Roll Over – Teaching the behaviour

You are now going to work on teaching your dog to roll over, first with luring and then on verbal command. you will also  be teaching your dog to roll over in both directions and have a different command for each direction.

When teaching the Roll Over you will find that your dog has a preferred side that it will Roll Over on; this is common. It will mean that it may take a while longer to teach your dog to roll over in one direction than the other.

You will be using the Luring training technique to teach the Roll Over, so will need a good supply of treats to hand.

  • Have your dog lie down in front of you.
  • Entice your dog to tilt its hip in the direction that you wish your dog to Roll Over. To do this, lure your dog’s head towards the opposite side to the hip you want it to tilt. For example, to tilt your dog’s left hip, turn its head towards the right.
  • Once your dog has tilted its hip, move your luring hand lower to the ground so that your dog lies on its side.
  • When your dog is lying, begin luring your dog’s head in the direction of the roll. You may need to lure the head back towards your dog’s shoulder as you do this.
  • As your dog follows your hand with its head, the shift in weight will naturally start to roll the body.
  • Some dogs will roll naturally, some may need reward at various stage of the roll over.
  • With dogs who are struggling to roll, make sure to move your luring hand head from the first shoulder to the other one
  • Once your dog starts to roll, keep moving the reward to maintain the momentum of the roll. This will help your dog complete the full roll over
  • Reward your dog low so it is not encourage to stand up but stay in a lie down position

In the following video, Emily demonstrates these steps with Mozzie.

Roll Over – Fade the luring

The goal of the Roll Over trick is for you to be able to simply use either of the two commands that you have taught your dog, “Roll over” and “Flap” for example, to get them to roll to their left or right without you having to provide any other verbal or body cue.

So far you needed to be on the floor with your dog to lure it into the movement. The next step is removing the luring

Before moving to this step, your dog need to be confident with the trick whilst luring. Simply expecting your dog to now perform the behaviour with only the verbal cue without any body cue will almost certainly fail.

You need to fade the body cue gradually,

  • First you can start to lure with the hand movement but with no treats and reward with the other hand
  • Secondly gradually make the luring movement of your hand more and more subtle whilst coming it with your verbal cue.

This is best explained in the next video where you can see the body cues that Emily is using to help Phoebe now that she is no longer directly Luring Phoebe to perform the roll over.

Over time you will be able to start fading out the body cue so that your dog can perform the trick in response only to the commands, but you will need a lot of practice before being able to achieve this goal.

In the following video you will see that Leo is able to perform the Trick when he hears the command, but only in one direction.

As we noted in an earlier the Body Awareness Part 2: Roll Over, most dogs have a preferred direction when doing the Roll Over. Because of this you will need to modify your training accordingly. For example, you can continue to Lure and use food for the side your dog is less confident with but continue to fade the Lure and Body Cues when working the side that it is confident with.

If this is the situation you find yourself in with your dog, you can put more emphasis in training the difficult side but remember to keep working both directions. Do not simply concentrate on the side your dog is less confident with or you may end up switching the problem and you dog may no longer offer the trick in the direction that it used to like, it’s a very common error we do when training.

In addition, if you dog starts to roll over in the wrong direction and offers random side, Stop, Breathe and Think. Try to get a moment of stillness from your dog to make sure your dog is concentrating otherwise, just like with “Please” and “Thank you” you may end up having a dog who just offers either behaviour until it gets a reward rather than listening to the words.

Roll Over – Adding a verbal cue

You need two distinct words for the “Roll Over”, one for when you dog rolls to its left and another when it rolls to its right. As with the other tricks you have learnt so far, you can choose any word you like provided you use it consistently for the behaviour.

I words that I tend to use are:

  •  “Roll over” for the side the dog tends to prefer
  •   “Flap” for the other direction,

Emily uses

  • “Roll” to the left
  • “Polly” to the right.

When starting to introduce the word to the behaviour, your timing is important to help your dog associate it with the actual behaviour you want. In this case only give the word when your dog has rolled and is on its back. Any earlier and your dog may associate it with lying flat on its side (which is still a nice trick by the way!).

In this next video we have tried to introduce the verbal cue a little bit too soon as Mozzie is still not comfortable with the behaviour. However, it is a good example showing how Mozzie is trying to offer a few other tricks as he is uncertain. Emily is being very patient to guide him. It is a common behaviour for dogs to offer all their tricks repertoire if they do not understand or are uncertain about what we are trying to communicate to them.