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Just like playing fetch or chasing a ball, we sort of expect our furry friends to instinctively know how to roll over. Well, we might be assuming incorrectly! Dogs should be taught how to roll over just like any other “trick.” Teaching your dog this trick may take a little time and a few treats, but your dog—young or old—can learn how to successfully rollover. Let’s take a look at how to teach a dog to roll over.
Keep in mind that there are some tricks you need to teach your dog before attempting to teach him how to roll over. Teaching your dog to roll over actually encompasses multiple steps, so patience is required. However, highly intelligent dogs will catch on rather quickly, and dogs that are willing to please their pet parents will take to rolling over quickly too. Let’s first take a look at the steps you need to take to prepare your dog for rolling over.
I. Your dog should know how to sit and lie down before you begin teaching him to roll over.
First, let’s discuss teaching your dog to sit. You want to do this training in a place where your dog won’t be distracted. Also, you want to make sure your dog is correctly sitting before you reward him. To sit properly, your dog must have his hocks and bottom firmly on the ground. Never reward your dog for sitting if he is truly hovering; also, you’ll need to choose a “release” word. When you have your dog sitting, he should stay in that position as long as you choose, until you use the release word.
Start with your dog in a standing position. Now, get your dog’s attention, and show him that you have a treat in your hand. Make sure the treat is even with your dog’s head (if you hold it above him, he may try to jump to get it). Now, move the treat back down your dog’s ears and begin lowering your hand. Most dogs will instinctively sit; if he does, praise him and offer the treat. Make sure you use the command to “sit” as he lowers the bottom half of his body into the sitting position.
Now, dogs that don’t go for the seating position may need a little extra persuasion. You may have to hold the treat at his ear, get his attention, then slowly raise your hand upward. This should also persuade him to sit down on his bottom. Be sure to use the “sit” command when he goes into the sitting position. Again, praise and treat his good behavior. You may utilize dog training hand signals when doing this as they are easier for your dog to follow.
You’ll need to commit to doing this in five to ten-minute sessions several times a week until your dog will sit on command.
Okay, now let’s work on teaching him to lie down. The “down” command has multiple uses beyond preparing your dog to learn to roll over. You need your dog to learn how to lie down on command (many simply use the “down” command for this; do what is most comfortable for you. Keep in mind dogs do better when commands are one or two syllables.)
The proper “down” position is held when your dog’s chest, elbows, and hocks are parallel with the ground. Make sure your dog is not simply crouching on the down command.
You’ll begin much the same way you taught your dog to sit. Hold a treat in front of the dog’s nose. Let your dog see the treat, but do not let him take it from your hand. Rather, lower your hand so that the dog naturally lowers his body into the “down” position (remember, chest, elbows, and hocks on the floor). Assuming your dog is following the treat position with his body, say “down.” When your dog rests on the floor with his chest and elbows on the floor, then praise and treat him. Repeat as necessary until he understands how to do this without a treat each time. Getting your do to “sit” and “lie down” are parts of obedience training.
II. Okay, we’ve got “sit” and “down” accomplished, we can now begin to learn how to roll.
This part of the roll-over lesson is much like teaching him how to lie down. However, have your dog lie “down” without the treat. Now, show your dog the treat. Place it in front of his nose, but don’t allow him to have it. Slowly, move your hand and the treat toward your dog’s shoulder. Your dog should instinctively turn his head to follow the treat.
If this happens, you’re going to want to continue the move toward your dog’s shoulder so that he has to lie on his side. Now, here’s the fun part. Your dog should be on her side, continuing to watch the treat. It is still not time to offer the treat to Fido yet! Now, you’re going to want to pull your hand in the opposite direction toward the dog’s other shoulder. While you do this, say “rollover.” The dog should have to fully roll over to its other side in order to get to the treat. When she does, praise and treat her.
What are some issues I might face? Troubleshooting
You may need to break training down into smaller parts before your dog will completely turn over on her side. You’ll want to put her in the down position and get her attention. Offer a treat at her nose level. Move it toward your dog’s shoulder. Each time she moves her head, then praise and treat her. You may have to practice this art of rolling over diligently until she “gets” it.
Now, start getting your pooch to roll to one side. You’ll still put the treat at her nose and use it to get her to lower her body naturally. Give her the treat ONLY when she lies on her side completely.
Once she has accomplished lying on one side, then you can start the process of getting her to roll to her back and then to the opposite side. Remember to give her the “rollover” command, and praise and treat her only when she completely rolls over. Some pet parents can only get their dogs to roll over on their backs for a few training sessions. Don’t get discouraged! Keep working with her until she rolls completely from one side to the other.
You’ll know your dog is fully trained to “rollover” on command when he will do so without having to be treated each time.
Other Mistakes to Avoid
You may find that your dog will jump up or try to turn her head in the wrong direction. If this occurs, back up to getting her to lie down on one side and build back up to get her to roll over to her opposite side.
Some dogs do not enjoy lying on their backs. If this fits your dog, then try to make belly rubs  a part of your daily activity. Also, remember, this should be a fun learning experience for your dog. If you ever notice that he’s uncomfortable on his back. Take a little time off from training your dog and take it back up in a couple of days.
You may have to relax too. Your dog can pick up on any stress you may be experiencing because training isn’t going the way you think it should.
Keep training sessions short and fun. Your dog will get frustrated with a long training session. Try to keep them to less than ten minutes.
1. Is the roll-over trick bad for dogs?
For most dogs, no. Rolling over is one of the most common tricks we humans teach our dogs. However, you may find that your dog won’t roll over, no matter how much coaxing you provide. Now, if a dog is stressed or feels like it’s unsafe to do so, the dog will not rollover. Many older dogs will not roll over as it can be uncomfortable; they may also have some type of health issue that could prevent them from rolling over. Overweight dogs do not like to roll over. Very rarely, dogs could pinch a nerve or hurt their legs while rolling over. If this has ever happened to your dog before, then you may not be able to teach your dog to roll over successfully. Overall, though, rolling over is safe for your dog.
2. What tricks can I teach my dog?
You can teach your dog many tricks that will actually bond you together closer than you imagined! You can teach him to sit, which is part of the roll-over process. You can teach your dog to play dead, or to go fetch, which involves more training than you might expect. Dogs can learn how to beg, which is often used to entertain friends (however, it is great for dogs to learn obedience and patience).
Some dogs can learn other tricks. I’ve seen dogs learn how to get into a vehicle and crawl into their doggy seats for a trip. I’ve seen dogs learn how to go fetch a certain type of toy. Depending upon the breed of dog you choose, his willingness to work, and his intelligence level, your dog can learn a wide range of tricks.