Did you know that teaching your dog tricks is a great way to build your relationship and increase your dog’s confidence? Tricks and games help you bond with your dog by having fun together.
Tricks are also great to have in your back pocket for bad weather or if your dog is recovering from an injury and can’t go on walks. Plus, mental stimulation can tire your dog out as much or more than a romp in the park – you’d be surprised how much energy your dog can burn from learning something new with you!
One of the best-known tricks is “roll over.” And why not? It’s super fun and cute! But teach dog to roll over can be more complicated than it looks.
Before you start
Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching roll over:
Reward small steps: Some dogs pick up rolling over in just a few tries. However, most dogs need some practice before getting it right. To keep your dog motivated, you will have to consistently reward him for making moves toward what you want, even if it’s not a full 360-degree roll yet.
Use high value treats: Your training will move along more quickly, and your dog will be much more motivated to work if you use high-value treats. A high-value treat is a food that your dog doesn’t get every day, something new, or something they enjoy – think chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or steak pieces. Your dog may not be very motivated to learn a new thing with you for just plain old kibble, especially if it’s a challenging trick.
Love it before you name it: Don’t just tell your dog “Roll over” and expect them to know what you mean. If you tell your dog this cue before he’s reliably rolling over, before long, it won’t even mean anything to him! Just stick with some gentle encouragement until your dog has rolled over a few times and understands the game. Once you can reliably get him to roll over, start giving him the “Roll over” cue — more on this in the Steps section.
What you’ll need
- A clicker, or another positive marker. Marker training is the best way to communicate with your dog about what behavior you want. Your positive marker – that is, the sound your dog will hear that lets them know they’ve done something right and that a reward is coming – can be a word, (most people choose “Yes!”) or you can use a clicker, a small handheld device with a button that makes a distinctive click sound when you push it. Either is fine, but clicker training can make it a bit easier for your dog to know the exact moment that they’ve done something you like. Learn more about clicker training here.
- Lots of yummy treats! Remember those high value treats we talked about? You’ll want to use them often.
- Good timing. When markers are used correctly and followed by a reward, your dog learns to associate the two and will do things in the future to earn that positive marker from you. But for it to work, you need right timing! If you wait too long to give your dog a “Yes” or a click, they won’t understand what they’re being rewarded for. You have three to five seconds after your dog does the right thing to praise and him if you want the message to stick.
Teaching Your Dog to Roll Over – Step by Step
All of the steps after #1 are meant to be practiced many times. See how your dog is doing with each step and only progress to the next one when he’s ready. If you move on to a new step and your dog is struggling, you may have moved on too quickly. There’s no shame in going back and working on a previous step – after all, this is supposed to be fun!
One important note is Don’t force it! If your dog is anxious or scared, don’t force him along – train slowly and move gradually towards your goal to keep things light and fun. If your dog seems stressed, or doesn’t want to roll over, consider picking another trick to learn together.
- Ask your dog to lie down. (If your dog doesn’t know this yet, you should teach it before teaching him to roll over!)
- Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Once he’s interested, bring the treat backward toward his shoulder. His nose should follow, and eventually, his whole body should follow, and he should be lying on his side. Once he is, use your “Yes!” or your clicker, then reward with the food. (Remember: You’re not giving the “Roll over” cue until step 4! Just gently encourage your dog for now.)
- Once your dog is reliably rolling on his side, ask for a bit more from him. Once he’s on his back, bring the treat even further, almost to where his back meets the floor. He should follow the treat and roll over even further. Some dogs will roll all the way over here. If your dog is struggling, reward any positive steps – also if he only stays on his back for a second before rolling back to his original position, give him a “Yes!” or click followed by a reward right when he gets onto his back. Eventually, you can ask for a longer duration, and maybe even give your furry friend a little nudge onto his other side to help him complete the trick. Once he does, shower him with treats and have a party to celebrate!
- Once your dog is rolling over reliably with the food lure, you can start to give the “Roll over” cue. Keep the food at his nose, but say “Rollover” as he rolls.
- Take the food away, but continue to guide your dog with your hand in front of his nose.
- Now it’s time to put your training to the test! Ask your dog to roll over without any food and without your hand in front of his nose if he does it, congratulations! You’ve successfully taught your dog to roll over. Make sure to reward like crazy and get excited for him– he’s worked hard!
You could watch video below for some tips and guide how you could teach your dog to roll over.
While some dogs pick this up quickly, for many, it will take a few training sessions to get it right. Keep training sessions short, sweet, and fun for your dog. Happy training!