How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead [It’s Easy!]

One of the best dog tricks out there is the age-old trick of playing dead. We’ll show you how to teach a dog to play dead in 7 easy steps!

While it might not be as important as obedience commands like “stay,” and “come,” “play dead” does provide a great deal of fun and will entertain your guests.

Plus, this is another way to mentally and physically challenge your dog and work on their obedience skills.

And believe it or not, teaching your dog to play dead is a lot easier than you’d think.

Training Guide: How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

While there are numerous tricks that you can teach your dog, such as how to shake and how to spin, playing dead is always one of the most exciting and entertaining.

Learning how to teach a dog to play dead is really just like playing a game with your dog. It requires some laughter, some time and a bunch of dog treats. You can make it even easier if you use a clicker.

Once you’re prepared, all you need to do is diligently follow some simple steps and your dog will be playing dead in no time.

Here’s all you need to know about how to teach a dog to play dead.

How to teach a dog to play dead

1. Begin with Your Dog Lying Down

When you start training your dog to play dead, you will ask them to lie down.

If you haven’t trained your dog to lie down, now is the time.

Dogs typically favor one side, which is important for getting them to play dead. When they’re on the ground, pay attention to the side their weight is leaning on.

2. Put the Treat at Their Nose and Move it

Take the treat and hold it right at their nose. You’re going to move the treat from their nose, over the shoulder of the side they’re not favoring.

So if they’re lying on their right side, you’ll move the treat over their left shoulder.

3. Provide a Reward

While you’re moving the treat over their shoulder, they should eventually lean backward towards the treat. Once they move backward, reward them with the treat.

4. Repeat the Process

Practice the cycle – lay down, treat to nose, treat over shoulder, lean back, reward – about five times.

You want to make sure that they really have it down and know what they’re doing before you move on to the next step.

Dog play dead

5. Repeat – But Don’t Reward Right Away

Practice moving the treat from their nose, over their shoulder, again. However, this time you won’t reward them when they move backward.

Instead, you’ll keep moving it backward until your dog is actually lying on their back.

Once they’re on their back, you will give them the reward. Repeat many times.

6. Repeat Again Without a Treat

Once again, you will practice moving your hand over their shoulder until they are lying on their back. This time, however, you won’t have a treat in your hand.

Have them roll onto their back without being led by a treat. However, you still want to give them a treat when they lay on their back. Repeat a few times.

7. Add a Command

When your dog is lying down, now it’s time to add a verbal cue associated with the trick. This can be “play dead” or something else of your choosing.

The goal is for your dog to associate the command with the expectation to lie down, roll over and “play dead.”

After you say the command, continue the process until they are lying on their back and reward them with a treat.

For best results, continue practicing until your dog has the process down, always starting with the verbal cue.

Dog on back

Final Thoughts on How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

After you practice many times, your dog will have the process down and be ready to perform on command.

Ultimately, you and your pup will have a great party trick to entertain others as well as a fun game to play when you’re both just hanging out.

It’s also a great way to provide mental and physical exercise for your pup.

Learn how to teach a dog to play dead and you’ll have a great way to bond with your dog!

Watch a Training Video

As you learn how to teach a dog to play dead, training videos are always a great resource to learn more. After all, most people are more visual learners.

Lucky for us, popular dog trainer Zak George has put together a video on the topic that is definitely worth checking out.

George brings a positive, fun and informational style that has earned him millions of fans. We watched his training videos often when we first got our dog Toby.

After checking out this tutorial on how to teach a dog to play dead, you may even want to head over to his YouTube channel for a variety of other excellent training videos.

Bonus Training Tip

As you work on how to teach a dog to play dead, you might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient and may even want to throw in the towel.

This is a common feeling when teaching a dog something new, so don’t stress. How you react to this frustration, however, is what’s important.

Training a dog does require a great deal of patience and persistence. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, either take a break entirely and start the training again at a later time or give yourself a quick timeout.

Giving yourself a brief timeout does wonders. Just pause, breathe deep and count to 10. This will recenter you.

Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process even more successful.

Dog lying down

Top Dog Training Books

Figuring out how to teach a dog to play dead is just one skill to learn.

When you get a dog, it’s important that you take the time to train them thoroughly.

Even though it’s a lot of work in the beginning, if you put in the time now, the following years will be so much easier.

There are many different ways to train a dog, including obedience classes, working with a trainer, learning online and so forth.

Another great training method to add to your arsenal: Dog training books!

The following books are tried-and-true favorites recommended by thousands of dog owners. They’ll help you train your dog effectively and provide a solid foundation for how they should act and behave.

When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training, including reading as many books as we could. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.

The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.

1. Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution

You saw George’s video above on how to teach a dog to play dead. If you liked his style, he also has a book called Dog Training Revolution.

This complete guide to raising a dog covers all the bases for training essentials. Even if you’ve had your dog for a while, you’ll learn new things and pick up tips and tricks you didn’t know before.

2. The Art of Raising a Puppy

Written by the Monks of New Skete, The Art of Raising a Puppy includes invaluable information and advice every dog owner should know.

The authors bring a calm, cool, confident approach to dog training that results in obedient, well-behaved pups.

We read this book when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. There’s a reason it’s a classic!

3. How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days

Without a doubt, housebreaking a dog is one of the most challenging parts of owning a pup. Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be to housebreak a dog.

If you need help with this process, the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you how to master it in no time.

4. 101 Dog Tricks

If you liked learning about how to teach a dog to play dead, you might just want to look into other cool dog tricks you can share with your pup.

We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.

This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical exercises for Toby and bond with him in the process.

From time to time, we still reference this book and find a fun new trick for him to learn.

5. Puppy Training for Kids

And last but not least, if you have children in your home, Puppy Training for Kids is a great resource for getting the whole family on board with dog training.

With this book, kids will get a better understanding of all the work involved with training and raising a puppy and become more responsible dog owners in the process.

We hope you found our guide to how to teach a dog to play dead a helpful resource as you work on additional skills with your furry friend.

After you’ve mastered more essential training commands, it’s always fun to teach a dog new tricks. And let’s face it, a pup who can lie down and play dead is entertaining and hilarious!

Before we go, if you’re looking for additional resources, check out our puppy guide or head over to our training section for lots of other tips and tricks. Good luck!

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