Me
“Away By Me” is the second advanced herding command for Aussies and other herding dogs. This command is trained in the same way as “come by”.
Instead of circling the toys with his left shoulder facing them, your dog will be circling in the opposite direction. He’ll be moving left, with his right shoulder facing inward.
You train this command the same way. Use a long leash, a lot of praise, and a lot of patience. These advanced techniques can keep your Aussie’s mind stimulated even if they aren’t destined for a herding job.
Training your Australian Shepherd can be easy. It can be fun. You’ll likely experience a few roadblocks along the way. With consistency and the right type of praise, Aussies can learn to do just about anything.
These effective, essential commands will help you train your dog, make them more polite, and keep them satisfied and engaged.
Are Australian Shepherds Hard to Train?
Australian Shepherds are extremely intelligent and eager to please. Though training may be frustrating at first, they are ultimately not difficult to train.
They embrace the challenge. Rewarding them with treats and praise can make training a breeze – and they’ll pick things up quickly.
Why Do Aussies Bite So Much?
While Aussies might be biting for the same reasons as other dogs (fear, teething, anger, etc), most Aussies are biting because of their herding instinct.
One of the most effective tools to get livestock to turn is to snap at them. This can translate into the instinct to bite at your heels to ‘herd’ you. Biting as a protective behavior is less common with Aussies.