How To Teach Your Dog To Play Dead

Owning a dog can be the best experience ever. Wouldn’t it be great to have your best friend beside you every step of the way? If you own one, count yourself to be one of the luckiest people alive!

Have you ever thought about showing and teaching your dog a trick or two? If so, you’ve come to the right place to do just that.

It is time to teach your dog to play dead. Even though teaching your dog to play dead isn’t as important as teaching it commands like “sit” or “stay,” most dogs can be trained to do it with little difficulty. It can be a fun experience for your dog to learn and help them to become even more obedient than before. Don’t forget to show this off to everyone once you ace it!

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What You Will Need

Treats needed for dog training

Playing dead does not require anything more than some of their favorite treats, and you are ready to go. Using a clicker is also an excellent way to practice this trick. Be sure to have your clicker handy if you opt for clicker training.

Patience is key, if you don’t have this then you can forget about attempting the trick and teaching your dog. Every dog picks up things at a different rate, so don’t overload your dog with a lot of different things at once.

Starting The Process

Before you begin teaching your dog how to play dead, they first need to be able to lay down on cue. Using the word “down” is one of the basic commands you can teach your dog. They respond even better to this by acting it out with them so that they understand what you want them to do.

Once you have your dog in this position, you should hold the treat close to their nose. Then start by slowly pulling the treat over to their side so they have to roll onto their side to get it. It helps if your dog is already accustomed to rolling onto its side, as it will already be familiar with the process.

This isn’t essential for them to know, it just means you’ll need to spend a little more time teaching them how to react to the movement of the treat and adjust accordingly.  It is a good idea to repeat the process multiple times even if they do get it the first time. If your dog is on its side, clicking your clicker and saying “good” is the best time to reward them.

Playing Dead

dog performing "play dead" trick

When you have trained your dog to complete the action a few times, introduce a cue word and a hand signal. A common method involves using the verbal command “bang” with a hand signal of pointing a gun towards the dog. The other option is to obviously say “play dead” and it is one your dog should be able to respond to well. This is once they ace all the steps and get used to all the actions.

The good thing is you can actually pick any phrase you want to use on your dog and it is a great way to build a more personal relationship between you and your best friend. It won’t take long until your dog falls to the ground upon hearing your signal when you practice this trick a few times a day for a few minutes each time. If you do it correctly, you will be able to have your dog play dead on command.

Problems You Could Experience

A frequent issue is that if your dog knows how to roll over, it will naturally roll all the way over when enticed to the side. Here’s your chance to grab a clicker and make sure you capture the exact behavior you’re looking for. To fix this problem, you should click the clicker immediately after enticing your dog onto its side with a treat and reward them.

Nevertheless, if it continues to roll over, step away for some time. You may notice that your dog stops rolling completely over when it realizes the treat goes out, and only offers the behavior that results in the treat. This is a great problem solving method to use if you cannot get past this stage.

In the event that you cannot get your dog to follow the treat so that it lays on its side, show it what you want it to do instead. As you pull the treat, you can also very gently push them to the side. Give a treat to the dog as soon as it’s in the correct position and click your clicker or tell them “good.”

Each dog learns at a different pace so it is important to take your time and not rush in to moving forward with each step. If your dog fails to adapt to what you want them to do, give them a treat and let them rest for the rest of the day. It is important not to force anything.

In order to train your dog to remain lying there longer when playing dead, you can teach it to get up more slowly from playing dead than you desire. Wait a few seconds before rewarding the dog the moment it lies over on its side, rather than giving it a treat right away.


Hopefully, if you have made it this far, you have not had to use any of the methods previously discussed to solve the problem. If so, at least you got your dog to play dead and achieve your goal eventually. A trick like this can be fun and exciting to show anyone, especially kids, who will love doing it themselves.

It is likely that your dog will have learned to roll over on this process, as well as lying down, so it is an effective trick that could have helped your dog further develop its skills.

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.