How to Teach a Dog to Roll Over

by Bethel Farms on Oct 31, 2022

How to Teach a Dog to Roll Over

Did you know that teaching a dog new tricks is actually beneficial for its physical and mental health, as well as your relationship? Sure, tricks are cute, but even the "silly" ones serve a purpose!

One fun trick is having your dog roll over. If you've tried teaching your dog this trick by pushing it onto its side when it lies down, however, you know it's not that easy. 

We're here to talk about how to teach a dog to roll over. Read on to learn more.

Supplies to Have On Hand

If you're lucky and your dog is incredibly smart, you won't need anything to help your dog learn how to roll over. Most people, however, need supplies to make the training process easier. 

You don't need anything extensive. 

Make sure there's a soft surface for your dog to roll on. While dogs are comfortable on hard surfaces, if you're training your furry friend to do something new, you want to create as ideal of an environment as possible.

Carpet is good, but if your carpet is thin (or if you have harder floor surfaces), consider getting a soft area rug or yoga mat for your dog to practice on.

You're also going to need something to motivate your dog. For most dogs, this means treats. What types of treats make your dog more willing to do what you ask them to do?

Pick something that your dog loves, and get ready to start training!

Helpful "Pre-Requisites" for Teaching a Dog to Roll Over

You want to make sure your dog knows the basics before you move on to something more frivolous like rolling over. Rolling over isn't usually for the safety of the dog. That doesn't mean that it's not useful (after all, training your dog with interesting tricks is enriching for them), but it's not your top priority. 

Other skills will also make it easier to teach your dog how to roll over.

If your dog doesn't know how to lie down yet, it's missing an important step in the process! Your dog will lie down when you start to train them. Because of this, laying down is a prerequisite for rolling over.

Your dog should also be able to focus. Young puppies often struggle to learn how to roll over because they have a hard time calming down! When your dog is old enough to start understanding instructions, it's ready to learn how to roll. 

Start In a Calm Environment

You want as few distractions as possible when you're teaching a dog how to roll over. Even the most focused dogs have short attention spans, especially if there's something far more interesting to look at somewhere in the background. 

A quiet room is best, but if you don't have space indoors, going outside s okay if you can find somewhere free from foot traffic. It will always be more distracting outside, but you can do your part to minimize those distractions. 

It's also a good idea to make sure that your dog has already gotten some of its rambunctious energy out of the way! Training time should be fun for your dog, but it's not the same as playtime. If your dog has too much energy, it will struggle to pay attention to you.

o for a long walk or throw some toys around. Give your dog some time to relax after it plays and then get to work. 

Get Your Dog to Lie Down

Now that it's time to get started, you're going to get your dog to lie down. Give it whatever command you use for this trick. 

It's also ideal to use a treat from the get-go. You won't be giving it to your dog for lying down (unless it's a new skill), but you want the dog to follow the treat when it's time for the next step.

The dog needs to know that there's something tasty at stake! A treat will also capture their attention. 

Encourage Your Dog to Roll Onto Their Side with a Treat

Now that your dog is lying down, you're going to encourage it to roll onto its side. Pay attention to your dog's legs. You want to encourage your dog to roll on the side with the least resistance, so if there's a leg in the way on one side, choose the other side.

Think of the trick as a circle. You want your dog to get a quarter of the way around the circle. It's tempting to encourage your dog to go all the way, but this can be too confusing.

Put the treat in front of your dog's nose. Don't give your dog the treat yet. Instead, move the treat in an arc motion back toward your dog's shoulder.

Your dog might be confused at first. If it doesn't move, bring the treat back to the front and try again. The end result of this should be that your dog rolls onto its side.

Reward the dog with the treat and let it return to its starting position. 

You're going to practice this several times until your dog gets the idea. Always praise your dog and give it a treat so it understands it's doing a good job!

Move from the Side to the Back

Once your dog has figured out how to roll onto its side, you're ready to move to the next step! You're still not going to have your dog roll over all the way. If we bring back the circle idea, your dog is going to be halfway around the circle.

In other words, it's rolling onto its back.

Get your dog to lie down again. Again, you want to hold the treat in front of your dog's nose and move it back toward its shoulder. This time, however, you'll keep moving the treat until your dog follows it until it flops onto its back. 

Once your dog is on its back, give it a treat and praise it. 

Again, you're going to repeat this process several times until your dog understands what to do. You're almost done!

Finish the Roll

It's the final stretch. Your dog is now comfortably rolling onto its back and it's ready to finish the trick. 

Have your dog start lying down and bring the treat around until your dog is, again, lying on its back. Instead of giving the treat to the dog, continue the motion until your dog is on its other side. 

Some people prefer to wait until their dogs have flopped all the way back onto their bellies, but this is a personal choice. Often dogs will stand up on whatever side is most comfortable for them. 

Once your dog finishes this motion, associate it with a command. Most owners use "roll" or "roll over," but if something else makes more sense to you, it's fine as long as it's a word that will be memorable and easy to identify for your dog.

From this point on, use the command every time the dog is completing the motion. Do it as the dog is rolling over. Eventually, your dog will respond to the command with the motion, but for now, you want to help it understand. 

It's a good idea to continue training your dog how to roll over with treats a few times per day every day until it becomes second nature. 

Transition Away from Treats

If you gave your dog treats every time it did something right, it would gain weight! Eventually, you're going to have to stop rewarding your dog with snacks. You should, however, continue praising the dog. 

You can use hand motions instead of treats at first. The dog will follow your hand in a circular motion even if there's not a treat there. It may feel like a betrayal to your dog when you first start doing it, but as long as you reward your canine companion with praise, everything will be fine. 

You can then move to doing the motion in front of your dog or just giving the command.

It will take time. Be patient with your dog. Learning is tough!

Practice Makes Perfect

Most dogs need to practice tricks often in order to retain them. Continue practicing a bit every day even if you think your dog understands how to roll over already. Dogs have good memories, but they can still forget how to do things. 

If your dog forgets, it's okay to bring treats out again. Even if your dog hasn't forgotten, the occasional treat can keep it motivated! 

Things to Consider

So what else should you know when you're trying to teach your furry friend how to roll over? Here are a few things to consider both before and during the process of training a dog. 

Talk to Your Vet

It's always a good idea to talk to your vet before you teach your dog a "complicated" trick. While rolling over isn't too difficult, it's possible that it could harm your dog under certain conditions.

Elderly dogs, for example, may experience minor injuries from rolling over. This is also true for dogs who've had recent surgery and dogs with back problems. 

If your dog is one of the breeds that's predisposed to back problems, ask your vet if it's safe (even if your dog is still a puppy). 

Don't Overwhelm Your Dog

Your dog only has a limited capacity for learning every day. Make sure you're not over-training it. 

It's tempting to spend hours teaching your dog its new trick, but this isn't as productive as you think. If you overwhelm your dog, it might experience information overload. Your dog can get frustrated and give up altogether (and frustration may lead to bad behavior).

Try short bursts of training. When your dog is in a good mood, train it for a few minutes at a time. When you can tell your dog is losing interest, take a break and do something else (after a reward, of course). 

Take Your Time

Training takes time.

Some dog breeds are fantastic at learning new tricks. They can pick up a new skill in a day, especially if they're still young.

Most dogs need time to learn something new. Consider how hard it is for you to learn a new skill.

While rolling over seems simple to you, you're trying to train your dog to do something that has no real purpose. It's going to take time for your dog to understand that they need to do it, and there will be times when your dog forgets how. 

Keep It Fun 

Dogs like to work, but they also like to play. Training a dog to roll over can (and should) resemble playtime. 

Keep things light and fun. Use a positive tone when you're commanding and rewarding your dog. Remember that even if your dog does something wrong, it's trying to please you!

When you're done training the dog for the day, start playtime. Even if it's just for a few minutes. This way, you associate training with fun instead of frustration.

That's How to Teach a Dog to Roll Over

Figuring out how to teach a dog to roll over is trickier than teaching it how to sit and stay! It's a difficult process, but with enough time and commitment, your furry friend will be rolling over on command.

What other tricks will you teach your dog? 

Are you trying to train your dog to pee outside, but normal puppy pads aren't working? Try Gotta Go Grass! It's real grass that you keep inside for your dog's potty needs. 

Check out Gotta Go Grass today and you'll never use a puppy pad again.

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