Have you ever wondered how to teach your dog to play dead? It’s really a fun trick that will impress your friends or family members when they come by for a visit. But like any trick, dog owners have to put in a little work to make their pets play dead on command. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you don’t really need much else besides some treats (and a clicker if you want).
Training Tricks To Teach Your Dog How To Play Dead
The steps are pretty simple. If you’re like most pet owners, however, you’ll more than likely need to repeat these steps quite a few times before your pooch gets it down.
If your dog doesn’t lie down on command, you’ll need to get them to master that first before you try this trick.
- Offer a treat to your pup – With your dog lying down on their belly, hold a treat they love close to their nose. Then, slowly pull the treat to the side. In order to get the treat, the dog will have to roll over onto their side.
- Give rewards and plenty of praise – Give a verbal cue that shows encouragement, such as “good boy” or “yes” when your dog rolls over on their side. Either that, or use a clicker. Reward with a treat and a lot of love as soon as your dog rolls on their side.
- Use hand signals – Once your dog rolls over a few times, add a hand signal or command, like “play dead” or “bang.” Again, you’ll need to repeat with the verbal cue and hand signal a few times.
- Phasing out the treat – After a while, your dog should play dead whenever you want them to – without you having to use the treat. Use the “play dead” verbal cue, but this time, don’t hold the treat. When your pup does what you want them to, give a lot of love and a lot of praise. Repeat this every time they do the trick correctly.1
Another Fun Way To Learn How To Teach Your Dog How To Play Dead
If you want to get a little creative, you could try the so-called “train by coincidence” method. Here’s how to do it.
- First, make sure your pup is relaxed. Go over and stroke their fur and tell them how much you love them for a bit to calm them down before you begin.
- Keep rubbing their fur until they roll over and want a belly rub. Keep giving a lot of praise while you oblige.
- While your dog is relaxed, add a phrase that they’ll learn to associate with this pampering, such as “bang.” At the same time, position your hand like it’s a gun, pulling your trigger finger. Say the “bang” word using a happy voice.
- If your dog raises their head, gently set it back down and say “bang” again, using the same “fake gun” hand movement.
- Get up and step away. Say “bang” and use the hand movement again. You may have to repeat this several times, but always give a lot of love and affection when you do.2
Dealing With Potential Problems
Some dogs might not want to engage in any kind of training, whether it’s learning how to play dead or anything else. If this is your pup, there’s still a chance you can get them to do this trick if you put in a little extra effort.
If, for example, your dog keeps rolling over instead of staying in the laying-on-the-side position, just step away from the session for a couple of minutes. Your pet may realize that the treat will only appear after they roll over. Only offer a treat when you get the behavior you want.3
There might be a chance that your dog just doesn’t “get it,” and can’t figure out how to lay on their side on command. This is where you might have to take matters into your own hands. Gently push your pooch over on their side, and immediately give the treat and some praise. If they jump up from the “dead” position too quickly, don’t give the treat as soon as they’re on their side. Wait a few seconds instead.4
How Do You Train A Stubborn Dog?
It can be challenging to try and teach a dog who just refuses to cooperate. But before you go out and hire a professional trainer or enroll your pet in training classes, try these steps first.
- Take it slow (at first) – One of the best ways to go about promoting positive behaviors is to be patient and start gradually. Heap praise and love – and give some treats – even when your dog accomplishes a minor success, like rolling over. It won’t be long until your pet figures out that a training session is something to look forward to.
- Eliminate distractions – Your dog might easily lose focus during a training session. There could be a squirrel outside the window, or there might be a dog barking on TV. Try to find a training area where you can have all of your dog’s attention. When training outside, where minimizing distractions may be more difficult, always keep your dog on a leash.
- Consistency is key – Even if your other family members’ intentions are good, dogs could easily get confused if different people try to teach a certain behavior in different ways. The end goal might be the same, but the paths to that goal could be confusing for your dog. If others in your house are going to be training your pet, make sure you’re all using the same commands and voice cues.5
The Many Benefits Of Teaching Your Dog Tricks
It’s fun to try new things with your pet. Not only is teaching your pet to do tricks fun for you, but most dogs love learning how to do them as well.6
While most tricks are solely for entertainment purposes, there are some that actually have a practical side. You could, for instance, teach your dog the “paws up” command as a signal that they want to get on your couch or on your bed for a snuggle. Shelter dogs who learn tricks might be more attractive to potential new pet parents. They see those dogs as not only being smart but also great companions. Last but not least, tricks give dogs a great way to get some exercise and mental stimulation.
As you can see, learning how to teach your dog how to play dead is not only fun for you, but for your beloved pet, too. Teaching your pup this new trick is definitely worth the effort.