San Diego Dog Trainer

Training your dog to roll over.

  • Have your dog start in the down position
  • Look at which hip your dog is laying on…that will be the direction she will roll over towards (it is physically impossible for her to do it otherwise – she would have to shift her weight to the other side first)
  • Try to get her to roll to the same side each time – she may prefer to lie on a side that is a little more awkward for you to work with..try to go with it anyways for a while – then switch if necessary
  • While she is lying down, drag a small easy to eat treat from the ground under her muzzle towards the outside of her elbow and stay very close to her body. Most dogs will push the hand with the treat causing your hand to drift away from the dog’s body. The result would be that your dog would lift her body up and her head would be in the wrong position to shape the roll over well. This movement to her elbow will keep the hips shifted in the direction you are trying to roll her.

THIS IS THE FIRST HARD PART:Say “YES” as soon as she moves in the direction you are looking for and give her the treat.

  • Think of your “YES” as a snap shot of exactly what you are looking for: timing is very important
  • If you “YES” too soon or too late you will be rewarding a movement that isn’t what you want her to learn (ie: head is too high up off of the ground or she is trying to stand up)
  • Use only the word “YES” to stop her movement (not “good girl”) and give treat after the “YES”. Do this several times as you want her to move quickly and easily in that same direction before moving the treat further along her back.

I usually use 4 steps or stopping points along the way to shape the rollover and reinforce the dogs with treats every time I say “YES” in the beginning. As the dog’s start to anticipate the steps, I can start saying “YES” after the dog has reached the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th step and give only one treat at the end of the trick.

Several successful approximations are needed at each step in order to build a strong response. Those small steps may be all that you work on for the first few sessions

Each step as the days progress will include:

  1. dragging the treat from under her nose to her elbow – again this rolls the hip and commits the direction of the rollover.
  2. then dragging the treat further along her side from her elbow to her shoulder by the back of her head– keeping the treat close to her body so that she shifts her weight onto her back – If she whips around the other way to get the treat, you may have been moving your hand too quickly or too far off her body.
  3. then about 45* off her body towards her back foot – this should get her to reach a little to get treat and cause her body to flop over to the other side. I usually add the words “Roll Over” at this point.
  4. The final step…as she is lying on her other side, drag the treat towards you and continue to say “Roll Over” as she completes this step.

When she finally does roll all the way over, keep the treat down on ground under her head and pull the treat slightly towards you in front of her at the end so that she really completes the roll and then say “YES” and praise the heck out of her….you can vary the intensity of your praises with the better responses.


When she rolls all they way over – she still does NOT know what the trick is…that was just one successful approximation that you now have to repeat with her many, many more times to be able to just say “Roll Over” and have her follow your hand signal. You are looking for them to anticipate your hand movements and verbal cue and beat you to it consistently!

All tricks have steps……it is just knowing how to break the trick down into small steps, be willing to teach each step to completion with consistency and clarity and work towards them slowly in short sessions. You can always do several sessions a day and by mixing in some playtimes you can work for several sessions back to back.

Have a great time dog training 🙂 Shannon