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Teach your dog to play dead

Updated on June 24, 2011

Teaching your dog to ‘play dead’ is a fun novelty trick that can come in handy for impressing family and friends. Not only is it a fun pastime, training your dog to perform can foster a closer connection between the two of you and provide your pet with the intellectual stimulation she craves. I taught my dog to fall over using the command “bang!” with my fingers pointed toward her in a mock gun motion, though you can choose a different command if you like. My dog picked up the trick in just a couple of days (she often astounds me with her intelligence), but be patient in case your pet isn’t so quick; keep working with her for about thirty minutes or so a day and she is bound to pick it up (note: your dog will need to know how to ‘lay down’ before she learns to ‘play dead’.)

Begin facing your dog with a small treat in your hand. Make sure she is calm, and then command her to lie down. Kneel in front of her with your hand fisted around the treat; make sure she knows there is a treat in your hand.

Say the command “bang!” clearly, using your free hand as a ‘gun’ if you wish. Move your hand with the treat in a backward motion along one side of your dog’s back so her head follows your hand; her body should fall over to one side(if not, you can try giving her a gentle nudge). Once her body is over to one side, quickly move your hand back toward yourself and to the floor in front of her head so her head falls on the floor as well. Once she is lying on her side with her head on the floor, praise her and give her the treat.

Repeat this process a few times, until your dog falls over with little to no hesitation. Once she has reached that point you can try going through the hand motions with no treat in your hand, but make sure you give her a treat and praise as soon as she falls over.

Once she has mastered falling over without a treat, try moving back a little, pointing your ‘gun’ at her and saying the command “bang!” when she is laying down. Give her a few seconds to fall over, once again giving her plenty of praise and a treat if she obeys. If not, try going back to having her follow the hand motions you were doing before. If she does get the hang of the trick, you can cut back on giving her treats and replacing them with just praise when she obeys. Continue practicing this trick until she gets a solid grasp on it.

When your dog has mastered the command from the lying down position, you can begin teaching her how to play dead from a sitting, or even standing position. I was extremely lucky with my dog in that she learned by herself to play dead from sitting—once she had mastered the trick from lying down, I commanded her to sit, then gave her the “bang!” command. After a few seconds she figured out what I wanted and fell over!

Your dog might pick up on the trick like mine, but if not, just be patient. All you have to do is command her to sit, say the play dead command, and guide her through the motions of laying down and falling over with a treat in your hand. Make sure to give her plenty of praise when she masters the trick! Remember to be patient, and happy training!


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    • nessafay profile image

      nessafay 5 years ago

      I'm glad! Thank you for reading!

    • profile image

      Sparky 5 years ago

      this website really helps! my friend freaked out when she saw my dog play dead!