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How to teach your dog to roll over

Your dog probably already knows how to sit, fetch and give you their paw, but how about rolling over? It’s one of those tricks that’s so darn cute, but still quite rare to see.

So give your dog some bragging rights by teaching them how to roll over. Some of that kudos might even rub off on you too!

Why train your dog to do tricks?

Puppy and adult Rhodesian Ridge-backs rolling over

When you train your dog to do tricks, it’s not just so they can impress Mitzi, the poodle next door. Training has a range of benefits for you and your pup.

 

  • It’s bonding for the two of you – when you take time out of your day to train your dog, your pup has your complete, intense, one-to-one attention. What better way to get close and establish a deeper connection with your pet?
  • Every training session is also an obedience class – to be a good dog owner, you must be confident that your dog will obey your commands. Training sessions encourage your pup to understand that doing what you say has rewards.
  • It’s stimulating – dogs are intelligent creatures who are endlessly inquisitive. By engaging them in a training session, you’re igniting their natural curiosity and giving them something new to think about.
  • It’s fun – dogs love to please their owners, so they’ll enjoy getting involved in an exciting new activity that also involves treats.
  • It could help when you visit the vet or groomer – a dog who’s used to being handled and who obeys orders is more likely to react well when they’re being examined by a vet or taken in for a grooming session.

Training essentials

Before you get going with your training, remember the ‘Three Ps’ that make all the difference: practice, patience and persistence.

  • Practice – It takes practice for your pup to get the hang of any new trick. Don’t expect them to pick it up straight away. With a trick like the rollover, which involves a number of different steps, they’ll need time to get it right.
  • Patience – This is meant to be a fun, bonding activity for you and your dog. Keep it light and be encouraging at all times. If you tell your dog off for getting it wrong when they’re still learning, the whole exercise will be counter-productive and they’re more likely to slink off into a corner than roll over for you.
  • Persistence – If your dog doesn’t get it at first, keep trying. You’ll get there in the end! Little and often is the best approach. It’s far better to have a five minute session every day than to spend an entire morning or afternoon on training.

Reward your pup with healthy treats

Golden Retriever rolling over

To encourage new behaviour, you’ll need to reward your dog. Some dogs respond well to a clicker. Others are happy with a toy. When you watch tv shows about sniffer dogs at airports, they’re delighted to receive a rolled-up towel as their reward.

However, we like to rely on healthy food treats when we’re training our dogs. You can buy ready-made treats, or you could use fruit, vegetables or even pieces of a home-made peanut butter biscuit made specially for dogs.

The key is to have plenty of treats on hand and to use them as a reward after your dog has done what you want, rather than as a bribe to lure them into doing something.

The rollover trick involves several stages and you may have your hands full some of the time. So you might want to keep your treats in a pocket or in a treat pouch.

Three steps to winning the rollover

Choose a quiet room where you have plenty of space and where you won’t be disturbed

Make sure that your pup becomes proficient in each step before you move on to the next, and keep the ‘Three Ps’ – practice, patience and persistence - in mind.

  1. Ask your dog to lie down. Make sure their paws are stretched out in front of them on the floor.
  2. Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose, but don’t give it to them yet. Remember, you want to reward them after they’ve done what you want, not before.
  3. Move the treat to the other side of your dog’s head, so their nose, head and then body follow the delicious smell. Say: “Roll over!” as you do this. Your dog will automatically roll over. If they have trouble rolling over, start again with steps one and two. Then, holding the treat in your right hand, gently use your left hand to guide your dog’s body into the rollover.
At each stage, whenever your dog obeys your command, reward them with a treat. Eventually, after mastering each stage, your dog should get the hang of rolling over whenever they hear the “Roll over!” command. You could also add a circular ‘roll over’ hand signal to reinforce the message.

    And jackpot! Your dog has won the rollover.

    Rolling on to more new tricks

    Chocolate lab lying down

    Once your dog is happily rolling over for you, you can extend this trick into a couple of other areas.

    For next-level cuteness, teach your dog how to ‘Go to bed’ by covering themselves up with a blanket. To do this, first use a treat or a clicker to encourage them to grasp the corner of a blanket between their teeth. Then give the ‘Roll over!’ command and watch as they tuck themselves up in the blanket.

    The ‘Play dead’ trick is essentially the ‘Rollover’ trick stopped halfway. To get your dog to play dead, start with them on the floor, get them to roll over, then stop them half way when they’re lying on their back. At this point, give them a treat as a reward.

    Share the fun

    Good luck with encouraging your pooch to master the rollover trick. Please let us know how you get on by sharing your pictures with us on Facebook or Instagram. How long did it take? Which treats did you use? And how did it compare with home schooling the kids?

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