I’ll let you in on a little secret. For the longest time I thought that Missy would never get it. Her brother Buzz picked up the rollover trick in seemingly no time. He only needed a few weeks and I suspect that his goofiness played a major part in it.
Regal puppy Missy, however, would only complete a half roll for almost O N E year. Then she’d lie on her side and look at me as if to say “What? You expect more? Well, not today. Now give me my treat.”
I was ecstatic when she finally completed a full rollover. Pretty sure our neighbors heard my screams of excitement – but sometimes a few celebratory screams are in place, especially after a year of practicing… Ever since, it’s as if her “rollover” switch had been turned on because she now has this trick down pat.
Here’s how I trained it:
Step 1: Put Your Dog Into A “Down” Position
My first step in teaching the rollover trick was to put Missy (and Buzz, respectively) in a “down” position. We actually learned in basic obedience class that there is such a thing as a “bullshit down position”.
Our trainer Rhonda explained that a dog needs to look like he or she is resting in a comfortable position, and not ready to jump back on their feet within a millisecond. Turns out that I had taught the pups to associate “down” with being in a “bullshit down position” prior to our class, so we used the add on “all the way” to assume the relaxed “down” Rhonda was after.
Missy In A Relaxed "Down" Position
Step 2: Lure Your Dog Into Rolling Over With A Treat
The next step was to reach into my treat tote that I had clipped onto my pants, pull out a treat, and kneel right in front of Missy. I would then stretch out my treat hand so that she could clearly see the treat right in front of her face.
Then I would slowly move my hand clockwise towards her right side and continually move it in that direction until it would be back by my side, i.e. Missy’s left side.
I chose her right side only because that’s the side I wanted her to rollover on. You can also practice rolling around the other way, towards the left. Just move your hand counter-clockwise and start on the left side of your dog.
The ultimate objective here was for Missy to follow my movement with her entire body, causing her to flip over during that process. As mentioned above, it took us a little while to get there, so if your dog is a slower learner like Missy, don’t get discouraged and just keep practicing. She’ll get it eventually 🙂
Missy Gradually Moving From A "Down" Into The "Rollover"
My Treat Tote Filled With Lamb Treats
Step 3: Associate A Cue With The Rollover Trick
The idea in (trick) training is to associate a cue with the desired behavior, and in our case I wanted the pups to associate the word “rollover” with exactly that, them rolling over. You can use any word you want though, whether that be “act crazy” or “chair”.
Typically you want to say your cue right when the desired behavior is performed, but since it took us a little longer, I would say “rollover” after even the smallest motion into the right direction, and reward that motion with a treat and the praise of my happy voice.
Now that Missy knows the trick in its entirety, she is able to figure out what I want her to do when I say “Missy, rollover”.
I also added a hand signal to my voice command once the pups rolled over reliably. I simply moved my right index finger in a circle while saying “rollover” which the pups came to understand fairly quickly.
Side note: Hand signals are a great way of teaching deaf dogs tricks and obedience commands.
Missy Hearing The Cue "Rollover" & Being Treated Right After She Completed The Trick
Step 4: Don’t Forget To Have F U N Teaching The Trick
Having fun while (trick) training is super important to me AND of course also to the pups. They respond much better when I ask them to perform or practice a trick in a happy voice and a positive demeanor as opposed to an angry and frustrated one.
After all, who is willing to perform when being yelled at? It always boggles my mind when I hear people screaming and yelling at their dogs (usually to “come” or to “sit, sit, SIT, SIT &*%$“).
Do they really think that their dogs are more likely to respond when they are in a frustrated, aggravated state of mind? I guess they must.
Be that as it may, we are all about having fun when training a new command. When I’m not in the right mood to practice a command, I don’t even bother. There’s no point in trying to start a training session when other things are on my mind that preoccupy me. It would simply be a waste of time and energy.
Keep (Trick) Training Sessions Short
This one goes hand in hand with having fun. Training sessions don’t have to be long at all and are much more effective when split up in smaller increments, no longer than 5-10 minutes in length. I like to incorporate a session before breakfast and/or dinner and have found TV commercial breaks to be the perfect window of training opportunity 😉
No Training 60 Minutes After Mealtime
I never exercise the pups or train any behavior requiring physical movement up to 60 minutes after mealtime for the same reason I wouldn’t go for a run right after having eaten (hello, full stomach).
While I would “just” throw up, a dog’s stomach can actually flip on itself which is a deadly condition if not treated right away. This condition is called bloat.
You can read up more on it in my blog post When Not To Exercise Your K9 – Avoiding Bloat.
Any sort of training is a wonderful means of bonding with my pups, and BOY have we bonded over the course of training this “rollover” command…yes, Missy, this is particularly geared towards you. I’m proud of both of us for following through and not giving up, even when it seemed unlikely you’d get it.
Have you taught your dog the rollover command or another fun trick? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!