Once your dog has learned the basic commands to sit, lie down and stay, he is ready to learn the advanced commands. Rolling over is usually the first advance command you need to teach him. It might look like a tough task at hand but it is pretty simple. The technique to teach your dog to roll over is a simple reward-based technique. If done correctly your dog will learn it in a few takes and then all you need to do is practice over and over again. It involves 3 simple steps:
- Setting up
- Teaching the trick
1. Setting Up
To begin with, your dog needs to know to lie down. This is important because rolling over can be done when the dog is lying down. If your dog does not understand this command, we recommend training him to this first. To further help your dog initially, you can start by making the dog lie on a side, it takes a little effort from this position.
Now to get him to roll over, you need his favorite treats handy. Treats that he gets for doing something special like cheese, lean meat, store-bought treats, or any other thing that he loves will do the trick. Break them into smaller pieces so that the dog does not get full quickly and lasts for the entire session. Keeping the dog hungry will keep him motivated to learn. If you are willing to invest more time and energy then instead of treats you can also teach him verbally. In case your dog is already clicker trained you can use that clicker noise to reward him. Do not use punishments to train the dog. Negative tones will push the dog to associate the trick with fear.
One last thing you need to begin the training is a good and spacious training room. A room where there are fewer distractions and the dog feels comfortable is where you should train him. You will need lots of floor space for the dog to move around.
2. Teaching the Trick
Begin with the lie-down command. Once your dog is lying down with stomach flat on the ground and paws near his head in front, you can begin the actual technique. Take a treat closer to his face while squatting in front of the dog. Make sure the dog can see the treat and smell it but not snatch it away from you. Be careful if the dog snatches the treats from your hand, firmly hold the treat by closing the fingers.
Move the treat up and then around the dog’s head while simultaneously moving it back towards its tail. His nose will follow the treat and usually with the nose the dog will rotate his entire body. Basically, you need to make the dog follow a path with the treat which causes him rollover. Say the command “rollover” in a loud and clear voice while moving the treat. We are trying to associate the command with the physical movement of rolling over. You can also make a signal using the hands for rolling over. A verbal combined with a physical signal will also work well.
To help your dog with the movement, use the free hand to give him a slight push. Few dogs resist the movement in the beginning but keep trying until he gets it. Reward his hard work with a treat when he rolls over correctly. For the treat, dogs tend to do anything. Initially, you might need to reward him when he is making efforts but not getting it right. Don’t wait till the end to hand him the treat. The dog may grow anxious and frustrated. Keep praising him for the efforts in an excited voice.
Understanding when and how to reward the dog is also crucial. In the beginning, you can treat him every time he rolls over, it will reinforce the new behavior. It will help him understand what action is making you give him a treat and he will keep on repeating it. After a few successes, he will start rolling over without any help and will not need you to move a treat over him or even give him a physical push. Stand in front of the dog and command him to roll over; if he does so himself then reward him again and praise him with a pat.
All you need to do now is to make him practice this over and over. After a couple of days, when the dog knows what to do when you command rollover, you need to remove the treats from the scenario. Stretch the time between treats and offer a less appealing treat. Continue praising him verbally. Start practicing in different locations and at random times. Once your dog has mastered the trick, practice with other people around him. Ask everyone around to praise him loudly. You can also ask other people to give him this command after a while.