How to Train Your Dog to Roll Over
Training a dog to roll over will be either the easiest or hardest thing you’ve ever done. Dogs have strengths and weaknesses just like their owners. Some dogs take to tricks quickly, others have a hard time.
Luckily, there’s a long history of dog training–dogs have been used for everything from hunting companions to medical assistants. There are even dogs trained to detect tumors using their powerful noses. Training a dog to roll over is simple when you consider the complexity of some dog tricks–there are plenty of trainer-tested techniques to help you teach Rover to roll over.
Before you rush into training your dog, understand the ground rules. These suggestions are just “what has worked in the past.” This is not a Bible of dog training–that means if one tactic doesn’t work, you should simply move on to the next. Every dog takes to training methods differently, so you have to think of dog training as “guided play.”
Will My Dog Train Easily?
The one “telltale” sign of a dog that will take to training is obedience. Obedience plays the largest role in your dog’s ability to learn a trick or two.
Don’t be afraid of the word obedience. At its core, it is simply a measurement of the relationship between you and your dog. When you have a healthy relationship with your pet, your pet is more “obedient.” Obedient dogs are receptive to learning and willing to go to any lengths to please their owners.
Good dog training is not really “hard” so much as it is time-consuming. Good dog training is a matter of repeating behavior until it falls within the boundaries you would like. Simple “rewards” along the way condition your dog to the way you want your dog to behave.
Reasons Not to Train Your Dog
Not every dog needs to be training, and not every dog should be “rolling over.” Think of the act of rolling 0ver. The dog drops to its knees (or to its side), and rolls over on the ground. If you have a bad back or know someone with arthritis, you can imagine the pain this activity would cause.
That’s why it isn’t always good to teach an older dog the “roll over” trick. They are more sensitive to pain than puppies and may have specific health problems that rolling over aggravates. But it isn’t just older dogs that are sensitive to rolling over pain.
Small breeds are usually better to teach to “roll over.” The larger the dog, the less likely it is to not have a physical reaction to rolling over. The sad part is that your dog will likely perform the rolling over trick even if it causes the dog pain. That’s how loyal they are.
The only condition for teaching a dog to roll over is that the act not cause the dog pain. Watch your dog’s facial expression carefully for signs of pain during the lesson.
Training Methods for Rolling Over
There are two very effective methods for teaching your dog to roll over.
The “standard method” is the easier version for most amateur dog trainers, though many dogs actually respond better to the second method.
Here’s a simple breakdown of the standard method.
1. The dog should be in what is called “dead dog” position. “Dead dog” is when a dog lies completely on its side while it is awake.
2. Hold your dog firmly with both hands. Place one hand on the dog’s front leg and one on the back leg, both hands on the same side of the dog.
3. Gently (with a firm grip) turn your dog over from one “dead dog” position to the other “dead dog” position. The first few times you do this flip, your dog will probably attempt to catch itself during the roll. This is a good sign, and it shows that your dog is in the process of learning that this move is “safe.”
4. Remember to praise the dog during the roll. This is positive reinforcement, and will tell your dog that he is doing something you like.
5. Along with praise, say the phrase “roll over” during the roll. This teaches the dog the sound of the command. Believe it or not, it is common for dogs to respond to between 200 and 300 words.
Eventually, simply saying “roll over” will trigger the dog to perform the roll over on his own. This happens with repetition and positive reinforcement.
You can reinforce the roll over with food treats if you prefer. If your dog responds better to food, you might try a different method, though.
The second method, called the “food method”, uses positive reinforcement to teach the dog the physical act of rolling over itself.
1. Starting in the “dead dog” position, tempt the dog with a treat near his mouth, then move it away so the dog can’t “snatch” the food. Move the treat down the body past the front legs. The idea here is to get the head moving into the “roll over” position naturally.
2. As the dog leans to grab the food, move it across the dog’s back, away from the head. THis forces the dog to roll over to snatch up the treat.
3. Make sure to give the dog the treat after a roll over, and praise the dog.
4. Repeat this training multiple times until the roll over is a natural response to the presentation of a treat.
Learning how to train your dog is a lot like learning all about your dog. You don’t have to train your dog in order to “fully understand” it, but having a training relationship with your dog is a special thing that just the two of you share.
The simple formula for training your dog to do anything works just the same way. Praise, present a treat, and repeat the action over and over until it is part of the dog’s natural behavior.