The roll-over command is a cute trick to teach your dog. And like any training session, teaching your dog to roll over is an easy way to build and strengthen the human-canine bond.
First, keep a quick and delicious reward handy. SuperStars Soft & Tasty Treats from NutriSource come in four nose-twitching flavors, including bacon, beef, cheese, and chicken. Our complete guide with in-house dog training expert Michael Boehmer will give you everything you need to get started, even if you’re a beginner at dog training.
Here’s a step-by-step look at how to get it done.
How to train your dog to roll over: Step by step
Roll over is one of the easiest tricks to teach your dog. To keep it safe, avoid performing this on large, deep-chested breeds. Also, dogs can feel exposed and vulnerable when they show their bellies, so make sure there’s a trusting bond between you and the dog.
Step 1: “Lie down”
Once your dog understands “lie down” as a command they should be ready to learn the trick “roll over.” Start by having them lie down. Once they do, kneel on the ground beside them and reward the behavior with a treat, and a happy voice. “Yes! Good job!”
Step 2: Move to their side
Taking a new treat, move it from the nose to the shoulder while the dog remains lying down. Get them to position their head toward the treat until they’re lying flat on their side. Reinforce with a treat and a “Yes! Good job!”
Step 3: “Roll over!”
Placing one hand near the hip and another by the shoulders, gently roll your dog to the opposite side. Before they flip say, “Roll over!” Once they’ve completed their rotation, make a big fuss with a happy, enthusiastic “Yes! Good job!” and reward the behavior with a couple of training treats. This positive end to the trick teaches your dog something wonderful happened.
Step 4: Practice, practice, practice!
As your dog starts to connect the word “roll over” with the action, you can “fade” the treats and the assists. Your positive, enthusiastic reaction to the job well done will be the ultimate “treat.”
Does rolling cause a dog’s stomach to “flip”?
Before you start training your dog on the roll-over trick, there’s an important caveat. Avoid the roll over trick on big, deep-chested dogs, like German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Rottweilers, Boehmer says, because it can be dangerous.
Because of their large size, their insides are less contained in the chest cavity, and prone to movement, he explains. So rolling over can result in a condition that’s called Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) — sometimes referred to as flipped stomach or twisted stomach.
What happens with GDV is the dog’s stomach does a 180- to 360-degree twist unto itself. As the trapped food and water ferments, it releases gas, causing severe bloating. It requires emergency surgery to release the gas and reposition the stomach. Without immediate intervention, a twisted stomach can be fatal in dogs.
Smaller dogs, with their contained and compact bodies, are far less likely to get GDV than larger breeds, Boehmer says. The trick should be relatively safe as long as your dog is comfortable with showing its belly.
Training tips for dogs from a pro
As you and your furry friend work to master roll over, use Boehmer’s tips to make training your dog easy and fun. Do what you can to set the stage for a positive experience, and your dog will be more likely to repeat the trick!
Read your dog
It’s important to understand that when your dog rolls, showing the belly is a big deal.
“It’s a very dominant position for a handler or a trainer to be in,” Boehner says. “The dog is absolutely 100% powerless. So there has to be a lot of trust between the dog and whoever’s training that dog.”
Showing the belly has a few different meanings:
- A sign of submission to their human. They’re saying, “OK, you’re the boss.”
- Sends a signal to a playmate, “Don’t worry! My growls and teeth are all in fun! I don’t want to hurt you.”
- The dog is feeling safe, trusting, and calm. Such as after a nap, when a dog lazily rolls to its back to request a gentle tummy rub.
Because showing the belly makes dogs feel vulnerable, don’t work on rolling over when your dog feels unsure or anxious in a situation.
If they resist or get up to walk away, don’t push it. You never want to create a negative association with the trick, and that can easily occur despite the best intentions.
Show your dog a great time
You may feel silly letting your inner goofball fly, but a happy voice and expression is a great way to reach dogs. Give him the big happy voice, show him a good time, and your message is clear: You’re really, really happy they just did that!
Dog training with treats? Absolutely
Dog training with treats is important. A delicious, meaty bite brings on all the good feelings after the fact. But offer a treat that comes in small bites, such as training treats. They’re quick to eat and low in calories, so you can get right back to training without the worry you’re over-feeding.
Is your dog making mistakes? Distracted? Not wanting to perform? Take deep breaths. Showing frustration is counter-effective, Boehmer says. That undermines your dog’s confidence and damages your bond.
Break it down
Think of the step your dog is getting hung up on, and come up with a way to divide that step into 2-3 smaller steps. Focus on that until they reach mastery.
End the training on a happy note
Transition to a trick or command that your dog’s already mastered, whether it’s lie down, fetch or sit.
Treat your superstar right
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