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Dog Training and Tricks, Teach your Dog How to Play Dead in 4 easy steps!

Updated on February 21, 2012
Einstein was checking to see if I saw him playing dead:)  I taught him this trick while washing dishes when he was a puppy.
Einstein was checking to see if I saw him playing dead:) I taught him this trick while washing dishes when he was a puppy.

Teach your dog to Play Dead

This is easier to teach your dog than shake, if you’ll believe that! You have to do nothing! Well maybe you will have to speak a command and or give a hand signal but other than that nothing. We will be using a training technique called shaping, which is basically starting with one natural position (laying down) and building on that to teach play dead. First you will teach play dead from laying down, then from a sitting position and then from standing. Most dogs LOVE doing this trick! I hope you have a great time with this too!

Before we get started you need to decide on what you want to say to your dog that makes them keel over in fake death. Some people (me) shoot their dogs with the gun hand signal and say bang or pow. Some other clever people come up with clever jokes like “Alabama just won the football game!!!” it seems the dog drops dead from bad news! Think about what you want to say carefully because there are so many possibilities.

Teach your dog to play dead at your house first. It is possible to teach this around distractions but it takes a looooong time, trust me. I have waited 30 minuets waiting on a dog to relax so I could get started on this, now I send directions home with people…..

This is best taught when your dog is board or ready to take a nap. I taught my dogs while washing dishes and watching T.V. My dogs usually decide to take a nap when I am busy. If you use a clicker you will click as soon as your dog is in position each time, before you praise and reward your dog. Do not try to teach your dog all of these steps in one day. Remember to quit while you are ahead or your dog will not love to do this trick for you like they would otherwise, if you get frustrated for some reason ask your dog to do something simple and stop for a little bit.

Step 1. Do not tell your dog to sit or lay down! Not telling your dog to lie down first prevents you from having to phase that command out at a later time. Your dog will learn to play dead faster and at a distance not just at your feet. This is possible to teach in a day or two but you need to omit the down command while teaching this first step.

When we are busy our dogs like to lay nearby. When your dog voluntarily lies down without prompting, give your signal and command one time before he puts his head down. Most dogs will get up and come over to you, ignore your dog. When he goes back to his spot and lays down again give your signal or command once more before he puts his head down. If he comes over to you again ignore him until he goes to lie back down and repeat until he ignores you….. When your dog lays his head down say GOOD BOY or click your clicker then praise him and give him a treat! Repeat until he understands that when you give the signal he is to put his head down.

Step 2. Your dog understands now that Bang or whatever neat command you came up with means to put his head down when he is laying down. Now if he isn't already you want to him to lay flat with his head down or get in whatever position you prefer. Give your dog your command and this time don’t reward him until he is in the correct position. This may take some patience which is why your being busy or concentrating on something else is a good thing in my opinion. When your dog’s head and body are in the correct position immediately give him lots of praise and a treat.

Step 3. Play dead from a sitting position. Have your dog sit or when your dog is sitting give him your command once and wait until he lies down. Give lots of praise and a treat. Next when your dog is sitting give your command and wait until he lies down in the correct position, head down to reward him. He should be catching on really quickly with th is if not give him something easy to do or try it again from laying down a few more times, give him a break and try again!

Step 4. Play dead from a standing position. When your dog is standing and calm give him your command one time and wait. More than likely he will sit and look at you then, lie down and look at you. Give him encouragement with your eyes looking at him then the floor and back, do not repeat your command. When he gets into the correct position give lots of praise and a treat! After he has gotten the hang of this you can phase out the treat for toys and praise if you want. I give mine treats when they preform for an audience and sometime when they don't:)

If you would like to teach your dog to play dead on his back wait to teach him until I publish an article on how to teach your dog to roll over. I will include a section in there on how to teach your dog to play dead on their back.

If you need any help rolling over or notice I left something out or should have said something to make this easier for people to understand please let me know. I am happy to add to this article and to give further help. Play dead is one of my favorite dog tricks! I often take one of my dogs to Lowes and other public places, the kids (and grownups) love to see our dogs do tricks.

Was this easy for you to teach your dog?

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    • Laura Matkin profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Matkin 

      6 years ago from Laceys Spring, Alabama

      You are very Welcome. I hope you have a great time teaching and showing off with this trick!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Will be trying soon, great tips and instructions. Voted up. Thanks for sharing.


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