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The essentials

  • “Roll over” isn’t the easiest trick to teach — There are a few parts to it, and it’s probably best to have a couple of other tricks under your dog’s belt first before you train them to do this one.
  • Positive energy is important — Since dogs are so eager to please, they’re sensitive to stress and frustration. Make your training sessions easier on both you and your dog by training them when you feel relaxed.
  • Pay attention to your pet — We don’t always notice health concerns immediately. Keep an eye on your pet during your training sessions, and voice any concerns you have to a vet.

Training your dog to “roll over” on command is a go-to favorite for many dog owners. Not only is it a fun party trick, but training is a great way to build a bond between you and your dog.

Here are some tips and tricks for training your pup to roll over.

Tips for training your pup

Before jumping in, let’s quickly go over some important things to remember when it comes to training your dog, no matter what it may be for.

Create the right environment — When teaching any trick, you want to find a place free of distractions for your dog. That means you should find a quiet space — ideally in your home — to get started. You’ll find yourself struggling to keep your dog’s focus if their ears or noses are preoccupied with appealing smells and sounds.

Pick your technique — Go into your session knowing whether you’re going to train your dog with just treats or use clicker training. You can also use verbal praise, such as “Good,” to mark correct behaviors. With either system, you must follow the marking sound with a tasty treat. 

Make a plan — Ten minutes is a good length of time for each training session. Decide when you want to have your roll-over lesson each day. For example, you could do it after your afternoon walk when your pet is relaxed. 

Be patient — While your dog might be rolling over on day one, it will probably take a few sessions. Don’t overdo it during the first session and jeopardize your dog’s willingness to learn the next day. 

Have a foundation — It’s best to first teach your dog how to “sit” and “lie down” before trying this trick, as you’ll need both commands in order to achieve it properly.

How to teach your dog to “roll over” in 6 steps

Some dogs learn this fun trick quickly and don’t need the process split up. But most dogs will need you to break the trick down into steps to help them learn it. 

Have your training reward on hand (a clicker, a treat, etc.), pick your location, and let’s get started. 

Step 1: Teach your dog to lie down 

The first step to the “roll over” trick is to get your dog to lie on the ground. If you haven’t trained your dog to lie down yet, your dog will likely follow a treat to do this command. Put the treat in your closed fist and bring it down to the ground. Once they follow it and lie down all the way, give the treat and mark the command. Repeat as necessary.

Step 2: Teach them to roll to one side

After your dog is lying down, you’ll need to get them on their side. Determine which side they usually lean on. (It’ll be easier to ask your dog to roll in that same direction.)

Hold a treat in a closed fist and place your fist right in front of your dog’s nose to ensure they know you have it. 

Slowly start to move your hand just above their nose and toward their shoulder. Do this gradually but steadily to maintain the momentum of your dog moving their weight to the side.  Reward your dog once they’re lying on their side.

Step 3: Have them complete the roll

Once your dog is on their side, put another treat into a closed fist. Continue the action of holding the treat just above their nose and moving it toward the side you want them to roll. 

Go slowly and let your dog follow the treat. As they complete the roll, hold your hand with the treat out away from the dog so they have to finish the roll completely to get it.

Step 4: Add the command

Once your dog is rolling over consistently, it’s time to attach a verbal cue to the action. Say, “Roll over,” then guide your dog into the roll using a treat. 

Continue practicing the trick using the verbal command with the treat guidance. This can also act as a hand cue, just remove the treat and make the “roll over” motion smaller and less dramatic as you go on.

Step 5: Remove the treat

Once your dog is performing this trick consistently with the command, the next step is to have them do it without the promise of a treat.

Give the command or hand signal, then wait for your dog to roll over. 

If they’re struggling to understand, grab a treat and get them to start the roll after your command. Then, pull it away before they complete the roll. 

Gradually remove the treat more and more until just the command is enough for the dog to complete the trick.

👉 You don’t want to remove treats completely, as this can cause a dog to lose interest. Interchanging treats, verbally saying good boy/girl, and giving pets can keep your pup excited about training as they’ll enjoy the different types of praise to come after.

Step 6: Continue practicing the trick

Now that your dog can follow your command or hand signal, raise the bar by gradually bringing in more distractions. Dog trainers call this “proofing” the trick. 

Try getting your dog to roll over outside, in public, or with others around. You can also let another person step in and give your dog the command. By changing the context for the trick in various ways, your dog will become rock solid in performing “roll over” in any setting.

Having trouble teaching your dog to roll over?

Most problems that arise when teaching a dog to roll over are the result of going too fast. If your dog is struggling to learn, the best solution is to slow down. Back up a couple of steps and proceed more gradually.

Here are some other problems you may encounter:

Your dog is struggling to get started. If your dog doesn’t seem motivated to try out this trick, there may be an issue with the reward. Grab a more exciting treat or switch to a favorite toy or ball.

Your dog is getting confused. If your dog is getting confused while learning this trick, you might have to adjust your training approach to be more precise and consistent. Even subtle differences can throw a dog off. You should also ensure that you’re providing the dog with a reasonable atmosphere for training. Remember: the fewer distractions, the better. 

Your dog is not doing the trick without treats. It’s normal for a dog not to want to perform a trick after you phase out treats. Simply bring treats back in and then re-attempt the treat removal more slowly. At the same time, offer your dog lots of praise and affection to reinforce the command.

Your dog appears uncomfortable. If a dog is dealing with arthritis or hip dysplasia, that can make a trick such as rolling over very uncomfortable — or even outright painful. If they seem especially reluctant to roll over, see a vet to determine whether your pooch is suffering from any health concerns.

👉 Dogs who are overweight can also have difficulty or be uncomfortable with rolling over. If this is the case, your vet can help you formulate a plan to have your pup shed some pounds.

Three tips for dog training like a pro

Now that you know how to train your dog to roll over, you might want to start adding more tricks into the mix. Use these essential tips to help you along your dog-training journey.

  1. Relax and connect — Training your dog to do tricks is mostly about fun. That’s the beauty of training for tricks, specifically. As opposed to obedience training, you’re teaching your dog a trick for the sheer joy of it. A good rule of thumb is this: if you’re enjoying yourself, you’re probably training well. But if you’re not having fun, it’s best to try again tomorrow. 
  2. Think like a dog — When training, always keep in mind that dogs are different from humans — nonverbally. So if you want to train effectively, be able to decipher a dog’s body language. Watch how your pup acts during training. Are they tense? Reluctant? Try a new motivation tactic to see if it entices them more, or see if there’s another reason they’re hesitating like discomfort somewhere.
  3. Lower your expectations — Every dog is different. Your dog will learn this trick at their own pace. Rather than focusing on how soon or how well your dog will perform this trick, try to show up to each training session without expectations. That way, you can meet your dog where they are. We all want fun and positive experiences for ourselves and our pets. But dumping our expectations onto a dog’s natural learning process only complicates the training.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to teach a dog to roll over?

The answer to this varies, as each dog learns at their own pace. Some dogs will successfully roll over in five minutes. Others, however, may require two or three weeks — and lots of extra patience! It’s best not to worry about the amount of time it’ll take. Simply enjoy the learning experience with your pet and keep your eyes on the prize.

Why isn’t my dog rolling over?

Review the troubleshooting section above for possible reasons. It’s common for some dogs to get confused about what their owner is asking them to do. There could also be issues with motivation or even medical concerns that need to be addressed. 

What age is too late to teach a dog tricks?

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Although they may need a little extra motivation, teaching an old dog new tricks like rolling over is a great way to revitalize your connection and stimulate your pet’s brain.

Can all dogs roll over?

Most dogs should be able to learn how to roll over. Give it your best shot. Read through the steps, take your time, and troubleshoot when necessary. And there’s nothing wrong with modifying the trick to something simpler, such as, “Show me your belly.”