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How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

Learn to teach your dog to play dead.

It can be fun to teach your dog to do tricks. Not only is it cute, but the time you spend training your dog provides additional bonding for the two of you. Dogs love to connect with their humans and make them happy.

Dog Trick: Playing Dead

A common trick that people like to teach their dogs is to play dead. The human may say "play dead" or "bang" or use their hand to make a pretend gun, "shooting" the dog, whose response is to lie down motionless until he is released.

The playing dead trick may also encourage your dog to be calm and quiet. This can be especially helpful if he has a tendency to jump around, leap on people, or make a lot of noise when he gets excited. If you practice the "play dead" trick a lot, your dog may automatically start to lie down when he is looking for attention.

Teaching a Dog to Play Dead

It is helpful if your dog already knows the "down" command. You can learn how to teach him that here: "How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down."

When starting a training session with your dog, it can be helpful if he is a bit hungry. Training immediately after a meal might not go as smoothly as waiting for a bit, so your training treats are extra enticing.

Using clicker training can be helpful while teaching this command. You can learn how here: "Clicker Training for Dogs: An Overview."

Steps for teaching a dog the "play dead" command:

  • Stand in front of your dog and command him to lie down.
  • Give the command you wish to use for the trick. Some suggestions are "play dead," "bang," or a visual hand signal of a gun.
  • Guide your dog to lie completely on his side with his head down. You may use treats to help him get into the correct position. If you'd prefer your dog to lie on his back, you can guide him into that position, but this will be more difficult for most dogs to learn.
  • Tell your dog to "stay" ("How to Teach a Dog to Stay"), and give him a click or a treat after a second.
  • After a few moments, give your release command, often "OK," and then praise him verbally.

Repeat the steps until your dog will reliably lie down, move to his side, and stay still when given your command for playing dead. Be patient: some dogs learn this trick quickly while others require a lot of practice.

Don't train for too long at once; 5-10 minutes is sufficient for each practice session.

Once your dog has the trick mastered, be sure to practice it often, in different locations, to ensure that it remains fresh in his mind.

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