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Imagine standing in your living room among a group of your friends. Your Jack Russell Terrier is in the center of the room, staring at you eagerly, waiting for your next command. You tell him to "roll over" and he drops to the floor, and flips over, then jumps back up again, smiling at the crowd, clearly enjoying all of the attention and treats.
That might seem like a simple, easy thing to imagine, but that is exactly the point. Teaching your dog to roll over is very attainable. It is adorable, fun, and provides a great foundation for other tricks like 'play dead' and rolling up into a blanket.
Training your dog how to roll over is not only fun, helpful for training future tricks, and great for entertaining, it is also a great way to mentally and physically stimulate your pup and to burn off some of his pent-up energy.
While training this, choose the method that will be the best fit for your dog. If your dog is extremely toy motivated, then you might want to use 'The Tug Method'. If your dog does not like being touched, then 'The Flip Method' is probably not for you. If your pup loves food, then 'The Lure Method' might yield the quickest results.
If your dog is not comfortable being touched, has ever been abused, has ever shown any form of aggression, or struggles with fear and timidity, then do not choose 'The Flip Method' because it involves gently rolling your buddy onto his back for a second.
Remember to reward your dog for progress and not only the final result. He might be reluctant to roll all the way over at first. Praise and reward him for progress and effort toward rolling over though, so that he will continue to get closer to the desired behavior as you practice.
Many dogs are uncomfortable with or afraid of rolling over on a hard surface. You are more likely to succeed at training this if you teach your dog how to roll over on a softer surface such as carpeting, grass, or an area rug.
To get started you will need lots of small treats that your dog loves. You will also need a semi-soft surface to practice rolling over on, such as grass, carpeting, or a rug. Your dog will also need to know the 'down' command before teaching this. If you are using 'The Tug Method' then you will also need a tug of war toy that your dog loves. If you are using 'The Flip Method', you will also need gentleness. With all of the methods, you will need a positive attitude, ample praise, and patience.
The Lure Method
To begin, tell your dog "down". When your dog is lying down, touch a treat to his nose and let him sniff it for a second. While he is sniffing the treat, slowly move the treat from the front of his body toward the side of his shoulder, while telling him "roll over". Keep the movement slow enough for him to follow the treat with his head.
If your dog swings his legs and hips out to the side to get into the side lying position when you move the treat, then praise him and give him the treat when he does this. If he does not move, then repeat moving the treat from the front of his body toward his shoulder until he moves his body, so that he is lying a bit more on his side than he was before.
Repeat moving the treat from his nose toward his shoulder, and rewarding him whenever he swings his hips out, to lay on his side more. Encourage him to get up between tricks, so that you can practice the entire process. Do all of this ten times, or until he begins to lay on his side right away or as soon as you start to move the treat or as soon as you tell him to roll over.
When he begins to swing his hips out and lay more on his side, then repeat moving the treat from the front of his body toward his shoulder, but this time continue to move the treat past his shoulder and toward his spine and far shoulder. Do this so that he has to stretch his head around his body and begin to roll his body a bit.
When he stretches his neck all the way across his shoulder and starts to roll a little bit in that direction to get to the treat, praise him and reward him with the treat.
Repeat moving the treat from the front of his body toward his spine and far shoulder, until he will quickly follow the treat in that direction and will roll onto his side or back a bit in order to reach the treat.
When your dog will reach across his body and begin to roll onto his back or side while reaching for the treat, then move the treat from the front of his body, across his shoulder, towards his far shoulder, and a couple of inches past his far shoulder, so that he has to roll his body further in that direction. Gradually increase the number of inches that you move the treat past his body as he improves. Increase the number of inches until he has to roll completely over in order to get the treat.
The first time that your pup rolls all the way over, make a big deal out of it. Praise him and offer him five treats, one treat at a time, then practice rolling over until he can do it consistently.
Phase out treat lure
When your pup can roll over consistently, remove the treat from your hand, but make the same hand motion that you did before, when the treat was in your hand. Practice this until he will follow your hand motion without a treat inside your hand.
When Fido will follow your hand motion and verbal command, then gradually add distance between you and your dog. Do this by gradually standing up a bit more every time that you practice the hand signal and command. Do this until you can give your dog the command and hand signal while in the standing position and he will roll over.
The Tug Method
To begin, choose a Tug of War toy that your dog loves. Tell him "down", and tug the on the toy with him while he is in the down position. If he stands up, then stop the tugging and tell him "down" again. Repeat this every time he tries to get up while playing.
Move the toy
When Buddy will stay in the down position while playing, then move the tug toy from the front of his body toward his shoulder while he is holding onto it. Tell him "roll over" while you are doing this, then praise him and continue playing afterwards.
Start the roll
After a few repetitions of moving the toy toward his shoulder, move the toy again, but this time move the toy past his shoulder, so that he has to roll a bit in order to hold onto the toy. Continue to tell him to roll over every time.
Continue the roll
After a few repetitions of moving the toy past his shoulder while your pup holds onto it, begin to move the toy even further past his shoulder, flipping your pup all the way over. Do this while telling him to "roll over".
When your dog rolls over while holding onto the toy, praise him enthusiastically and offer him a treat.
Practice rolling your dog over at least twenty-five times while playing with him, telling him to "roll over" each time. Praise and reward him after each roll.
Hold the toy
After your pup has rolled over at least twenty-five times, then ball the tug toy up into your hand, close your hand around it, and move the toy in your hand from the front of our dog toward his shoulder, like you did before while playing Tug of War. This time when you move the toy do not let him grab onto it. When he rolls over while following your hand, tell him "roll over", and reward him when he does. If he does not roll over the first time that you do this, then simply repeat it until he does.
Remove the toy
Repeat moving the toy across your dog's shoulders at least ten times. After ten repetitions, remove the toy from your hand completely, then simply move your empty hand across your dog's body while telling him to roll over. Repeat doing this, until your dog will roll over consistently in response to just your verbal command and hand motion.
Gradually stand up a little bit more every time that you practice 'roll over' with Buddy using just your hand motion and verbal command. Do this until he will roll over when you tell him to from a standing position. Practice the command with the hand motion and without the hand motion, until he can do it both ways.
The Flip Method
Roll onto side
To begin, tell your dog "down". When he is lying down, gently move him onto his side while telling him to "roll over", then praise him, give him a treat, and allow him to get up. Only use this method if your dog is very comfortable being handled and has never shown any forms of aggression.
Practice rolling your dog onto his side from the 'down' position, and giving him treats, until he begins to go to his side after he lays down when told to roll over. When he gets to that point, when he is on his side, gently roll his body all the way over, while telling him to "roll over", so that he is doing 'roll over' with your help.
After you roll him over, praise him enthusiastically and give him three treats, one at a time.
Practice rolling him over while telling him to roll over, until he continues to roll over on his own as soon as you start to roll him.
When he continues to roll over on his own when you start to move him, then gradually decrease the amount of physical help that you give him. To do this, when he is on his side, tell him to "roll over", wait five seconds, and then begin to roll him. If he starts to roll on his own while you are rolling him, then remove your hands from him and let him finish the roll on his own. Repeat all of this until he will roll over during the five seconds after you have given the command, before you move him.
When Fido can roll over on his own when told to, then practice it until he can do it consistently. When he can do it consistently, begin to gradually stand up while giving the command. Stand up a couple more inches every time that you practice 'roll over' with him. Do this until you are standing up completely, and he will obey your command when you give it from a standing position.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021