Play dead is a classic dog trick. The premise is quite simple, the dog owner gives a signal, be it a verbal cue or hand signal, and the dog flops onto their side with their belly exposed. How to teach your dog to play dead? It is quite easy actually. And it will take you not more than a couple of minutes and a few days.
Now, playing dead is not actually an essential dog training command like sit, stay, heel, or come. But it is a fun trick you can show off to your friends.
Same as teaching your dog to shake. With that in mind, let’s talk about it.
The Basic Learning Sequence
The best way to teach a dog to perform any dog trick, be it a new trick or to repeat something he knows already, is to employ the basic learning sequence.
This way, you can teach your dog to perform a cool trick using a verbal cue. It consists of four steps, request > lure > response > reward.
In this case, a request asks your dog to play dead, a lure lures your dog to play dead, and after he performs the dead trick, you reward him with praise and dog treats.
Why Do It?
Playing dead is a fun trick for puppies. No, it is not as important as teaching your dog to come to you, sit, stay, or walk next to you.
But this fun game is amazing for your dog and its audience. Dogs love attention, and they will definitely get a lot of it from your friends.
For this new trick, you will need a handful of tasty dog treats, and you are ready to go.
Simple Step-by-Step Guide
1. Start in a down position. Get your dog to lie down. And if your dog hasn’t mastered this yet, you need to go back and teach your dog to lie down.
2. Offer a treat to your puppy, hold it close to its nose, and slowly pull it over to your dog’s side. This way, your puppy will roll onto its side to get the treat. It is quite similar to teaching your dog to roll over. And if your puppy knows how to roll over, it is ahead of the game
3. As soon as your dog is lying on its side, mark it with “yes” or “good”. If you are into clicker training, click your clicker. Then, give your puppy a treat and repeat these steps several times
4. It is time to add a signal, in the beginning, a verbal cue. You can add a hand signal later on. So, when your dog completes the rollover, add a cue word. Some people like the word “Bang”. But you can choose your own cue word. As for the hand signal, it is usually a gun pointing at the dog
Challenges That May Arise
If your dog already knows the command for rolling over, you might have a hard time getting it to play dead. Why? Because it is your dog’s natural inclination to go all the way over when you start to lure it to its side.
In this case, a clicker will work wonderfully, because you can capture the exact behavior you want. Or, you need to make sure to mark the behavior with words like “great”, “good job” or “yes” the second your dog is onto the side.
If your dog continues to roll over, step away for a minute. Give your dog the chance to realize that the treat will disappear when they roll completely over.
If you have trouble with your dog and them following the treat to end up lying on its side, you might need to do some manual labor. Help your dog physically by moving your dog. Gently push the dog over onto its side, and as soon as it is in the correct position, click the clicker or mark it with “yes”.
If your dog makes a few mistakes in a row, stop it, and slow it down. You are probably moving ahead too quickly with this new trick.
Remember, be patient and consistent. Every dog is different. For some dogs, teaching tricks is the easiest thing to do, even an advanced trick like playing dead. For others, basic commands might be a challenge.
The most important thing is to end the training session on a POSITIVE note. That means if your dog fails at the dead trick, end the session with something your dog knows and reward it.
It is important that you reward your dog at the end of a trick training session. This way, your dog will want to play and learn new tricks the next time you try it.
Do Dogs Play Dead Naturally?
There are some dogs that naturally figure out how to play dead. You do not even have to worry about how to teach your dog to play dead. For these dogs, the dead position comes with certain advantages. For example, they use it when they do something naughty and want to avoid punishment from their dog owner.
They might not be able to play dead forever, but chances are, by the time they “revive”, their owner has had a laugh and will be gentle.