Border Collies can be rambunctious and highly energetic. One of the best ways to keep them under control and teach them about your behavioral expectations is through commands. This can help keep them safe. But which commands are the most essential?
To start, teach your Border Collie commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘off’, ‘fetch’, and ‘give me’. Once they have learned basic behavioral techniques, you can move on to ‘walk with me’ and other more complex commands.
Your Border Collie will be learning in no time! Keep reading to find out which essential commands you should teach your Border Collie first.
Does Your Border Collie Need Training?
Border Collies are extremely intelligent, but they are also full of energy. As a result, they can have behavioral problems if they are not constantly occupied. Even when your Border Collie has plenty to do, he can still become bored and act out.
You may not be able to entirely train away behaviors like barking, nipping, and herding. However, training your Border Collie as soon as they can learn will help avoid some of these problems. The bottom line is, if you want a well-behaved Border Collie, you’re going to have to do some measure of training.
Benefits of Teaching Your Border Collie Training Commands
Training commands are extremely beneficial to most dogs, especially dogs with the mental capabilities of the Border Collie. As intelligent as they are, they still want to please you.
Commands give you a chance to teach them exactly how to make you happy. Many Border Collies can be stubborn, but they will respond better if you provide structured expectations for them to follow.
Training commands can help energetic dogs like Border Collies stay close to you, stay safe, and listen during stressful situations. If you train your dog to listen to you during calm training sessions, they are more likely to listen and obey when they are putting themselves in danger.
There are many ways to train your Border Collie. You can read up and attempt to train the dog yourself. You can also invest in a training program that will teach you the steps to take. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to undertake, there are always professional training options.
Teaching Commands Yourself
Teaching your Border Collie commands can be challenging. You must be patient and persistent when delivering the commands. First, you must teach your dog what each command means, and what you want from them when you say it. Once you have established an understanding, repetition is key.
Investing in a Training Program
If you don’t know where to start, you can always invest in a training program. Programs like Brain Training for Dogs serve a dual purpose. They teach owners how to approach training effectively, and they help your dogs learn, as well. These programs aim to improve obedience, eliminate unwanted behaviors, and make your dog into a good canine citizen.
This program and programs like it don’t cost as much as professional training, and they offer a nice alternative for you to develop a training bond with your dog.
Professional Training for Border Collies
Professional training options are available, however. They may be costly, but these programs aim to teach your dog behavioral skills, commands, and more. Check into training options in your area to see what options are available for your Border Collie.
20 Essential Training Commands for Border Collies
The following training commands are essential for your Border Collie.
Border Collies, like most dogs, are naturally curious. When they catch a smell they find interesting or see something they want to chase, it’s hard to control them. “No” is, therefore, probably the first command you should teach your Border Collie.
Still, it can be a difficult one to train. Your dog has likely heard it before, and it’s a fairly common word after all. It’s easy to teach, but it might not translate well to the types of scenarios you’d usually use it in.
To train “no”, start with your dog on the leash. Put a treat just out of his reach, either up on a table or the floor far enough away that he can’t reach it with his tongue.
When he goes to sniff the treat, tell him “no”. Gently pull on the leash as you say it, restraining him from going any further. After a few more tries, he should stop trying to get the treat. When he stops being interested, let him have it.
“Sit” is one of the most basic obedience commands. It’s worth taking the time to teach your dog – and it’s easy for them to learn, too. You will use it daily. It can help your dog to calm down in an excitable situation, no matter what that looks like.
Use a treat to begin. Stand in front of your dog. Let him smell the treat, and then slowly lift it. He should follow the treat with his eyes, which will eventually lead to him lifting his head.
As he lifts his head, the natural posture change will force him to sit. Once he is sitting, say ‘sit’ and give him the treat.
Over time, you can do this without the treat. Stay consistent, but don’t force your dog to sit by pushing his hips down. Your dog won’t learn if he isn’t doing it himself, and it can be dangerous to do this.
You can use the “down” command in one of two ways. It’s best to use this word to teach your Border Collie to lie down on the floor – the other version, which involves getting the Border Collie not to jump on people, is best taught with ‘off’.
It can be a little complicated for your Border Collie to pick up on this command, but with time and patience, it will happen. Like most command training exercises, you start with a treat.
Let your dog smell the treat. While you’re standing in front of him, slowly lower the treat until it’s resting on the floor. Don’t let your dog have the treat until he lies down.
Once his belly touches the floor, say “Down” to reinforce the command. Now, give him the treat.
The “come” command is one of the most important that you will ever teach your dog. Getting them to come to you when a situation is dangerous or when they are being aggressive is very important.
You should avoid teaching your dog to come exclusively to their name. You’ll be using their name in a lot of other circumstances, and this can confuse them.
First, you should start by having your dog on a leash. Make sure that you are in a fenced space where your dog can’t run away.
Stand across from your dog and tug the leash. Say “come” as you do, to help teach your dog what you mean. You can gradually remove the leash in safe spaces as your dog becomes more accustomed to the command.
“Stay” can help you and your dog in so many different situations. While out on walks, hikes, or other activities outside of your home, your Border Collie will get excited.
All their energy and heightened attention make it hard for them to ignore the urge to check things out. “Stay”, then, is one of your most versatile and helpful commands.
First, you must teach your Border Collie the “come” and “sit” commands. Once your dog has mastered those, you can start practicing “stay”.
To begin, have your dog sit. Back away from him slowly. If they make to follow, give them a firm “no”. When they stop moving, say “stay”.
This helps tell the dog what you want them to do, reinforcing the wanted behavior. This one can be a little difficult, so make sure to praise your dog enthusiastically after each time he stays.
Read Next: 20 StimulatingJobs for Your Border Collie
After leash-training your dog, “heel” is a command that can easily teach her to follow you, stop pulling on the leash, and make walks pleasant for everyone involved.
Motivate your dog by using a treat or a favorite toy during training.
You’ll hold this incentive at your side, encouraging your dog to follow you. Every ten steps, stop. When your dog stops, repeat the “heel” command and praise her.
Over time, your dog will begin to associate “heel” with good things. Repeat as often as necessary, increasing the distance between “heel” commands gradually.
There are a few ways to teach your dog not to jump up on people. One of the most common is to grab their paws gently when they jump up. Most dogs don’t like their paws being touched or handled, and if you touch them gently enough, they won’t be hurt. Simply grab their paws and step back, gently lowering them to the floor while saying “off”. Once the dog is down and doesn’t immediately jump back up again, give them a treat.
It may take some patience but this is the best way to get your dog to stay down.
Interesting sights smells, and tastes can easily derail your Border Collie’s attention. Sometimes, it will be fine for your Border Collie to explore.
However, it can just as easily be dangerous or too distracting for them to continue pulling away in search of something they smell.
“Leave” can teach them to drop their interest and return to your side. It’s a simple command, and training it is easy. Take two treats or other items that your dog is interested in. Keep one in front of you, in your hand. Hide the other behind your back.
Let him smell the treat, and then close your hand over it. Tell him “leave” or “leave it”. When your dog loses interest in the treat, give him the one behind your back and praise him with a ton of enthusiasm.
9. Take It
“Take It” is the opposite of “leave”, but it’s just as important for your dog to learn. It’s also one of the easiest ones to train because it relies on your dog’s natural curiosity.
Hold out your dog’s favorite toy, and make sure to have a treat on hand. Say “take it” while holding the toy out in front of your dog. Once she takes the toy from you, reward her with a treat. She’ll understand the meaning behind the command quickly.
Fetch is an easy command, but it might take some time for your dog to learn the process. It hinges on teaching the dog to return the ball, which might take practice. First, get your dog interested in the ball or toy. They may already be, and if they are, you can skip this step.
Once they’ve retrieved the ball, call them back to you. Be very excited about it, and make a big deal about it. Don’t get frustrated if he doesn’t immediately come back, or if he drops the ball or toy on the way. It will take time.
Finally, use the ‘give me’ command to convince the dog to drop their prize. When he finally does, wind up for another throw, but make him wait for it.
After some time and practice, your Border Collie will be a natural at fetch.
Teaching your dog can go to bed can keep them underfoot, out of the kitchen when you’re cooking, or away from guests that are not dog people.
This command should never be used as a punishment for unwanted behavior. You want your dog to have positive associations with their bed.
Start by identifying the bed. Lure the dog onto the bed with treats and encouragement, repeating the word over and over. This works well if your Border Collie already knows “down”, so you can communicate to them that you want them to lie down.
Over time, your dog will pick up that you want them to go to their bed when you give the “bed” command.
12. Watch Me
Border Collies sometimes need a little more help focusing than other dogs. This is especially true when you’re in public, or loud, busy locations.
Train this command with someone else, that way one of you can be causing a distraction for the dog.
Start with a treat, and stand in front of your dog. Put the treat down in front of their nose so that it gets their attention. Let them smell it, but not eat it. Use the “watch me” command. Keep your dog’s eyes on you as you lift the treat to your face.
When your dog is looking at your face, repeat the “watch me” command. Give him the treat for maintaining his focus, increasing the amount of time he must look at you each time.
Teaching your dog to get into the car or house can be a pain, especially when they love to be outside. However, it can save you a lot of hassle and headache if they know this command by heart.
You can use an incentive like your dog’s favorite treat, a toy, or their favorite person. Lure them into the car or house using that person or object.
As soon as your dog shows interest, make sure that you say “in” as many times as necessary. Keep saying it until your dog crosses the threshold, and then praise them heavily.
The “out” command can be taught in much the same way as the “in” command. Lure your dog to leave the house or car with the same incentive, all the while repeating “out”.
It’s a separate command, but it can help control your dog when his behavior is unwelcome.
15. Do Your Business
The “do your business” command can be substituted with any number of similar commands. You can use “poo” or “outside” instead.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you use it consistently. If you want to effectively teach this command, you should teach it while your dog is still being house trained. It’s imperative to tie these ideas together, and there is no better time.
But first, you have to figure out the signs for when your dog has to use the bathroom. Every time you take them out, tell them to “do their business” (or use your command for it).
When your dog uses the bathroom, get excited. Praise them and show them a lot of attention.
This command might take a while to learn, but your Border Collie is smart. They’ll get it with some consistency.
You might be training your Border Collie to not bark so much, but the “speak” command is still important. In certain situations (such as when your dog is afraid, frightened, or lost) it can come in handy. Still, it’s important not to give your Border Collie too much free reign with this one.
It’s also a little more difficult to train. You must watch your dog closely. Become used to how she looks just before she barks. When she begins to bark, say “speak” loudly.
It must come before the bark so that your dog links the commands.
Rewarding them too much for following this command can lead to excessive barking, but it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re careful.
Border Collies can bark excessively when they are bored or roused by a noise. The “quiet” command will help you control this barking.
The fastest and easiest way to teach “quiet” is for your dog to know “speak” first.
To do this, give the “speak” command first. When they bark, say “quietly” in a loud, authoritative (but not aggressive) manner.
You must say it as the dog is barking because they might not understand what you’re asking otherwise.
Once they stop barking, make sure to give them a lot of positive reinforcement.
It may seem a bit cruel to teach them these commands like this, but it’s for a good cause, and it’s the fastest way to get your dog to understand.
“Catch” is a fun command, but it still has its uses. You can teach your dog to catch nearly anything, so it’s important to start with something small.
That way, if it hits him in the face, it won’t hurt. Treats are a great way to start.
First, stand in front of your dog and make him sit.
Make sure that he sees the treat and knows that you’re holding it. Toss it gently towards him. If he doesn’t snap for it and catches it in his mouth, quickly scoop it up to show him that it’s not what you want.
Shorter sessions are great for this trick, as your dog may become frustrated otherwise. When he does manage to catch the treat, be enthusiastic with your praise.
19. Give Me
“Give Me” is another version of “Drop It”. You can teach your Border Collie both of these commands or choose the one that sticks.
However, one of them will be necessary. Border Collies love to pick things up with their mouths, and some of these things can be dangerous, poisonous, or just plain disgusting.
“Give me” can teach your dog to bring you whatever they’re holding and drop it at your feet, which at least prevents them from swallowing it.
Again, this is a command that is best taught with a toy and a treat, or whatever combination of incentive objects will work for your dog. Let them play with the toy first. Once your Border Collie has the toy in her mouth, introduce them to the treat.
In a clear, firm voice, say “give me”. You might have to show her what you mean. Once she releases the toy, give her the treat. Soon, she’ll know what the words mean and won’t hesitate to give up whatever interesting thing she’s caught.
20. Walk With Me
Teaching your Border Collie to walk on a leash may not require a command but getting them to stop pulling you along may require one. If you can safely walk your dog off-leash, this is an important command to learn as well.
This is best done through a variety of different training methods and situations. Keep your dog’s interest with a toy or a treat and keep them walking along your side. When they keep pace with you for a few feet without getting distracted, praise them and give them a treat.
The important part here is that they learn to walk alongside you and using commands they already know (like “heel” and “wait”) can be helpful. Build onto that knowledge to teach your dog to walk at your side without distraction.
As energetic dogs, Border Collies thrive when your expectations are made clear. Teaching your Border Collie these 20 essential commands can help him become more obedient and may even eliminate troublesome behavior. Make sure to be patient and persistent when training your Border Collie.
How Many Commands Can a Border Collie Learn?
Border Collies are extremely intelligent, and there is no limit to the number of commands they can learn. With persistence and patience, you may be able to teach your Border Collie upwards of 40 different commands. A famous Border Collie, Chase, has learned over 1,000 English words.
Are Border Collies Hard to Train?
Because of their intelligence, Border Collies aren’t hard to train. However, they can also be stubborn and think that they know best. For this reason, it’s important to stay firm and persistent with your Border Collie during training.
Henny, B. “A Guide to the Livestock-working Dog.” 4H Extension Service, Oregon State University. https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource003580_Rep5121.pdf. Accessed 28 September 2021.
Lunchick, Paisley. “Teach Your Puppy These 5 Basic Cues.” American Kennel Club, 03 February 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-your-puppy-these-5-basic-commands/.
“You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks – But Younger Dogs Learn Faster.” University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. https://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/presseinformation/presseinformationen-2016/you-can-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks-but-younger-dogs-learn-faster/. Accessed 28 September 2021.
“Universal Commands.” Border Collie Rescue. http://www.bordercollierescue.org/advice/content/unicommands.html. Accessed 28 September 2021.
“Border Collie.” American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/border-collie/. Accessed 31 May 2021.
“Border Collie.” The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, PDSA. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/medium-dogs/border-collie. Accessed 30 May 2021.