How to teach your dog to roll over
Bar a few, dogs are quick learners and actually enjoy learning new things, especially if they know they’ll get a tasty treat at the end of it. Roll over is a fun (and impressive) party trick to train your dog, and when they show it off to your visitors it’s one that always gets some extra praise and an ‘aww’ from the audience.
Although it’s not as important as teaching your dog things like recall, stay and sit, roll over is cute and playful, and training any type of trick gives you the chance to bond and have fun with your pup.
Also, no matter the trick, partaking in regular training sessions with your dog teaches and helps with obedience, showing your dog that whenever they listen to you and do what you say, they get good things. And to top it off, there’s nothing quite as cute as a dog rolling over and showing you their tummy!
Ask your dog to lie down
Hold a smelly treat by your dog’s nose and pull it towards their shoulder
Your dog should now by lying on their side, so continue pulling the treat all the way round
If your dog fully rolls over to follow the treat, praise, mark their good behaviour and give them the treat
This all sounds simple, right? Well, not all dogs complete a full roll the first time round, many will jump up, wiggle, spin their head the other way to grab the treat or just look at you with a look that says, ‘what on earth am I meant to be doing here?’.
Breaking it down
Roll over isn’t a particularly difficult trick to teach, however it’s a little trickier than commands like sit and lie down, so it’s best to break it down into smaller parts.
Choose the right environment
Your mood and environment all play a huge role into how well, and how comfortable your dog will feel performing any trick, not just roll over. Make sure you’re feeling relaxed and patient, as any kind of frustration when your dog doesn’t perform the way you want will show, just making everything worse. You want every training session to be positive, and after all, it should be positive anyway, this is a chance to have fun and bond with your pet!
Ensure your environment isn’t cluttered with stuff, your dog can’t roll over when there isn’t enough space and you don’t want them to be distracted by items scattered on the floor. We all know what dogs are like, they can be quite easily distracted.
You want your training area to be somewhere your dog feels comfy, a carpet or large rug is the best place to practice as a tiled floor won’t be very comfortable for your dog to roll over onto.
Be prepared with loads of super tasty treats, the smellier the better! If you use clicker training then have your clicker to hand.
If your dog already knows the lie down command, then great, ask your dog to lie down and move onto the next step.
If they don’t know this trick, you’ll have to either practice roll over when they’re naturally lying on the floor anyway, or you’ll need to teach them lie down first. Luckily, it’s pretty easy. Ask your dog to sit, place a treat near their nose and lower the treat down their chest and to the floor. Hopefully, they’ll follow the treat with their nose and naturally lie down.
If you’re looking for a more detailed guide, we’ve got a full step-by-step method on how to teach your dog to lie down.
Draw a circle
Now your dog is lying down in front of you, you want to get down to their level, kneeling beside them. Hold a high value treat right near your dog’s nose and then start to draw your hand towards their shoulder. Hopefully, they’ll start to move their head to the side to follow the scent of the treat. As soon as they move their head, praise, click if you’re using a clicker and give them the treat. It’ll look like you’re starting to draw a circle in the air with your hand.
Keep repeating this until your dog’s head starts to turn that far towards their shoulder, they end up lying flat on their side. Keep repeating this step and praising every time. If your dog seems confused, slow down your hand movements, you want your dog’s nose to be basically attached to the treat at all times.
Keep it moving
Once your pooch is consistently lying on their side when following the treat, you want to carry on your hand movement. Keep moving the treat from their shoulder towards their backbone, and hopefully they’ll start to roll over onto their back, showing you their tummy. Now, keep moving the treat away from your dog to the new side so they roll all the way over.
Keep in mind, larger dogs will probably need more room to roll fully over, and it’s unlikely that they’ll roll over quite as smooth and as easily as the tinier dogs. A large dogs’ roll over will probably look a bit clunky and fragmented.
Introduce your command word
At this stage, practice is key, so keep repeating the previous step over and over again until they roll all the way round pretty much every time. This is where you start to add in your cue, with the most obvious one being, ‘roll over’.
Phase out the treat
You want your pooch to be able to perform this trick without needing to be lured every time with a treat. Therefore, start to phase out using the treat every time, replacing your luring movement for just a hand motion, saying your command word each time and offering verbal praise when they obey.
Remember to still reward your dog with a tasty treat every few times however, you want to ensure you reinforce the trick and keep it an exciting thing for your dog to do. The occasional treat will make it all the more exciting when they do get one for their hard work.
Practice makes perfect
Keep practicing over and over to make sure that your dog has roll over mastered. If you have been practicing in only one room, now might be the time to up the ante and practice your dog’s new trick in new locations around new distractions and new people.
Essentially, the more you practice the more consistent your dog will be, they might even start to perform roll over when other people ask!
Make roll over even better
Rolling over should now be second nature to your dog, so why not make the trick even more impressive?
Now your dog is a pro at rolling over, you can try to teach them how to wrap themselves up in a blanket. Place a blanket down on the floor and instruct your dog to lie down on it. Using a treat, encourage your dog to grasp the corner of the blanket with their mouth and then say ‘roll over!’ Hopefully, your dog will roll over with the blanket in their mouth and they’ll wrap themselves up in the blanket nice and snug. This one might take a lot of practice and patience, but if you can get this mastered it’s incredibly cute.
‘Play dead’ is another trick that many pooch parents like to teach their dogs, it’s basically the exact same as roll over, just paused halfway. To teach your dog play dead, you want to get your dog to roll over but stop them halfway through when they’re lying on their side. At this point, give them a treat and start introducing the ‘play dead’ cue to differentiate from roll over.
Why won’t my dog roll over?
Roll over can sometimes take longer to learn than you first expected, and this could be for a number of reasons.
Your dog might seem totally bewildered by this trick, they’re wriggling around on the floor, turning their head the wrong way or just jumping up and walking off. If so, you might just be moving too quickly and confusing your dog, so slow it right down and take it either right back to the start or to a step where they seemed to be doing well.
One thing to note is to never grab your dog’s legs or push them forcefully into rolling over, this will only make your dog feel more frustrated and they might resist against you. This will make training feel like a negative, frustrating experience for your dog, making them less inclined to listen to you in the future.
Many dogs don’t feel comfortable rolling over at all because they have to expose their belly in the process. This is a vulnerable position for your dog to be in, so you need to show your dog that this is a fun, happy thing to do. Use loads of treats, speak in a friendly, cheery voice and keep your training sessions short and sweet. Start to praise and treat your dog every time they randomly expose their tummy to you in your normal day to day if they’re usually reluctant.
Never force your dog to perform, especially in places where they don’t feel comfortable. For the time being, stick to rolling over indoors without any other people around, as mentioned, they might feel uncomfortable having their tummy exposed around new people in new locations.
Keep in mind that rolling over might actually be really uncomfortable for some dogs depending on their body shape. Deep chested dogs might struggle with roll over, and if your dog really refuses to do it, maybe it’s time to move on to another trick, or you could even stick to something like play dead! As we know, this is similar to roll over it just stops halfway, but it’s still just as impressive.
All in all, roll over is a fun, playful little trick that serves no purpose other than being extremely cute and allowing you to show off how cute and clever your canine is. Most dogs are open to learning any trick, some are just a lot harder than others, but with time and patience you will have a performing pooch in no time!
Obedience and training is a fun, relaxing way to use your dog’s brain, tire them out and strengthen the bond you have with your four-legged friend, so get to work, you can teach a new trick to any dog at any age.