How to Teach A Dog to Roll Over


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons).

Once your dog has mastered drop, you can progress to teaching him 'roll over'. As well as being a neat trick, 'roll over' can be useful if you, the groomer or the vet need to get a look at your dog's belly.

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Step 1 - Understand How Dog Training Works

Dogs learn just like humans, by trial and error. Their learning goes on whether we are actively teaching them or not. Dogs learn in 2 main ways - through classical conditioning, or operant conditioning.

When we are training our dogs to perform certain behaviours or tricks, we are using operant conditioning. This is where we pair the appropriate behaviour with a reward, which makes the behaviour more likely to happen the next time. If used correctly through positive reinforcement, operant conditioning can create a wonderful bond between you and your dog, and is so beneficial for their mental health and enrichment. Dogs will naturally seek to perform behaviours that have brought positive consequences, and will try to avoid behaviours that have brought negative consequences in the past.

Step 2 - Gear Up with the Right Dog Training Equipment

Before you start training, it's important to have the right tools to make your dog's learning a success. Everyone who will be involved in training your dog should use consistent techniques to help your dog learn quickly and effectively.

'Luring' and 'capturing' are 2 important words in dog training. 'Luring' means to guide your dog to perform a behaviour by using a tasty treat in front of his nose to get him to move his body into the correct position. The 'lure' is the treat. Capturing the behaviour means that you let your dog know that they've performed the correct behaviour the moment that it occurs. This can be through the use of a specific word or phrase, like 'yes' or 'good boy', or a clicker. This is then followed up by giving your dog the treat. The specific word, phrase or clicker becomes the 'bridge' between behaviour and reward, and becomes an indication to your dog to expect a reward.

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Best Dog Training Treats

There are a wide variety of treats available, but for every day training, we recommend choosing a treat that's soft and easily broken up into small pieces for a bite sized reward.

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Step 3 - Start in the Drop Position

Begin by placing your dog in the drop position. Hold a treat near his nose to capture his attention.

Step 4 - Lure and Capture

Slowly lure the treat in a C-shape from your dog's nose over one of his shoulders. As his nose moves towards his shoulder he should naturally cause him to flop onto his side. Immediately capture this with the clicker or a 'yes' and reward your dog with the treat.

Step 5 - Practise and Extend

After a few goes, repeat step 2 but continue to lure your dog right over onto his other side. Once again when he performs the behaviour you are after, immediately capture it with the clicker or praise word and reward.

Step 6 - Repeat and Fade the Lure

Repeat step 3 until your dog is responding readily to the luring gestures. Start to say the command 'roll over' at the same time as using the gesture. After some practice, you should be able to eventually drop the luring gesture altogether and just use the verbal command.

Further Reading

New Puppy Guide

Teaching Your Dog to Stay

Teaching Your Dog to Shake

Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down

Training Your Puppy to Walk on a Lead

Puppy Training Guide

Flea, Tick and Worm Prevention for Dogs