What could be cuter than a puppy rolling over to ask for a belly rub? And I don’t know anyone who isn’t happy to oblige. Any pet parent that trains with me knows I am not a “treat trainer” meaning a don’t have a fanny pack filled with liver treats. But I will never hesitate to give a dog a generous amount of genuine affection. Affection is my choice of “tools of the trade” and is not only the greatest training method of reward but also the only reward shared by the pet parent or trainer and the dog!
That said, does your dog live for belly rubs, or does your dog use belly rubs to avoid doing what you want him to do? Has your dog learned that his rollover instantly gets our oh-so-obedient belly rub response? Does belly rub override everything else and take precedence over doing what is asked of him? Ask yourself who is in control and who is being manipulated through conditioning to show a specific response.
Putting adorable aside for now, when your dog rolls over instead of correctly responding to sit/stay, putting on his collar and leash, or walking on a leash in the direction of your choice, then belly rub is the “cherry” and doing what he wants instead of what you want is the “cake.”
If your puppy is around twelve weeks old or older, and this is the behavior he is demonstrating, the sooner you address that behavior, the better. The good news is, that belly-up manipulation is a puppy behavior and can be modified with a bit of self-control on your part.
Start with something that offers incentives like going for a walk. If you’re ten feet from the front door and your puppy rolls over, do NOT rub his belly and sweet-talk him with “good boy.” Even if your puppy doesn’t roll over but lies down as an attempt to get your attention and not keep walking, gently pick him up to a standing position, back up and call his name, try using a squeaky toy to get his attention, and keep him moving. If your puppy lies down on the walk, squat down facing your puppy at leash length, call him to come to you, and then keep walking.
NEVER PULL YOUR PUPPY. Encourage the correct behavior and not the cute one.