How to Train a Dog to Roll Over

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If you’ve ever seen a dog roll over on command, you may be wondering how to teach your dog this new trick. Training a dog to roll over is not the greatest challenge you’ll tackle together—it just takes time, patience, and deliberate work.

What You’ll Need

In order to train a dog to roll over, you’ll just need a few things:

  • A handful of treats
  • A soft area, such as carpet, a rug, or a grassy area outside
  • Time—preferably several sessions lasting ten minutes or less
  • A lot of patience

How to Train a Dog to Roll Over

You may want to teach your dog this new trick in one swift motion. The problem is, rolling over is not a natural sensation for your four-legged friend. Breaking it down into the following steps will yield the best results over time.

Step One: The “Down” Command

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First teach your dog to lay down by holding a treat near the ground between his paws. Speak the “down” command in a firm manner.

Once your dog’s belly touches the ground, release the treat and praise him accordingly. Repeat this step a few times until your dog gets the hang of it.

Step Two: Teach Your Dog to Lay on His Side

Next it’s time to teach your dog to lay on his side. Grab another treat and hold it near your dog’s shoulder blade until he falls to his side.

Once your dog falls to his side, release the treat. Repeat this step until your dog is comfortable with this step.

Step Three: Use Momentum to Complete the Roll

This next step is a bit trickier because it’s the least natural action of the three. You may even need to repeat this step several times before your dog gets used to the sensation.

Once your dog is laying on his side, hold a treat near his nose and pull it down toward one shoulder. Your dog should turn his head toward the treat. If he does, continue moving the treat in an arc shape over his back, and toward his other shoulder.

Depending on how large or small your dog is, you may need to move the treat even quicker, building momentum to complete the roll. Repeat this step until your dog is comfortable rolling over.

Step Four: Replace Treats with Hand Signals

Now it’s time to introduce hand signals in lieu of treats. The point is to eliminate your dog’s expectation for food with every trick.

Practice Steps One through Three two times using a treat if necessary. On the third time, pretend you have a treat in your hand and go through the motions again. Continue repeating this pattern of two rotations with a treat and one with a hand motion (2:1) until you can reduce this ratio to 1:1, or one rotation with a treat and one with a hand motion. Practice this repeatedly over several sessions until your dog responds without a treat.

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Step Five: The “Roll Over” Command

Now that your dog is used to rolling over it’s time to introduce the verbal command. Simply say the command “roll over” right before you use your hand signal.

The key to success here is repetition. Pair the hand signal and verbal command at least two or three times before solely using the command. Test your dog’s understanding by repeating this step over several sessions.

If at First You Don’t Succeed

Although this trick looks easy, training may prove difficult. It may take a few (or several) tries to get your dog comfortable with even being on his back.

If this is the case, break down the process even further to reward smaller steps along the way. With your dog on the ground (Step One), hold a treat near his nose and move it toward his shoulder. Feed him the treat when he turns his head. Repeat this action until he’s used to turning his head.

The next step is to stop giving treats for every head turn but to only reward those which bring him closest to the ground.

Once you’ve accomplished this, repeat Step Three. With your dog on his back, it should be fairly easy to complete the turn by holding the treat near his nose.

Also, if you’d prefer not to use treats to train your dog, a training clicker might help.

Remember, teaching a dog new tricks is supposed to be fun! Keep your tone light and assuring and limit each session to 10 minutes or less, ending each one on a positive note. With your eyes set on the prize, know that your four-legged friend simply cherishes this time spent together.

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