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Have you been wondering how to teach your puppy to roll over?
Your new puppy is so cute and smart and enjoys learning and you’d love to teach him a few tricks. But where do you start?
You’ve seen dogs in commercials roll over and want to teach this to your pup.
In this article, I’ll outline the steps to teach your puppy how to roll over.
And I’ll describe other ways you can use this trick in your everyday training program with your puppy.
Why Teaching Tricks Is Important for Your Puppy To Learn
Of course you want to teach your puppy certain core behaviors, such as sit, lie down, stay, come, leave it, drop it, and give.
But teaching tricks is important too.
They help the bond with your puppy. And they give him confidence. They also help with his socialization.
After all, who doesn’t want to see an adorable puppy do tricks?
And all that mental and physical stimulation will help tire out your puppy.
The old adage that “a tired dog’s a good dog” still rings true.
What You Require To Teach Your Puppy To Roll Over
When training your puppy to perform any behavior, you should always have everything you need set up before beginning the lesson.
In order to train your pup to roll over, you need the following:
1. A quiet space with the correct floor surface
When training your puppy, always set him up to succeed.
So you should train in an area without distractions.
This means finding a location where other people and pets aren’t present.
And there shouldn’t be a lot of noise or scent distractions either. So don’t train with a loud TV on or even in the yard at first.
Hmmm…this is probably a good rule for when your children are learning. Note to Colby: don’t let the kids watch TV while doing homework.
Dogs have a “nose brain” and the scents on grass can be very distracting. You want your puppy to focus on you.
And you don’t want your puppy to hesitate rolling over because he might be pounced on by another canine or feline in the house…Or even by people.
So children or other people who can upset the training shouldn’t be present.
Make sure that you have enough floor space without obstacles.
He won’t want to roll over if he’s crashing into the chair or table.
It’s usually best to train the roll over cue on a soft, welcoming surface.
After all, rolling over on a hard surface like tile or wood would be uncomfortable. And you want to set your puppy up to succeed.
So practice on carpet, a yoga mat, or a flat dog bed placed on the floor.
Don’t place it on a high surface such as a bed or sofa or your puppy may fall off when trying to roll over.
2. Great treats
You want your puppy to be motivated.
The treats have to entice him to roll over and also be used as a reward after he does.
PRO-TRAINER TIP: Have a supply of great, yummy treats that your puppy can’t resist ready as a reward. They should be small, no larger than a pea. Always have your reward treats ready before giving your obedience cue.
It helps having a variety of different treats too so that your puppy remains focused.
3. Vet approval
Before teaching your puppy to roll over, you should check with your vet whether teaching him this trick is advisable.
Although most puppies can learn the trick, some shouldn’t.
If your puppy has certain physical problems, such as spinal issues, this might be a trick to skip.
Also, depending on when you’re planning on teaching your puppy to roll over, it may not be the right time.
If your pup’s recently had surgery, such as a spay or neuter, you should wait until your vet gives you the green light.
4. Set aside training time
It’s important to set aside enough uninterrupted training time.
Even though a puppy has a short attention span, he won’t learn with constant interruptions that disrupt the flow of your training session.
Each session shouldn’t be too long–five to 10 minutes at most. Always end on a positive note.
Try to do two or three sessions a day so that you’ll progress.
5. Choose your language
We usually don’t think about this. But choosing the cues and reward marker we’ll use during our training sessions is crucial to success.
I recommend saying “yes” as a reward marker which tells your puppy that he did what you wanted. Follow it immediately with his treat reward.
I say “roll over” as the behavior command.
The Steps To Teach Your Puppy To Roll Over
There are many steps you should follow in teaching your puppy to roll over.
Don’t try to skip steps and rush the process.
Some puppies will readily learn this, whereas others will feel vulnerable when rolling onto their back and take longer to progress.
1. Exercise your puppy
Take your puppy for a walk or play fetch prior to your training session.
You don’t want him to be too tired that he’s not excited about learning.
But you also don’t want him to be so bouncy that he can’t focus.
2. Remember to take it slow
The stages listed below may take days or weeks for your individual puppy to learn. Don’t rush the process.
He needs to be comfortable at the previous stage before moving on.
Teaching basic commands is important to his overall training not just to teach him to roll over.
3. Have your puppy sit
If your puppy can already sit on cue, you should move onto the next step.
If you’re just teaching him to sit, hold a treat just above his nose, slowly moving the treat toward the back of his head.
As soon as his rear hits the ground, say “yes!” and give him the treat.
4. Have your puppy lie down
After your puppy sits, have him lie down flat.
If he doesn’t already know this command, teach it to him before moving on.
If he’s just learning this command, teach it alone.
Don’t teach him to roll over during the same session. Instead, wait until he will lie down on your cue.
5. Kneel or sit next to your puppy
You want to be low, because bending over is hard on our backs and may be overwhelming or threatening to your puppy.
6. Lure your puppy onto his side
Hold the yummy treat to the side of his head near his nose and move it slowly towards his shoulder.
He should roll flat onto his side.
If he fights this, try putting the treat on the other side of his head near his nose and lure him onto his other side by moving the treat towards the shoulder on that side of his head.
Believe it or not, dogs usually prefer rolling in one direction rather than the other.
As soon as your pup rolls onto his side, calmly say “yes” (click if you’re using a clicker) and immediately give him the lure treat as a reward.
Just do this a few times, ending on a positive note.
7. Be consistent
Make sure that you’re consistent during each training session to lure your puppy in the same direction.
Don’t try to teach the other direction yet. He needs to understand the one cue or he will become confused.
8. Lure your puppy onto his back and other side
After your puppy’s comfortable rolling flat onto his side, continue luring him onto his back, moving the treat from his shoulder towards his backbone.
Once he’s on his back, continue luring with the treat so that he rolls 360 degrees onto his other side.
Say “yes” and immediately give him the treat.
Do this a few times, then end the session.
9. Start adding a verbal cue
After your puppy is successfully rolling around 360 degrees over onto his other side, start adding the verbal cue “roll over.”
Still praise and reward when he’s successful.
10. Begin phasing out the luring
After your dog understands and readily rolls over with the verbal cue, begin phasing out the hand lure with the treat.
Just start with the hand motion part of the way with the treat lure, praising and giving him his treat reward after he rolls over.
Then use the 360-degree circular hand motion and verbal cue without the treat lure.
Still praise and reward when he rolls over.
Then start using a partial hand motion half way around.
Praise and reward when he’s successful. Do this a few times.
If he’s successful, stop using the hand motion with the lure and just use the verbal cue. Praise and reward after he rolls over.
11. Start a random reinforcement schedule
After your puppy is successfully performing the cue every time, start phasing out his reward treat.
Of course, you can still praise him for his great work. Do this very slowly.
Give the treats 90 percent of the time, then 80 percent, on down until you give them occasionally.
If you phase treats down too quickly, your puppy will become unmotivated. Slow and steady wins the race.
12. Start adding distractions
After your puppy can successfully roll over on the verbal cue, start adding distractions.
Have someone walk in the room. Put the TV on before your training session.
Train in different rooms and areas in your house.
Have people watch him perform his great circus trick. You get the idea.
Increase the distractions only to the extent that your puppy can handle them.
If at any time he regresses, go back to the stage at which he was successful.
Remember to not perform this trick where children or other pets may interfere with the training.
13. Take your show on the road
After your puppy is successful in the home, perform the trick outside on grass.
Have him perform it at other safe places too.
Not all puppies love rolling over. But, with positive reinforcement, most can learn to accept–and even look forward to–the training.
I have some additional tips to help make your training successful.
Tip #1 – Capturing the behavior
Let’s assume that your puppy doesn’t love rolling over. Does he like to roll over for belly rubs?
If so, use that time to help teach him to roll over because he’s comfortable.
You can lure him over onto his other side when he’s on his back. Still praise and reward.
If he naturally rolls onto his back for tummy rubs, you can even make that into another trick.
When he does it, say a cue like “rub your tum tum.” The reward can be a treat–or even just the belly rub itself.
Tip #2 – Rolling in the other direction
After you successfully teach your puppy to roll in one direction, try teaching him to roll in the other direction using the same methods as described above.
Just make sure that you use a different verbal cue. I use “twirl” for the other direction.
You can choose whatever you’re comfortable using, such as reverse.
My Lhasa Apso Ralphie is my current trick dog.
He pushes a shopping cart, waves, begs, spins in both directions, heels with his head up, retrieves–and, of course rolls over. He’s an expert now.
He rolls over on cue, then rolls in the other direction on cue. I can even have him perform a few times in a row.
But I don’t want to overdo it of course. I don’t want him to become dizzy!
Tip #3 – Teaching your puppy to play dead
Of course if your puppy can roll onto his side as part of the training to teach him to roll over, you can add teaching him to play dead as part of his repertoire.
After he’s on his side, teach him to stay there by keeping the treat in front of his nose for progressively longer periods of time until you release him.
Start adding a verbal cue after he stays on his side for about 10 seconds.
I use the cue “bang” when I teach the dog to lie on his side.
Then, I add the cue “blanks” when I cue him to get up.
Praise and reward at each step.
As you did with the roll over trick, phase out the luring until you can just use the verbal cues.
Then go to a random reinforcement program.
My Lhasa apso Ralphie and golden retriever Riley perform this trick.
In the final trick, I say “bang” and the dog falls on his side.
When I say “they were only blanks,” they get up on the cue “blanks.”
With tricks, it’s often what you say that makes them funny.
Tip #4 – Keep the training interesting
Puppies are blank slates. They can learn many commands and tricks.
If you just teach your puppy to roll over, he will get bored.
So teach him other behaviors during your short training sessions too.
You can teach him to spin, to nose target to your hand, or to look at you on cue. The sky’s the limit!
Tip #5 – What to do if your puppy regresses or has problems
If at any time your puppy regresses, go back to the last step at which he was successful.
Then move forward again in your training sessions.
What if your puppy jumps up to get the treat?
Make sure that he’s had enough exercise prior to your training session so that he’s not too energetic and can’t focus.
He may also jump up to get the treat if you try to move too fast in the training.
Make sure that his basic commands are solid prior to teaching the “roll over” command.
He should do a solid sit and down without jumping up prior to teaching him to roll over.
And don’t forget not to panic and have fun with the training.
After all, training builds your bond with your puppy. And it’s just fun to be with him.
If by chance your puppy doesn’t learn to roll over, still respect him for his individual positive qualities.
And teach him other fun tricks that you both can enjoy.
You can even hire a positive reinforcement trainer to help you teach him his basic commands and tricks.
What NOT To Do: Don’t Try This at Home
Don’t physically force your dog to roll over.
If you push him harshly, he will probably fight in the opposite direction.
He may even become mouthy and not trust your handling.
How difficult is it to teach a puppy to roll over?
First, your puppy should perform a reliable sit and down on cue.
Then, if you follow certain steps to lure him onto his side, then over onto his other side he should readily learn the trick.
Of course, praise and reward your puppy with yummy treats.
Can an eight-week-old puppy learn to roll over?
I would advise waiting until he learns to sit and lay down on cue.
That may take weeks. Then, assuming your vet approves, you can teach him to roll over.
My dog loves to roll on his back and be petted. Can I use this to help him to roll over?
Yes! A puppy who is comfortable rolling on his back for tummy rubs is more likely to easily roll over when lured with a treat.
Teaching your puppy to roll over is more than just a fun party trick. It can build your bond with him as well as his confidence.
But, I have to admit, I love teaching this trick to my pups and showing it off to friends.
Have you taught your puppy to roll over?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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