When you first start dog training, simple commands are the best ones to use. Generally, that remains true even as your skills improve over time. Dogs learn simple commands more easily than complex ones, though of course a working dog such as a Border Collie herding sheep will be able to perform very complex behaviors. Then again, so can your domestic dog once you have worked with him or her for a while! But your commands or cue words remain simple.
So what are the dog training simple cues that every dog should know?
I would make a case for: sit, down, stay, and come. There are plenty more, of course, but these four are often the basis of obedience training classes, and all are very useful in daily life. The heel is taught too, but for daily life walking with a loose leash is more important.
SIT: You can use this from the very first day your puppy comes home. It’s easy to teach the sit by holding a morsel of food over your dog’s head and as he looks up at it, he may sit. You give him the food if he does, and very soon he’s got the idea. This is useful constantly, like when your dog is about to put his muddy paws on the sofa. I always ask my dogs to sit and stay before they get their meals.
DOWN: This is a particularly useful dog behavior at times when you want your pet to stay put somewhere for quite a while in the “long down.”
STAY: What you frequently want the dog to do with both the sit and the down. Some dog trainers use the word “stay” while others include the concept of staying in their use of the commands sit or down. I like that second idea but I had already been using “stay” for many years when I came across the concept, and I found that my habits were hard to break. Consistency of what you do is important in evoking the canine behavior you want, so I kept on using “stay.”
COME: It’s got to be obvious why you need to train your dog to come. Again, this is an easy one to use early in your puppy training. Just stand near your dog so he can smell the treat in your hand, call him by name and say, “Come!” Give the treat once he comes. Make your distance apart greater as you continue.
For more information, here’s a good book: