How To Teach A Dog To Play Dead

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How to teach a dog to play dead, wow, you humans are really original, huh, you all want to teach us the same tricks. (I’m joking, I love love love playing dead, it’s such a fun trick and it means I can play with my human lots and lots!)

We dogs are so clever (especially me, I’m the cleverest), so we can learn all sorts of tricks and voice commands to be the best friends ever. Then you can show us off to your friends and family, and give us lots of treats as a reward! 

Teaching us tricks is actually really easy, (again, because we’re really clever), and that includes the famous play-dead trick. You know, the one where you say BANG and point a fake gun at me with your fingers, and then I roll over and die dramatically. (Really, I should get an acting award for it, I’m very convincing!)  

But anyway, if you don’t know how to teach your dog to play dead, don’t worry. I will help you! What better than have a dog teach you how to teach your dog…right? 

Let’s get started! 

Before you get started, you need to make sure your dog knows a few other basic tricks. Playing dead is a combination of lying down and staying still, so your dog needs to have learned the ‘stay’ and the ‘lie down’ command first! 

Okay, is that done? Once it’s done, you can actually start to work towards the play dead trick. I know that you humans sometimes like the information in a simple step by step guide, so that’s what I’ll do! 

1. What side does your dog usually lie on?

Just like you humans, we dogs will usually have a favorite side that we almost always prefer lying on.

If you can figure out which side your dog prefers, then that’s the side you need to use when teaching the play dead.

Why? Well because then it’s easier!

We will lie down a lot easier and faster if it’s in a way that we’re used to and comfortable in! 

2. The right setting is key!

Okay, so we can get distracted pretty easily. We’re very aware! And the thing is, if we’re distracted then we’re not going to be paying attention to the learning, and we won’t end up learning the trick.

You have to make sure that we’re focused on you before you start teaching us the trick. And you know what really helps? The right setting! 

For example, if I’m in the park, I’m going to be way too excited to pay attention. I’ll be looking at other dogs and looking for squirrels and wanting to play and run around.

The training there just won’t work. Instead, make sure we’re somewhere quiet and calm, where it’s easier for me to focus on just you! 

3. Lying down. 

To start teaching us the trick, you need to first use the established command for getting us to lie down.

Every human has their own, but it’s usually something like ‘down’ accompanied with a hand movement or similar. 

4. Moving your dog on its side.

Once we’ve lied down on the floor, then you need to get us to lie on our side so that we look more dead.

If we know how to roll over or something similar then you can use that command and reward us for doing it. If not, then you’ll have to teach us to move onto our side! 

For this, use a deliciously tempting yummy dog treat, and guide us on our side by moving the treat in front of our noses and towards where you want us to go. It might take some tries! 


When we’re finally in the exact right position that you want us in to look dead, you can give us the treat as a reward!

Make sure to give us lots of love and praise so we 100% know that we’ve done a good job! (This is always my favorite part of the training!) 

6. Do it again and again and again…

Now it’s time to do it all over again! The best way for us to learn something is through repetition, paired with positive reinforcement.

If you make us do something over and over again, and you reward us each time, we’ll eventually begin to associate the action with a reward, and we’ll know that it’s a good thing to do!

So just do the entire exercise over and over again, treating us every time!

7. Add the BANG!

After a few repetitions, when we start to understand that lying on our side in that exact position is what gives us the reward, then it’s time to add the verbal command.

Usually the play dead command is something like ‘bang!’, or something like ‘die!’. Your choice, just make sure it’s snappy and short! 

You add the verbal command by saying it right before going through the entire exercise. 

8. Repeat again and again and again…

Surprise, it’s more repetition! They do say that patience is the key to dog training…it just takes a few tries for us to get it okay?

Anyway, repeat the entire exercise over and over again, using the verbal command. 


Don’t forget to keep treating us after every successful attempt! Eventually, every time you say BANG, we’ll lie down onto our side as you taught us because we know that it’s what you want from us!

And every time we do it you’ll tell us what good dogs we are, and we’ll get all the love, and we’ll be so happy! 

And that’s it, that’s how to teach a dog to play dead! It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? I told you we’re really smart! Just give us treats and we’ll do anything!

Once we’ve learned the trick we’ll be able to perform it whenever you ask. But it’s good to occasionally give us extra treats when we do it, so that we don’t forget about the trick and we’re always ready to do it!