Two dogs playing dead on carpet

Key takeaway

Teaching your dog new tricks is a fun way to physically and mentally stimulate them. Teaching your dog to play dead starts with the “sit” and “lay down” commands and also incorporates rolling over.

How To Teach A Dog To Play Dead

Teaching your dog tricks is a great way to engage with and challenge them. But, it’s also a fun way to show off to all your friends and family just how much of a good boy your pup is. 

But if you want to go above “sit” and “stay” and want to teach your dog something a little bit more unique, playing dead is definitely a more complex command. While teaching your dog to play dead might not have any functional benefits, it’s definitely a way to impress your friends and family. Plus, training is enriching and fun for your dog. 

When a dog plays dead, they will flop onto their back or side, with their belly exposed and their paws out in front of them. They might be playing dead, but it sure looks adorable.

But how do you teach a dog to play dead? It’s actually not as complicated as you may think. To teach a dog to play dead, all you need is their favorite treats and some patience. You can teach your dog to play dead in 5 simple steps, which we’ll be discussing in the article below. 

In this article, we’ll be explaining in more detail the step-by-step process of how to teach a dog to play dead, as well as answer some frequently asked questions about playing dead. Continue reading the entire article to learn more about how to teach “play dead” to a dog, or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

Teach Your Dog To Play Dead In 5 Steps

You can teach your dog to play dead in 5 simple steps. But before you can get started with teaching your dog how to play dead, you need to have their favorite treats on hand and a clicker or verbal marker.

Their treats will be used as positive reinforcement whenever they do something correctly. This makes it more likely that they will repeat the behavior in the future because they know they’ll get a reward for doing something right. When using treats, make sure to also use a verbal marker (e.g. “Yes!” or “Good!”)  to ensure your dog knows they performed the desired action. 

You can also use a clicker instead of a verbal marker when teaching a dog commands. Clicker training is another method of positive reinforcement that uses a clicker in addition to treats. This method involves using a clicker that makes a clicking sound to mark every time your dog does something right. For instance, if you tell them to lie down, and they successfully do it, you’ll make the clicking sound and then reward them with a treat.1

Whenever teaching your dog a new command, it’s imperative to use some form of positive reinforcement. So now that we’ve covered the importance of positive reinforcement, here is the 5 step process of how to teach a dog “play dead”.

Graphic listing 5 steps to train dog to play dead

1. Cue The Lie Down Position

Before you can teach your dog to play dead, they first need to know the lie down command. Teaching your dog the lie down command is pretty straightforward. 

To teach your dog to lie down, they first need to start in the sitting position. Put a treat in between your fingers and hold it close to their nose so that they can smell it. Then, slowly lower the treat to the ground until your dog’s stomach is on the floor. Keep repeating this motion until your dog is fully on the ground. And once they are lying down with their elbows and hocks on the ground, you can then reward them with the treat.

Once your dog gets the hang of this motion, you can ditch the treat and replace it with the command “down” and the associated hand movement. Keep repeating this process until your dog can confidently follow the command and understands the word “down.” Then, you can use the hand movement verbal cue alone. 

2. Use A Treat To Guide Your Dog To Roll Over Onto Their Side

Once your dog is in the lie down position, you can then offer them a treat– but don’t give it to them yet. The treat will be used as a guide to get them to roll over.

Hold the treat at their nose and slowly move it from their opposite shoulder to their hip. This will cause them to lean backward in an attempt to reach the treat in your hand. When your dog successfully leans backward, you can reward them with the treat. Keep repeating this motion until they get the hang of it. 

Once you’ve practiced this a couple of times, then move the treat diagonally from your dog’s nose to their shoulder. This should entice them to roll over onto their back. Don’t reward them with the treat until they are completely on their back or side, whichever end position you desire. 

Once they’ve successfully rolled over onto their back a few times, try this motion without a treat. If you don’t use a treat, be sure to reward them for their good behavior with something verbal, like “yes” or “good job”. 

3. Add A Verbal Cue And Reward Performance 

Now that your dog has gotten the hang of how to roll over onto their back, you can then add a verbal cue, like “play dead” or “bang”. You can use any verbal cue that you like, as long as it’s something simple that your dog will understand. However, you’ll have to stop rewarding your dog for their “down” before moving forward to the play dead command. 

When your dog is lying down, practice the verbal cue with them with the treat in your hand to get them to roll over onto their back. If they successfully do so, mark and reward their performance with a treat. Practice this a few times until they understand the verbal cue. Make sure to say the verbal cue as they’re performing the play dead sequence so that they can make the connection between what you’re saying and their actions. 

4. Practice With A Hand Signal 

Once you’ve added a verbal cue into the mix, you can then add a hand signal. This can be anything you like, but many people prefer to say the verbal cue “bang” and then point their fingers in the shape of a gun. Using a hand signal will help your dog better understand the motion and what you’re asking them to do. 

If your dog gets the hang of playing dead quickly, you can make it more challenging for them by having them lie down for a longer period of time before rewarding them. Rather than rewarding them with a treat as soon as they lie down, wait a couple of seconds from when their back hits the ground, and then reward them. This will make the command more challenging and rewarding for them.

5. Repeat 

After you’ve chosen a verbal cue and a hand signal to use, repeat the above steps multiple times a day for a couple of minutes each time until your dog performs successfully each time. When it comes to training a dog, consistency is key.

Keep in mind, every dog learns at a different pace. One dog might learn the command in a day, and it might take another dog 2 weeks to get it down. This is why it’s so important to be patient during this process and move as slowly as possible so that your dog can confidently follow your words. Don’t force your dog to keep practicing if they seem tired or frustrated, as this is only going to make the process more difficult for the both of you. Only train them when they’re in an energetic and upbeat mood.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some helpful FAQs so that you can get a better idea of how to teach a dog to play dead and why it may be beneficial for them.

Do dogs like to play dead?

Dogs like to be challenged and played with, and teaching them to play dead is a great way to do so. Teaching a dog how to play dead can be very fun and rewarding for both the pup and their owner. Teaching your dog commands is also an opportunity for them to spend more time with their owner, which is definitely an added bonus for both of you.

Benefits of teaching your dog new tricks

Why should you teach your dog to play dead?

Unlike some other commands, like “sit” or “stay”, there are no safety benefits of teaching your dog to play dead. But, it’s a great way to engage with and challenge your dog. Teaching a dog can also benefit their mental and physical health. Learning tricks can help a dog build muscle tone and stamina, as well as increase their flexibility, balance, and concentration. 

Ultimately, teaching a dog how to play dead can be a great way to build your relationship with them and can help them feel more confident and comfortable with you.

What if my dog won’t play dead? 

Your dog may not play dead for many reasons, including distractions, stress, and a lack of motivation. They may also not understand what you’re asking, so consider going slower. 

Can any dog learn how to play dead? 

Yes! However, not all dogs should be taught how to play dead because it can be painful for them. For example, dogs with back pain will likely not enjoy learning this trick. 

Owner teaching dog a trick

Final Notes

Teaching your dog to play dead isn’t nearly as complicated as you think. You can successfully teach your dog to play dead in 5 simple steps. All you need is a handful of their favorite treats and a little bit of patience and they’ll be a pro at playing dead before you know it.

However, not all dogs can get the hang of commands so easily, especially if they have behavioral problems. If you’re having a difficult time training your dog and suspect it’s due to a behavior issue, such as dog anxiety, you should bring them to the vet to get checked out. And if you need help getting in contact with a vet, you can use Dutch.com.

Dutch is an online telemedicine service for pets that connects licensed veterinarians with pet owners. With Dutch, you can talk to a vet about your dog’s problem and get them diagnosed and treated efficiently from the comfort of your own home. Dutch partners with a network of qualified veterinarians who can help with a myriad of pet health problems.

All you have to do to get started with Dutch is submit a questionnaire detailing your pet’s condition, and you’ll then be connected with a vet who you can talk to in further detail. And if one of our online vets prescribes your pet medication, you’ll get that medication delivered directly to your door within 7 days. Talk about efficiency! Get started with Dutch today and experience pet care like never before.

References

  1. Staff, AKC. “How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 1 July 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/teach-your-dog-to-play-dead/.