Called the most intelligent of dog breeds, border collies relish a mental challenge. Learning tricks provides mental stimulation and bonding time, while giving your border an outlet for his boundless energy, intense drive and desire to please. Roll over is basic trick that’s easy for border collies to perform. Use a high-value treat like diced cheese, hot-dogs or hard boiled egg when initially teaching this trick so you can be certain to secure your border’s attention.
Begin with the “down” position. Using a treat, lure your pooch from a sitting position into a down position. Reward your border collie when both elbows are on the ground and his rear end is down. Be prepared to reward your pup quickly, because border collies rarely stop moving for long. Practice until your border drops into a down when you start to move your hand towards the ground.
Introduce the “Settle” position. Lure your border into the down position, and instead of immediately rewarding him, continue to lure him around onto his side into a “Play Dead” position. The easiest way to do this is to place the treat in front of his nose and use it to guide his head back over his shoulders. As he reaches for the treat, he’ll shift onto his hip and then all the way onto his side. Reward him when his hip, side and shoulders on one side all contact the ground. Practice until your buddy readily shifts sideways onto his side. For some particularly spring-loaded border collies, you’ll have to reward the shift onto his hip, and then progress to rewarding the full on-his-side position.
Help your border collie master the physical act of rolling over. After your dog settles onto his side, use a treat to guide his nose across the centerline of his body over his hips. As he reaches for the treat, he’ll start to shift onto his back. Slowly pull the treat further away across his centerline, and he’ll flip all the way over. Give him the treat immediately and praise him enthusiastically. Don’t physically roll your dog over. Not only is this likely to scare your border; he’ll never develop the muscle memory and strength to perform the trick on his own if you do it for him.
Practice the rolling aspect of the trick until your border collie can easily twist himself completely over from a settled position. Because border collies are inherently agile and flexible, this likely won’t take very long. Once your pooch rolls over readily and confidently while lying on his side, begin to practice the move with your dog simply lying down. Always praise and reward your pup for proper performance. If you notice your border collie quits trying to complete the trick, you’ve probably gone a bit too far too quickly. Take a few steps back, and practice until your buddy is comfortable again.
Introduce the cue for the behavior. As you lure your pal into rolling over, cheerfully say, “Roll” or “Roll Over.” For a hand signal, moving your hand, palm down, over your pup’s head in the same direction you taught him to roll in, tends to work really well.
Increase the height from which you give the verbal command or hand signal. Because the nature of this trick means you spend a lot of time sitting or kneeling on the ground while teaching it, you have to gradually condition your pup to understand that the same trick can be done while you’re standing at full height. Go from sitting or kneeling on the ground to sitting on a chair to bending over to standing up straight.