This is probably the funniest dog trick you can teach. The “play dead” dog trick is a comedy routine and loads of fun during play, especially when you have guests.
Plus, the “play dead” dog trick is fairly easy to learn. It helps if you’ve already taught your dog the “down” obedience training command.
The “play dead” dog trick involves your dog dropping to the ground and laying still, on command.
Preparing to Teach the “Play Dead” Dog Trick
Treats are an absolute necessity for teaching any dog trick. A target stick can be used to lure your dog into the position, instead of (or along with) treats. A clicker is also extremely useful – if you’re using one, you’ll need to read about charging the clicker first.
It will take anywhere between a few days, and a couple weeks, to teach the “play dead” dog trick. Keep the training sessions short and fun, and repeat them often.
Instructions for Teaching the “Play Dead” Dog Trick
You’ll start by luring your dog into the “play dead” position and letting him know that you’re training a new behavior. Then, you’ll gradually attach the command to the behavior. Always repeat each step until your dog has completely mastered it, before moving on or adding challenges.
- With your dog in front of you, use a treat or target stick to lure your dog towards laying down. Don’t use the “down” command. Once your dog is laying down, give a click and a treat.
- Repeat the above, but don’t give the treat right away. Move the treat (or target stick) over your dog’s shoulder. Click if he stays laying down and swivels his head around to watch it, which will get him started towards laying on his side.
- Continue by repeating that step, but withhold the click and the treat until your dog rolls and lays on his side.
- Work on making the motion more fluid now – starting from the sitting or standing position, get your dog to go down to the floor and onto his side in a single motion. Continue that until it’s a nice fluid motion with no hesitation.
- Now attach the command phrase. “Play dead” is good, but “Bang!” is more fun. Just make sure you pick one and use the same command phrase forever. Say the command word just before luring your dog towards the floor, and don’t click or treat until he’s laying on his side.
- Once that step is mastered, you’ll start to give less guidance. Say whatever command you’ve attached to the “Play dead” dog trick, then move the treat or target stick straight to the floor, and wait for your dog to figure out you want him on his side. Don’t click or treat until he’s in the final “play dead” pose.
- Repeat the above, until your dog will respond to the command phrase only, without the use of any lure or target stick.
- And this is why “Bang!” is a fun command phrase for the “play dead” dog trick – make a gun shape with your fingers, point it at your dog, and say “bang!” If that’s the command phrase you chose, then you now have a comedy routine you can perform with your dog!
Once you’ve got the basics of the”Play Dead” trick down, you can improve it by following the following steps one at a time:
- Make your dog stay in the “play dead” position longer before you reward him.
- Phase out the use of the treats and the clicker. Do this gradually, and be sure you’re praising your dog so he knows he’s still doing it right.
- Try the trick in the presence of distractions and company.
As I mentioned above, the clicker is a very useful tool in any kind of dog training. For more information about clicker dog training, check out Canis Clicker Training Academy, the authoritative resource for how the clicker is used.