The Simple Steps on How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

Training & Behavior

Aug 15
How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

There is an old saying that goes like this, “You can’t teach an old dog a new trick.” Well, this statement is not always entirely true when it comes to teaching your dog some of the important tricks. It has been shown that through conditioning and positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog any trick you want to.

Do you want to teach your dog any new trick? One of the tricks you can teach your dog is the play dead trick. So let us take a look together at how to teach a dog to play dead.

Teaching your dog the trick

Playing dead is a very impressive trick that is not that hard to teach to any dog. You will be a happy dog owner if your friends get blown away by your dog doing this new amazing trick.

Just imagine that your friends have come over to your place and your dog is excited to see them. You then hold out your fingers like a gun and say bang! To your friends’ amusement, your dog falls to the floor and acts as if he is dead. “Very impressive!” they are likely to say that statement as you feel proud of your dog.

Before you set out to teach your dog this amazing trick of playing dead, there are a few things that you will need, and they include:

  • A treat

You will need something to motivate your dog. Treats will, therefore, serve that purpose. Giving your dog small quantities of treats when he makes the right move will really be helpful in his learning process.

  • Your fingers

Your fingers will play a very important role in teaching your dog this new trick. To teach him to play dead, you will have to fold your fingers like a gun. Pointing your folded fingers at your dog will let him know that it is time to play dead.

  • A clicker

Using a clicker together with the treat will enable you to get your dog’s attention. You can also use the clicker independently. The clicker will let your dog know that whatever he is doing, he is doing it right.

  • Command word

A command word is also important when teaching a dog something. In this case, you want to teach him to play dead. When you point your folded fingers at your dog, you may need to say “bang” so that your dog knows you have shot him and it’s time to play dead.

Here is a step by step guide to teaching your dog to play dead:

Command your dog to lie down

Depending on how you have always taught your dog to lie down, you can command him to lie down. It’s very important that your dog should be able to lie down when you command him to. If your dog is still not able to lie down when you command him, you will need to work on that before you can be successful with the playing dead trick.

If you have not yet taught your dog the lying down command, here is how you can teach him to lie down on the floor.

Guide your dog to lie on his side

This step can be very demanding. You will, therefore, need to be patient with your dog as he gets to learn to follow your guidance to get down and lie on his side. To make your dog to learn how to lie on his side faster, you can use a treat.

Using a treat, hold it close to your dog’s nose. Pull the treat slowly over to your dog’s side. Your pooch will have to roll over to his side to get the treat. Your dog will learn faster if he already knows how to roll over.

Bring in your clicker

Once your dog has successfully managed to lie on his side, you should click your clicker to let him know that he has done something significant. This is the time that you can also congratulate him by telling him “good” or “yes.”

You should also give him a treat to encourage him for his good behavior. For your dog to muster lying on his side, you should repeat the first and second steps several times until you are sure that he is ready for the next step.

Add a cue word

You have made a lot of progress now that your dog is able to move into a lying position from a standing position or a sitting position. By now, he is now ready to play dead. Your next step should be introducing a verbal cue. Make sure that you choose a verbal cue that you won’t forget and one that you are comfortable to use. The best verbal cue should be “bang.”

You should then use the verbal command along with the folded fingers gesture. The folded hand signal is the visual cue. It is very important since it emphasizes what your dog should do. Use the verbal cue more than the treat. You can then concentrate on using the visual cue more than the verbal cue. With time, your dog will learn to respond to the visual cue without you saying any word.

Once your dog has mastered the verbal cue and is responding to your commands positively, it’s time to limit the number of times you give him a treat. The goal is to make your dog be able to play dead by responding to your verbal cue rather than responding because of food.

However, it will take some time before your dog can learn to respond to your verbal cues without being lured with food. Therefore, you will have to be patient with your dog before he can fully learn to play dead.

Practice the trick in different locations

Now that your pooch has learned how to play dead, it doesn’t mean that your mission is accomplished. This is because since you have taught him how to play dead in your living room, he won’t be able to play dead in a different location. For the trick to sink deep into your dog’s mind, you will need to practice it in several locations.

Take him out in the yard and teach him there. Move to the kitchen and do the same. You can then test him when you are out with him in the park. Once you have practiced the trick in different settings, your dog will automatically respond to you when you tell him “bang” or when you fold your finger like a gun and point it at him.

Why you need to teach your dog tricks like playing dead

Most people overlook the importance of teaching their dogs new tricks. In fact, somebody may ask, “Why should I teach my dog how to play dead?” This is because you probably want a dog that can only perform basic obedience.

Tricks are very important to teach your dogs. Apart from showing off to your friends and neighbors what your dog can do, there are several benefits that you and your dog will reap from it. One of them is that teaching your dog tricks will enable you to bond well with each other and build trust between you.

Teaching your dog tricks will also improve your dogs overall health, both mental and physical. Learning the tricks will positively stimulate your dog mentally. This will increase his concentration. In terms of physical health, the tricks will improve his endurance and tone his muscles. This will contribute to his physical well-being.

The play dead trick can come in handy when you have taken your dog to see the vet. This is because you can instruct him to play dead so that the vet can get to attend to him. It will also come in handy when you are trimming his nails back at home. You will instruct him to play dead so that he sits still to avoid accidental cuts while you trim his nails.

Teaching tricks to dogs also help to improve a dog’s overall obedience and confidence level. His learning ability will also improve since the more tricks you teach him, the more eager your dog will be ready to learn.


As a dog owner, you would’nt want your dog to remain in “grade school” his whole life. This is why you should be willing to teach him new tricks. You would also like to bond with your dog more than you do currently.

Knowing how to teach your dog to play dead will enable you to have fun with your pooch as you teach him new skills. After that, you can share this article with your friends. If you have any question, let me know in the comment section below.

About the Author

Hi! This is Joy, and I’m so glad you found your way to MyPupMyHero. I love my dogs so much, and that is why I have decided to share my experience and knowledge about dogs with people like you. I want all dogs to be treated like kings and queens in every possible perspective. Your dog’s welfare is my number one priority, and that is why I will be balancing between my career and my passion which is writing about everything to do with dogs.