Guest Post: Easy Steps to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead

This trick involves multiple steps, concentration and patience on the part of the dog. Because of this, many dog owners assume that “playing dead” is beyond the abilities of Rover and FiFi; and don’t even bother trying.

While this trick is considered advanced canine training, these owners may be selling Rover and FiFi short. Dogs can be trained at any age, and they derive both physical and emotional benefits from learning new tricks if taught properly.

So with some practice and patience on the part of their owners, a number of dogs can master playing dead!

1. Provide A Relaxed And Comfortable Environment

Who does well when they’re learning under stress? You don’t, and your dog certainly doesn’t. A dog with unspent energy is easily distracted and finds it easy to lose focus.

Start any training session by allowing the dog to burn off steam with exercise. Stop before the dog becomes overly tired, and reward it with a treat. Because mastering this trick involves rolling, staying, and laying down and getting up, look for an area that will be physically comfortable to do this. Also, try to find a distraction free site for initial training.

2. Going Down

Mastering playing dead is a great deal easier if you and your dog have first mastered some basic commands such as “stay”, “sit”, and most importantly, “lay down”.

Stand in front of the dog so that it can both see and hear you. Command it to lay down. You now want the dog to roll on its side or onto its (many dogs find this difficult) back.

While the dog is still laying upright, give it visual and verbal commands to guide it to the trick’s next step. Tell the dog “dead”, “bang”, or point a finger gun at the dog while manoeuvring it onto its side. To get the dog from an upright to a side prone position, use treats or “click” training.

The dog’s head should be down. Use the “stay” command to get the dog to hold this position for several seconds. After letting the dog up, praise and reward it with a treat. Keep practicing “dead laying” daily, until the dog can do this step naturally on command.

Some dogs will take to this as quickly as eating cookies. Other pooches could take weeks to get it down. Owners must remember that patience is a virtue when training any animal. If a dog (or its owner) gets frustrated or bored while mastering this step, then training is over for the day.


Going Down Part 2

So you and that method acting dog of yours want to do a “back” death scene, huh?

Your hound flopping onto its back does add a sort of rigor mortis charm to this trick. Be warned that many dogs (especially older ones) find it uncomfortable and unnatural to be placed in this prone position.

If Rover isn’t willing to go that far for his art, leave it alone. But if Rover is up for this position, after having him lay on his side:

  • gently roll the dog completely onto his back
  • encourage the dog to maintain its position with verbal and visual cues and treats
  • try to increase time on its back with daily practice

3. Playing Dead (Laying Still)

This last step is the most technically difficult one for your dog. It requires it to lay unnaturally still, wait for commands, and ignore its adoring fans. While few dogs can resist that tell-tale grin as they play “dead”, some go full bore Lassie and even close their eyes and relax their jaws.

To unleash FiFi’s Meryl Streep or at least get more than three seconds out of this trick, allow the dog to lay in a comfortable position and provide treats and verbal praise. Try to increase the total staying time on a daily basis.

4. Putting It All Together

A properly executed “play dead” trick looks like this:

  • you call a command to a sitting or standing dog (it doesn’t have to be “play dead” but keep it short)
  • the dog immediately moves from a standing or sitting position to a laying one with a prone head
  • the dog remains there until instructed to rise

The entire trick should be seamless in its execution, and take under 30 seconds.

Remember, the parts of the trick should be practiced separately. As the dog gets more comfortable with each part, reduce the amount of time between each one.

Benefits Of Playing Dead

Hollywood may not call after you’ve mastered this trick, but there are other rewards. Learning a trick of this complexity makes your dog a good candidate for more advanced kinds of obedience training.

Dogs get real stimulation and gratification out of spending this kind of time with humans. And best of all, this classic trick is yet one more thing that you get to share with your best friend.

This article was provided by Andy from, which aims to promote responsible dog ownership as well as help advocate

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