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Teaching Your Dog to "Roll Over"

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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The old adage "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is patently untrue – you can indeed teach tricks to any healthy and cooperative dog.

Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you. It's best if your dog knows (and can reliably perform) the basic obedience commands of sit, stay and down before advancing to tricks. Most tricks are built on these commands and your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.

If your dog has any type of arthritis or degenerative joint disease, check with your veterinarian before proceeding. Even simple tricks can place stress on joints that are painful and sore.

The success of training your dog relies on rewarding correct behavior. Rewards differ from dog to dog; for some it may be food and for others praise. Some dogs will do whatever you want just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn. Work with your dog daily in 5 to 15 minute sessions. Keep it fun and end the session with a reward. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.

To teach your dog to ROLL OVER, it is best to start with your pet lying on his side. The roll over trick can be a progression from the Play Dead trick. It's good to spend several sessions rubbing his belly and touching his feet and legs to prepare him for the next phase. Many dogs dislike having their limbs and feet touched and must first be desensitized.

Once your dog is comfortable, the goal is to have him roll from his side to his back and then to his other side in a quick motion. While he is lying on his side, give the command ROLL OVER. Take the front and back leg closest to the floor and gently pull your dog over to his opposite side. Stop immediately if you sense he is frightened or in pain having his limbs handled. Once successfully on the other side, give your dog lots of praise and maybe a treat. Continue to do this until your dog begins to understand that if he just rolls to the other side, he will get a reward.

Another method involves a using a food treat from the start. With your dog on his side, show him a food treat he really loves. Move the treat back past his head and to the opposite side. Make his head follow the treat and his body will follow. Praise and reward your pet for accomplishing the maneuver.

The way to success in teaching your dog tricks is patience, practice, praise, and persistence. Every step in the right direction should be rewarded as though he had just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – so should learning how to do them.

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