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How To Teach a Dog To Play Dead In 7 Simple Steps

Visnja Radosavljevic

By Visnja Radosavljevic

Bulldog playing dead in the grass

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“Play dead” is among the favorite tricks of many dog parents. Although it’s not a typical command such as sit, play dead is a quirky, cute way to bond with your dog and show off your fun side.

This trick is not hard to learn, but your canine will need to know the basic commands of lay down and stay to be able to play dead. If your dog knows those tricks, playing dead will be pretty simple. Doggies that still don’t know the basic tricks will need to learn them as the starting point in adopting the new “play dead” command.

Considering your canine knows how to stay and lay down, playing dead will be easy if you follow the steps below.

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The 7 Simple Steps to Train a Dog to “Play Dead”

1. Prep the Treats and Consider the Side Your Dog Likes To Lay On

Before starting the actual training process, you’ll need to prepare the treats that will help you to gain your puppy’s attention, and they’ll be an excellent reward after a job well done. Another thing you should do is consider which side your dog likes to lay on, as that will make the trick learning quicker.

Most dogs prefer to roll over or lay on one side, and you’ll easily notice that during your daily activities. You should remember that while teaching your dog to play dead because it will be easier for your canine to adopt the trick.

homemade dog treat biscuits
Image credit: Susan Schmitz, Shutterstock

2. Choose an Adequate Setting

Another crucial step in your training preparation is to choose an adequate setting where your dog won’t have any distractions. It’s best to practice in a calm, comfortable and quiet environment so that you can be your pup’s primary focus. That way, its attention span will be on you, making the trick learning simpler.

It’s also helpful if your canine is relaxed for the training, so it might be beneficial if you play or exercise with your furry friend prior to the training session. That will allow the dog to use up its energy and be more concentrated on you and learn the new command.

3. Get Your Canine in the “Down” Position

The first step in the actual training process is to get your dog in the “down” position. You should use the verbal cue and hand gesture your pup’s already used to and reward it as soon as it lays on the ground.

This position is crucial in playing dead, as it will be easier for your furry friend to lay roll over on its side while in the lying position.

old dog lying on the grass
Image Credit: Eder Andrei Poma, Pixabay

4. Help Your Dog and Coax Them Onto Their Side

Take another treat and hold it in your hand, putting it just a couple of inches above your pup’s head. Bring it to the side, luring the dog to roll over while following the treat. Don’t reward your pup until it gets in the wanted position, which is either lying on its side or on its back.

This part of the process can sometimes be challenging, and some dogs need more coaxing than others. It’s important to be patient and allow your dog to adapt at its own pace. As long as you’re relaxed and comfortable, your pup will pick up your energy, allowing it to feel secure during the process.

Once the dog is in the position you need him to be, encourage it with a treat and praise its good behavior verbally, saying things such as “good dog,” “great pup,” or “ok.”

5. Repeat Several Times

Before starting the rest of the play dead training, repeat the first part of the process a couple of times until your dog is completely comfortable with that action. Ensure you reward your pup every time to help it connect the position with positive thoughts.

This part of practice will help your dog to fluidly move from one position to the other, which is crucial when mastering the play dead trick.

6. Add a Verbal and a Visual Cue

Once your furry friend automatically lays on its side when it notices the treat in your hand, it’s time to add a verbal cue you feel is the most appropriate. Typically people use words such as “bang” or “pow,” but you can adjust this to you and your dog.

At this stage of training, your pooch should feel comfortable performing the position with the verbal cue and without a treat each time. That will take time, so patience is the key to successful training.

After the verbal cue, it’s also time to include a visual cue to make the trick more believable. Combine both cues together as the dog might not react to the visual cue without the verbal one in the beginning. Commonly, people go for a pistol shape with their hands, but again, it should be something that works for you and your pup.

Practice using both cues, but be patient and don’t force your dog. You have to remember that this is a learning process and that every pup adapts differently.

7. Repeat With the Visual Signal and Verbal Cue

Last but not least, repeat the whole process with the visual signal and verbal cue. Try to keep the practice no longer than 15 minutes, as your dog will likely lose concentration. It’s essential to be consistent, but your dog also needs to rest to be focused and follow your commands. Don’t change the cues, and stick to your routine to help your dog to catch on easily and remember your directions.

If needed, divide the practice into a couple of days to help your pup adjust and learn. Also, gradually introduce new movements and commands while practicing one step at a time. Remember to end each session with praise and make the experience bonding for you and your best friend, showing how proud you are.

Always encourage your dog, and be calm and patient. If you lose your patience, yell, or act aggressively, your pup will likely get scared, and won’t have the courage to learn the play-dead trick.

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Summing Up

Teaching your dog to play dead can be challenging at times. However, as long as you’re loving and caring, your dog will learn the trick through proper training and encouragement. Remember to be patient and follow the steps from the list above until your dog masters the trick. After all, practice makes perfect, so it’s just a matter of time before your canine will perform this trick effortlessly.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixnio

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