How to Teach Any Dog to Roll Over No Matter Their Size
“Roll over” is one of the most impressive tricks your dog can do, and it’s easy to teach! If your dog knows “down,” they’re well on their way. If skill practice is in order, check out our step-by-step guide.
Begin with your dog in a “down” position
Don’t know a down yet? Give this a try:
Start working with your dog on a soft surface like a dog bed, blanket or grass to help them build confidence.
- Face your dog and ask them to sit.
- With your dog in a “sit,” take a treat between your fingers with your palm facing down, toward the ground.
- Allowing your dog to lick the treat, slowly lower your hand straight to the ground as if you were taking an elevator from your dog’s nose to the floor.
Is your dog still following? Great! When you’ve reached the floor, slowly begin to pull your hand back toward yourself until your dog stretches out and collapses into a down. Mark the moment that body hits the ground with a “YES!” or a clicker and release your treat.
Note that some dogs have other styles of laying down, like scooting their butt back or crumpling their body to the site.
Troubleshooting “down” for hesitant dogs
If your dog kept lifting their butt as you tried to lure them to the ground or pull them into the stretch, you’ll need to break down the exercise a little more:
- Lower your hand, palm facing down and holding a treat, halfway down the “elevator” to the floor.
- When your dog bends to follow the treat, mark the movement with “YES!” or a clicker and release the treat. Repeat five times.
- Lower your hand, palm facing down and holding a treat, all the way to the floor. Mark and reward when your dog bends all the way to your hand on the ground. Repeat five times.
- Now, try to get your dog to begin stretching out their legs. Lower your hand with (while holding a treat) then slowly begin pulling it along the floor toward yourself. Mark and reward any stretching-type movement of the front legs. Repeat five times.
- Continue to pull your hand toward yourself so your dog eventually slips into the full down position. Mark and reward when they do.
This short video from the AKC is a helpful visual guide to teaching the trick.
Fade out using your lure, and add your verbal cue
- Using the same hand position with palm facing down – this time with NO treat in hand – lower your hand to the ground and pull it back toward yourself along the floor.
- When your dog’s body hits the ground, mark, and reward. Repeat five times.
- Add your verbal cue. Say the word “down” then lower your empty hand with palm facing down to the ground. Mark and reward and repeat five times.
- Try using just a verbal cue now. Say the word “down”, then give your dog about five seconds to think about it.
- If they don’t lay down, show them your empty-hand hand-signal (do not repeat the word). Mark and reward when they lay down. Repeat until your dog is able to respond to the verbal cue alone.
Now, let’s add in the roll-over!
- With your dog in a down position, move your hand (with a treat in it) from your dog’s nose to their shoulder. If your dog follows the treat, they should end up leaning back on their side in order to get it. Mark, reward and repeat five times.
- Now, that your dog is comfortable in a controlled fall to the side, begin to slowly lure them onto their back by moving the treat past their shoulder and toward the floor. Mark and reward every early attempt and continue to encourage your dog until they can roll all the way onto their back.
- Once your dog can consistently follow the treat, try the same thing – moving your hand from your dog’s nose over their shoulder to the floor – with an empty hand. Repeat five times.
- Add the verbal cue “Roll over!” Begin by saying the cue, then immediately move your (empty) hand from nose to floor. Mark, reward and repeat five times.
- Finally, try fading out your hand signal. Say “Roll over!” and give your dog about five seconds to figure out what you’re asking. If they don’t respond, show them your empty-hand hand-signal. Mark and reward, and try again!