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The Essential Labrador Training Commands Guide

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

Labrador training commands are essential for successful dog obedience. Without knowing the training commands, you could unintentionally confuse your Labrador making training more complicated and stressful, or even missing basic commands.

However, you and your Lab will have a much easier time with this essential list of Labrador training commands.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The principles of Lab training commands.
  • Basic obedience commands.
  • Intermediate training commands.
  • Advanced Lab training commands.
A Lab Puppy training. Labrador Training Commands

So, if you want to know the complete list of Labrador training commands, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started!

Principles of Labrador Training Commands

There are three basic principles of Labrador training when teaching commands to your pup. These are:

  • Verbal commands. Voice commands tell your Labrador to perform a specific behavior when you command them. They send a wealth of information to your pup in tone and volume. Changing your tone and volume opens up various avenues for your Lab to pick up on your intentions. When using verbal cues to train your pup, pay attention to how you express your message.
    Remember that Labradors were bred to work with hunters who gave vocal commands while conducting their retrieving duties on a hunt, so they’re naturally more sensitive to your voice.
  • Hand signals. When verbal commands aren’t appropriate, such as during noisy events or when your Labrador is far away, hand signals are a practical way to communicate to your dog. There is an equivalent hand signal for every verbal command that conveys the same message.
  • Matching tone to the command. Train your Labrador to respond to different tones accurately, as mixed messages damage the training process. Make sure your pup understands your command by saying exactly how you mean it. For example, if you command your Lab to “STAY,” don’t say it in a happy, high-pitched voice, but use a more authoritative, deeper tone. Give your order in a firm, clear tone.

Let’s start by covering the complete list of Labrador training commands.

Labrador Training Commands

This list covers 3 types of Labrador training commands:

  • Basic obedience commands. You should start with the basics to begin your Labrador training. These commands allow you to control your dog and keep him safe. This is paramount to your training.
  • Intermediate training commands. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you might want to teach your Labrador a few advanced dog commands. Either way, you need to know what words to say and how to say them to get the most out of your training.
  • Advanced commands. Finally, if you want to impress your family and friends, or teach your dog to track, you might be interested in learning the more advanced dog commands.

You don’t have to use the Labrador Retriever training commands list in order. However, it’s best to start with the basics and work your way through to the advanced commands. Remember that all puppies learn at different rates, so don’t be discouraged if your pup doesn’t grasp what you’re saying right away.

One thing to note is if you’re training an older Labrador, it may take a little longer. Keep practicing, be consistent and stay patient as Labradors are pretty intelligent, and it’s never too late in training an older dog.

Watch This Cute Lab Puppy Performing Training Commands…

Basic (Essential) Labrador Commands

CommandDesired Action
SITThe dog puts his bottom on the ground
STAYThe dog does not move until you go towards him
DOWNThe dog stops moving forward and drops to his belly
NOThe dog immediately stops what he is doing
COMEThe dog moves towards you
STOPThe dog stops and stands still
GO POTTYTells your puppy he needs to toilet

Intermediate Labrador Commands

CommandDesired Action
ROLL OVERThe dog rolls over and shows you his belly
CRAWLThe dog drops to his belly, crouches low, and moves forward
HEREThe dog comes to your front or side
STANDThe dog stands on all four paws
WAITThe dog waits until you release him or give another command
LOOK AT METhe dog keeps eye contact with you
DROP ITThe dog releases an item from his mouth
LEAVE ITThe dog doesn’t go after or pick up an object he is interested in
INThe dog goes into a room
OUTThe dog goes out of a room
FETCHThe dog picks an object up and brings it back to you
SPEAKThe dog barks for you
QUIETThe dog stops barking on command
PAW The dog gives its paw for a paw-shake
OFFThe dog gets off whatever they are on (sofa, chair)
UPThe dog jumps onto an object (sofa, chair, trailer)
KENNELThe dog goes into his crate, kennel, or bed
EATThe dog can go eat (usually given after a “wait” cue)
HEELThe dog comes to your left side
HIGH FIVEThe dog gives you a high-five
SPINThe dog turns either right or left in a circle
JUMPThe dog jumps over an obstacle

Advanced Labrador Commands

CommandDesired Action
FIND IT The dog follows and looks for a person (tracks)or object
TARGETThe dog touches a target pad with their nose
BACKThe dog heels backward
FRONTThe dog sits in front of you
GUARDThe dog is alert and looks to guard
BITEThe dog bites an object that you command it to

Now that you have a list of training and obedience commands for your Labrador Retriever, you need to know how to use them.

How to Train a Labrador the Right Way

Issuing your commands is fundamental to successful obedience training. Basic commands give your Labrador structure. In addition, they can help you defeat common dog behavior problems and will help keep your pup safe.

However, don’t just expect your new Labrador puppy to know what you want from him. Instead, he’ll need to know exactly what you expect. Make your commands clear, concise, and use the correct tone.

There are five parts to commanding the desired action.

  • Teach your dog his name. At the beginning of your command, you must say your dog’s name to get his attention. This alerts your doggo that the words you say after his name are directed towards him.
  • Be consistent in your training. Every person involved in the training must be on the same page and use the same chosen command to avoid confusing your dog. If different people use different commands, training will be prolonged.
  • Let your dog know that you’re the alpha. Your dog must quickly learn that you are the leader and in charge. This prevents future dominant behavior as he matures and helps speed up training and socialization.
  • Use rewards-based training. When teaching a command, use a tasty treat to lure your Labrador into position. When he performs the desired behavior, quickly praise him and let him have the treat. He’ll quickly associate that pleasant things happen when he masters the command.
  • Name the command. When luring your Labrador into the desired position, such as when teaching “SIT,” name the action and say it precisely when your dog performs it.

Pro-tip: When correcting your Lab for bad behavior, there’s no point telling him “NO” minutes after the event as he won’t understand what he’s done wrong. Dogs won’t remember and will forget an experience in 2 minutes. However, they can recall your training commands through associative memory.

Do you want to learn more about how to train a Labrador puppy? Check out this beginner’s guide, How to Train an 8-Week-Old Labrador Puppy.

Chocolate Lab Puppy

Labrador Commands Training Tips

It’s good to have a list of Labrador training commands that you can refer to. Using a training command list for your Lab allows you to recognize the cues you need to work on.

I recommend printing off the above lists and placing them where you will see them often as a daily reminder, such as on the refrigerator door. This enables you to assess where your dog’s training is up to and start the more advanced steps. While you may not need or require all of the commands, it is a helpful reference tool to have on hand.

Start with the essential obedience commands and add a new command, ideally at a consistent pace. Once your Lab masters the new behavior, keep building on his training by adding another command.

Don’t rush your dog when practicing your Labrador training commands. Your Lab is pretty intelligent, but you should break the commands down into small steps for him to succeed.

Keep your training sessions short, no more than 5 minutes. Also, practice several times a day.

“Teaching your Lab his basic commands 3 to 4 times per day is a fantastic place to start.”

Some owners and trainers may use a different cue word to those on the Labrador training commands list when training their dogs, but you can use whatever command works best for you and your Lab. Remember that everyone involved in training needs to stay consistent with your chosen cue word.

Let’s get right into the essential list of Labrador training commands you need to know.

The “SIT” Command

Labrador Puppy Sitting

SIT” is an easy command for all puppies to learn.

You might even find that your new pup has already mastered the “SIT” command if you got your puppy from a good breeder who may have already started early socialization and basic obedience training.

Teaching “SIT” is perfect for starting the training bond, as it is an excellent start to a training session or a closer after a challenging session when you want to end on a high note.

How to Teach a Labrador to “SIT”

  1. Don’t force your Lab to sit by pushing down on his hindquarters, especially a young puppy learning your leadership skills.
  2. Instead, lean over your dog and move your hand with a yummy treat over them. Your pup will want to maintain eye contact with the reward, which causes their head to rise and their back end to dip to the floor. This is known as enticing your dog into a specific position.
  3. Move your Lab with the lure into the sit position.
  4. Once your dog gets the action right, start commanding him to sit while you walk away at different distances.
  5. Return to your dog for his reward, so he doesn’t move too quickly out of the sit position.

Gradually reduce how often you reward so that you don’t reward for every sit. Work on getting your Labrador to sit in various parts of your house, then go to an area with additional distractions, like your backyard. Finally, practice in even more distracting settings, such as in the street or dog park.

The “STAY” Command

Teaching the “STAY” command takes more patience and regular practice. It is often referred to as the “SIT-STAY.”

It’s a challenging command because puppies struggle to hold a stay due to a lack of impulse control. Still, you can teach impulse control via repetition and by lengthening the hold long enough for your dog to hold his stay position.

This command is still in the basic training category because it is a fundamental skill.

How to Teach a Labrador to “STAY”

  1. To teach your Lab to stay, start by ordering your dog to go into its sit position first.
  2. Say the command “STAY,” and then take one step back while keeping your eyes focused on your pup’s eyes. It’s useful to find a hand command for the stay. I like to extend my arm out with an open palm.
  3. If your Lab stands up to follow you, as he probably will, command him to sit again and lure him back into position with a treat.
  4. Then, say “STAY” once your dog sits and use the hand signal simultaneously. Take a shorter step back, so your pup doesn’t want to follow you.
  5. Start to increase the steps you take back from your pup before returning to him for his reward.
  6. Lengthen this distance slowly as your Labrador learns impulse control and the “STAY” command.
  7. Ultimately, your Lab will cease following you, sit, and stay in his position. However, he will need more training for longer distances.

When teaching your Labrador to “STAY” outside, always use a long lead or leash to keep them safe while learning.

A Lab being trained

The “DOWN” Command

The “DOWN” command is invaluable to prevent jumping or overexcited behavior, especially when you have visitors.

How to Teach a Labrador “DOWN”

  1. Having your Lab sit and then luring him toward the floor is a fantastic way to train the “DOWN” command. Hold a treat on the floor a foot or two in front of him to do this.
  2. Don’t force your pup to the floor. Use the treat to get him moving into the down position. You may have to let your pup see and smell the lure in your hand.
  3. Once your dog goes into the correct position, give the cue “DOWN” and give him the treat. Repeat the down position regularly.
  4. Next, see if you can get your dog to perform down from both the sit position and a standing position.
  5. If you train the “DOWN” both ways when you try more advanced commands later, it will be easier as your dog understands that he should drop to his belly no matter the previous position he was in.

Taking the treat and moving it under your pup’s nose and head towards his body can sometimes help, in which case your dog should fold his legs under him to smell the treat.

Work on the down command in various sections of your home and different distracting but safe situations so that your Labrador learns to follow your command reliably.

The “NO” Command

Another essential life-saving command you must teach your dog is “NO!”

Most dogs will learn “NO” pretty quickly, as teaching is easy when you don’t want your dog to perform unwanted behavior. However, don’t use a tone that scares your pup or shout, as you’ll only cause fear and distrust, making training difficult.

How to Teach a Labrador “NO”

  1. Use a stern face and firm tone when saying the “NO” command, but don’t shout or make wild actions, or your puppy will become afraid of you.
  2. When your Lab makes eye contact with you, redirect him to a more suitable behavior.
  3. For example, if your Lab pup is chewing on your slippers, immediately say “NO,” and when he looks at you, offer him something more appropriate to chew on, such as an interesting chew toy.
  4. If your pup has trouble grasping “NO,” try a quick clap of your hands while speaking the cueThis is usually enough to get your dog’s attention and stop him from performing your desired action.
  5. Don’t react harshly or punish your puppy when teaching no. It’s better to follow the steps found in this article; how to discipline a Labrador.

Your Labrador will quickly catch on as he learns what you expect from him. Don’t ever use physical punishment on your Labrador when training the basic commands, or you’ll ruin your bond and lose their trust.

Adverse training methods also harm dogs’ welfare. This study showed that dogs subjected to aversive training were more likely to suffer stress-related behaviors.

The “COME” Command

“COME” is an essential dog command to teach your Labrador Retriever.

How to Teach your Labrador to “COME”

  1. Have your Lab on a long leash when you teach this command to ensure he follows through with the return to you.
  2. Let your puppy run around your house on the long lead. You can throw a ball or a treat to get them moving away from you.
  3. Say the word “COME” in a quick, sharp voice to get your pup’s attention. You can also gently tug on the long lead. Only tug sufficiently enough to get your Lab’s attention.
  4. Next, crouch down and offer him a treat. Your dog will understand what you want and entice him to return to you by getting down to his level.
  5. Once your pup comes to you, give him his reward. Practice letting him wander, then practice using the cue “COME” to get him to go to you.

You’ll be able to remove the lead in a secure area to practice off-leash recall, such as in your backyard, before advancing outside. But for now, we’ll start indoors with no distractions.

Read more here: 7 Easy Steps To Train a Labrador Recall

The “STOP” Command

Because it requires your Lab to stop moving, the “STOP” command demands some skill and timing. While it does take time and patience, you must train your Labrador with this basic command.

How to Teach a Labrador to “STOP”

  1. To teach the “STOP” command, have some distance between you and your pup and ensure he’s on a long lead for safety.
  2. Walk away approximately 20 to 30 feet (or as long as your long leash is). Then, turn and face your Lab but don’t make eye contact as he may think you want him to come to you.
  3. When you are ready, get your dog’s attention. As soon as he moves, take a few steps towards him and say “STOP” in a stern voice with your hand up with a flat palm facing him (similar to the sit-stay).
  4. The easiest way to teach this command is to use verbal and hand signs. The very idea that you are approaching your dog causes him to pause, which is only natural.
  5. Always reward your Lab with a tasty treat when he stops by going toward him. If you call him towards you too quickly after teaching the stop, he may pick up that it’s the “WAIT” command you want and rush off to see you right after stopping.
  6. Once your Labrador learns to stop on cue, start increasing the distance until he stops and stands, sits, or goes into the down position at your verbal command and from any distance.
  7. You will eventually train the command you want after the “STOP,” but you need to practice getting your pup to stop first.

Practice the “STOP” cue frequently so your puppy understands he isn’t in trouble and nothing unpleasant happens after he stops.

You should always have a reliable “STOP,” especially as Labradors have a strong prey drive and may start to chase a squirrel or rabbit into a busy road. You can also use the “LEAVE IT” command if your dog starts to pick up or sniff an undesirable item, such as a poisonous wild mushroom.

Lab Puppy Training

The “GO POTTY” Command

One of the first essential commands you’ll teach your Lab as soon as you bring him home is the “GO POTTY” command.

How to Teach a Labrador to “GO POTTY”

  1. Establish a routine when training your puppy the “GO POTTY” command. Young Labrador pups do best on a regular schedule. They need to go out at least every 2 hours, upon waking, the last thing at night, after naps, mealtimes, and playtimes.
  2. Choose a toilet spot outside. Show your pup where you want him to go. A grassy area works best. When your dog starts to relieve himself, say the cue “GO POTTY” and give him lots of praise.
  3. Every time you take your dog outside to go, say the cue “GO POTTY.” If you reward him with praise and treats, he’ll soon associate the cue with the desired action.
  4. It’s important to give the reward as soon as your puppy has eliminated. Don’t wait until you get back inside the house.

When teaching your dog to “GO POTTY,” you should ensure he is on the leash when you take him outside. This allows you to control his environment and helps to direct him to the chosen spot where you want him to go.

Do you want to learn how to potty train your dog the right way? Check out this article, How to Potty Train a Lab?

The “HEEL” Command

Although the “HEEL” command falls into the immediate group, I like this command as it keeps your Labrador under close control and teaches your dog self-control.

How to Teach a Labrador to “HEEL”

  1. The first step in teaching your dog to “HEEL” is to get him in a sitting position. Position yourself next to him as if he were heeling, and you stopped during a walk. Practice this in the house first.
  2. It is vital to stand on the side that you walk on. If your Lab walks by your right, stand to his left. Left is the traditional heel side.
  3. Anchor the training command “HEEL” when they naturally go in this position. Your dog will learn to associate the behavior with the word.
  4. Reward him for heeling while standing and later while walking. Eventually, he will heel even when you move unpredictably.
  5. Master the training outside where there are distractions.

Training Tools for Faster Results

There are a few items you need when training your Labrador. You’ll get faster results – and they won’t break the bank.

Basic obedience gear includes:

  • A short heavy-duty leash with a padded handle. I like the BAAPET strong leash from Amazon. It has a comfortable padded handle and is reflective when you’re out in the dark. This one is a best-seller and has almost 60,000 positive reviews.
  • A no-pull dog harness. Labradors can grow big and strong, and I recommend getting your pup used to a harness as soon as you get him. I use the Walk Your Dog With Love Harness as it is a front clip harness and allows you to lead your dog from the front giving you greater control and steering.
  • A long, lightweight lead. You need a long leash of at least 20 feet for outdoor recall training, as it helps you keep control while still allowing your Lab to enjoy a playful romp and roll. The Hi Kiss long lead from Amazon is perfect as its 1-inch wide heavy-duty lightweight nylon webbing is almost twice the thickness of many other leashes.
  • Training treats. Treats serve as positive reinforcement during training. They help speed up your pup’s progress and build a positive bond. I recommend Zuke’s Puppy Naturals Training Treats from Amazon. These soft and tender treats are perfect for training as they’re only 3.5 calories each.

Getting Started with Labrador Training Commands

Work through the essential list first. Even if you’ve adopted an older untrained dog from the shelter, it’s never too late in training a Labrador. With a very young puppy, train for short periods frequently throughout the day.

Around six months of age, your Lab should know the basic commands, sit, stay, down, no, and come. However, a young puppy’s attention span is short, so be patient if your dog isn’t learning the Labrador training commands as quickly as you want.

If you’re looking for a complete puppy training schedule, check out this post, Lab Puppy Training Schedule, which covers what to train month by month.

How to Make Labrador Command Training Easier

There are many ways to keep your training manageable. Here are some top strategies to increase your pup’s chance of success.

Use These Labrador Training Tips:

  • Train your dog when hungry as it motivates them to learn. You can even use their kibble as training treats, reducing it from their meal.
  • Stay patient and confident. Go easy and take your time.
  • Make sessions short, only 3 minutes for a young puppy and 5-10 minutes for an adult.
  • Make training fun. Don’t always work on the same commands. Switch things up.
  • Train in different environments. Start indoors, and work your way outside where there are more distractions.
  • Ensure that you and your dog are calm and well-rested.
  • Call it a day if your pup finds the session difficult and end on a positive note.

Clicker Train Your Labrador

It’s also effective to use a clicker to train your Labrador.

A clicker (or marker) is a small, hand-held device that makes a slight clicking noise when you press a button. It can make positive reinforcement training more efficient.

The clicker’s sound takes the place of the “marker word.” The marker word is simply the words you use at the EXACT moment the pup has performed the correct behavior, such as “YES!” or “GOOD DOG!”

Some dogs prefer to hear the sound of a click when they’ve performed a command.

The most crucial part of clicker training your Lab is the timing. The clicker marks the moment your pup has done the desired action worth rewarding.

When teaching your Labrador training commands with the clicker, he’ll quickly associate the clicking sound with the treat. Ultimately, the click becomes its reward, and you won’t need too many training treats.

Yellow Lab Puppy

Vary Your Distance when Using the Labrador Training Commands

Practice giving your Lab the command from various distances, in different positions, and in other house rooms. Never stand in the same place as it teaches your pup that you still expect the behavior no matter where you are.

Try taking a few steps further away every time you practice a command during your training session. If your puppy only obeys the command from a short distance, take a few steps back and repeat the cue until you reach the desired distance.

Increasing the distance your Lab executes the command is difficult because he will naturally want to stay close to you. However, you will train your Labrador to perform the command at almost any distance from you with success with practice and repetition.

Switch Up Your Lab’s Training Setting

Once your Labrador masters a command in a quiet setting, try training him in a more distracting environment. This could include turning on the TV, inviting friends into the room, or moving closer to a window where they enjoy looking out.

Your puppy must understand that the place where they first learned the command isn’t the only place where you want him to obey your orders. In the end, your pup learns that you want him to obey your commands regardless of where he is or what he is doing.

However, recognize that he will not learn as quickly in distracting situations. Sometimes it will take time to adjust to the idea that a local park is also a place for learning.

Your dog will learn to tune out distractions and pay more attention to you and your training as you practice. Remember to practice having your dog complete the command from various distances away from you so that they understand it’s the same no matter how far away you are.

Keep working through the list of Labrador training commands to ensure you’ve practiced all of them in different environments.

Is Your Labrador Not Listening to Your Training Commands?

If your Labrador is stubborn or not listening to your commands, you need to go back to the basic training commands.

When your pup doesn’t perform as expected, work on breaking down the command into smaller steps and return to a quieter, less distracting training area.

Your dog could also be sick, stressed, hungry, or need more exercise. Consider all of the reasons your Lab won’t listen to you, and don’t force him to train if he’s sick or anxious. You might need to take a break from your usual daily training once in a while and play fun games instead.

Let’s Wrap This Up!

Using the Labrador Training Commands the Right Way

Consistency, positive reinforcement, timing, a confident mindset, and patience are the cornerstones of excellent training. Use this list of Labrador commands to improve your relationship with your dog.

Begin with the most straightforward commands on the list and work your way through to the more challenging ones.

Your Lab puppy wants to please you and is one of the most intelligent dogs. However, don’t push your puppy too hard, as too much training can be stressful to them, and never use aversive punishment methods.

If you use the Labrador training commands the right way, the forever bond you’ll form during training will create a well-behaved dog.

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Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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