BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead: Fun Techniques for Both Of You

How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Teaching your dog a few tricks could be fun for you and for your dog as well. As soon as you learn how to teach your dog to play dead, you will be able to use this command whenever you play with it or in more serious cases, such as going to the vet where it must stay still for a thorough examination. It would be ideal for your dog to already be familiarized with simple commands like, “stay”, “sit” and “down” before you begin. These 3 commands are all related and should constitute the basic training before advancing to more complicated tricks.

All you need is patience and a focused doggy in order to achieve your goal. Dogs are intelligent animals, so yours should not have a hard time understanding what you want it to do either.

Puppy play dead

The training process of a dog usually lasts a few months. However, even if it takes so long, it must be repeated constantly throughout the dog’s life too, just as often as you take it to the vet for a regular checkup or for vaccines. As a dog owner, if you don’t repeat the exercises with your pooch, you will be responsible for it forgetting how it’s done or what a particular command means. If you’d like to learn how to go through the process as smoothly as possible, you’ll definitely want to check out this article on training methods for your dog.

Taking it all over would not be as fun as it was before for you, so remember to practice every command once in a while. In addition, keep in mind that dogs with arthritis or any other joint disease should not be put in danger by teaching them a trick like this one because it can affect their joints, making them swell and feel painful.

Training steps for your dog

Looking at a dog playing dead can be satisfying especially if you are the one who taught it what it knows. In order to achieve that, you should begin by using the “down” command. When a dog lies down it should not choose any side, so you should gently push it on its side, telling it to “play dead”. You can choose the side its sleeps on to make the training more comfortable for it. After these 2 steps are completed, you should reward your doggy by caressing its body.

It’s important to make your pooch feel comfortable being in that position. It does not have be uptight or try to get back up. This exercise should be repeated until your canine friend lies on a side without you having to push it. When it succeeds, you can reward it with something to eat, like a quick snack, not a whole meal. You can help him get into this position by first teaching him to lie down and also learning now to roll over.

Bang play dead

“Playing dead” is a position that requires a dog to lie on its side. You might have to push its head gently on the ground as well, in order to execute the correct position. This is not something that a dog dislikes. Dogs love it and sometimes they might move their tails because they are happy and content. However, you should touch your pup’s tail and tell it that a dead dog doesn’t do that, holding it down for a few seconds. Once this exercise is also done, you can reward it again with caresses and food treats, and let it move back up.

Giving a treat after trick

Although this process might sound easy to do, you should prepare to practice this command with your canine friend over and over again, every day, for a few months in a row. During the training time, it is ideal for you to have a pleasant voice tone and encourage your dog by praising it when it succeeds. Eventually, your beloved pet will understand the command and let itself fall on the ground loudly when it hears, “play dead”.

Keep in mind that your dog should perceive the training as fun time not as punishment, so don’t get mad when it doesn’t succeed or does something wrong. Playing dead is useful if your pooch needs an echography or radiography too, not just to mess around. Therefore, its higher purpose deserves repetitive dressage.

Once you’ve mastered this move, why not check out how to teach your dog to shake?

Tips and tricks for a fast training process

While the steps that need to be taken in order to teach a dog to play dead are simple, there is a series of factors that can fasten the process and make it easier for both you and your animal. A dog that was never trained before will respond harder to any command, not to mention to an advanced command like this one is. So, don’t try to skip over the other steps because this one would too hard to achieve. The tips and tricks are as it follows:

  1. Dedicate 15 minutes for training every day. Puppies get bored fairly quickly, so you should do your best to keep your dog focused for at least 15 minutes every day. Try not to lose your patience when you notice that your pooch gets bored. You risk stressing your pet by exercising for longer than it can. The secret lays in short practice sessions that are repeated daily, for an extended period of time.
  2. Pick a short nickname. In case you already named your dog and its name is not short, try to give it a nickname or to cut a part of its initial name for exercising purposes. A dog’s name should be easy to remember and to pronounce as well. The specialists recommend short names that don’t end with a consonant. A dog’s name should often be used during petting and feeding, but not when introducing a new command. That might confuse it, thinking its name is a command.
  3. Share the dressage rules with all family members. All your family members should know what you are up to. For instance, if you teach your dog the “play dead” scheme, then the exercise should not be repeated with another member of the family. It should not be called in another way either. This advice is no longer valid after the dog responds to the said command.
  4. Reward and praise your dog’s success. Alike people, puppies like to be appreciated for what they do. When your dog succeeds playing dead, you must praise it every time, but not offer it snacks every time. Your lovely pup will just do it for the reward and ignore you if you’re not planning on giving it another one. They are innocent creatures, but they can sometimes play a better card at manipulation than their owners.
  5. Set a signal for when the training stops. Since you have decided to teach your canine friend a few tricks, you should let it know when the training is over. This is not an easy thing to do because you must avoid common words. Anything that sounds familiar must not be used for when the training stops because the dog will feel free to walk away. Use phrases such as, “it’s time to play now” or “it’s break time” when the dressage session ends.
  6. End trainings in a positive way. Whether your pooch succeeds or not is not important. Don’t be pessimistic because this might affect its morale as well. Be positive and thankful for the time spent together. You can always give it another shot the next day. Making a dog feel guilty will not solve anything.

Constructive conclusions for dog training

Deciding which command you want to teach your dog, researching all about it and the steps that must be taken in order to achieve your purpose, are not enough when you want to train your dog. What you really need besides knowledge is firmness, patience and kindness. Once you feel prepared and think that you can manage these 3 qualities, you can talk to a specialist in training in order to get a better insight.

He or she will thoroughly explain what you need to do for your pooch to execute the “play dead” command and any other command that you will ever want to teach it. This is not mandatory, but it could help a lot in the process. An educated canine pet is much easier to deal with, play with and do stuff with in general.

Teach Your Dog to Play Dead

Patience, practice and persistence are the 3 Ps that will help you train your dog to do whatever you want it to do. In this regard, every little step should be appreciated and rewarded. You should not only appreciate and reward your dog, but yourself as well. Any progress is a reason for content and sometimes, why not, for celebration.

Treat your pooch and yourself like you both hit the jackpot and take well-deserved breaks until the next day when you’ll both be full of energy and in the proper mood to learn and to play at the same time. This is the ideal combination for dog training. It should not be a serious session when both the dog and the owner are uptight. They should be relaxed and in a playful mood.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Samanta Green

    Oh, I’ve tried these tricks with my doggy and you know what…it’s pretends to be dead every time it want to eat something tasty. Can you imagine how funny it looks when we just walking on the street? When pedestrians see it, sometime they even try to help my “sick dog”. I consider it to be very good trick to shock your friend’s as well, especially if they don’t know that you taught your dog to behave like this.

    • That is indeed funny :))! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  • Sally

    I taught my dog this trick as well. I used to point my finger at him and shout HEY! and then he’d lie on his back. However, the one evening I did it again (after forgetting to let him out to Pee) and then he peed a little. Now you can’t point your finger at him anymore or say anything that sounds like HEY! even a little. How can I retrain him, or even just help him relax?

    • John Walton

      You can retrain him by changing the HEY! part. There must have been an associated even with this instruction that stressed out your dog. Try to wean him off this command and replace it with another command.

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