How To Teach a Dog To Roll Over

How to teach your dog to roll over is just one of many fun simple tricks to teach your dog. Before you begin, keep in mind that your training sessions should be short and fun. This dog trick is deceptively strenuous and when you have your dog roll over, he will be using muscles he may not use frequently, so be thoughtful of how many repetitions you do. If your dog has a history of back injuries, talk with your veterinarian before beginning to teach this dog trick to find out if it is appropriate for your dog.

Before you teach your dog to roll over, you will need three things:

  • Lots of small pieces of high-value treat (like turkey bacon or freeze dried beef liver).
  • A quiet location where your dog can focus without a lot of distractions.
  • A comfortable and supportive surface. Work on this trick on carpet or a yoga mat if you only have hard floors in your home. The goal is to provide support and traction for your dog as he rolls himself over. 

Steps to teaching your dog to roll over

using treat to teach dog to roll over
Murphy Brown was given the cue to lie down with a freeze-dried beef liver treat to entice him. ©Melissa L Kauffman

Step 1: Cue your dog to lie down. If your dog doesn’t know how to down on cue, use a treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move your hand backward toward your dog’s chest and down to the ground until your dog is in a down position, then praise and treat your dog.

Step 2: Once your dog is in the down position, use a high-value treat and hold it to your dog’s nose. Then, slowly move your hand backward toward your dog’s shoulder. While you’re doing this, be sure your dog’s nose stays on the treat. As your dog’s nose moves back toward his shoulder, your dog’s body will start to flop sideways. When your dog is on his side, praise and treat.

teaching dog to roll over
Murphy Brown enjoys his treat after he was lured to roll on his side. ©Melissa L Kauffman

Step 3: When your dog is comfortably following the treat to rotate onto his side, keep your dog’s focus on the treat, and slowly move the treat back toward your dog’s shoulder. When your dog’s nose is on the treat his head and then body will follow the treat. As you lure your dog’s head back toward his shoulder, your dog will roll onto his back. As your dog follows the treat and rolls over, give lots of praise and treat your dog! 

Step 4: Practice, and when you are confident your dog will follow the lure and roll over, introduce the verbal cue of your choice like “Roll.” As your dog follows the lure and roll’s over say, “Roll” and then praise and treat your dog as he completes the roll over. 

Step 5: As your dog gets more confident with the behavior, phase out your lure (the treat) and transition just to a hand signal. To do this, first take the treat out of your hand and lure just with your hand and treat after your dog rolls over. Then, make your hand signal smaller. 

If your dog hesitates or seems nervous at any point during the process of teaching your dog to roll over, go back to the previous step and practice at that stage for a couple of sessions until your dog is confident. Then, move to the next step.