Once your dog has mastered basic commands, it’s time to learn a few tricks. A popular trick is playing dead, and once you know how to teach a dog to play dead it’s pretty easy. All it takes is 5 steps.
1) Choose the command you’re going to use.
The command “play dead” is a common one, as is "bang." Make sure it's distinct from other commands you use. If your dog isn't picking up the trick, try switching the command to see if it works better.
I started with “play dead” but realized it rhymes with another command I use (“go to bed”) when my dog didn't get it after several minutes. Once I switched to "bang" she picked it up pretty quickly.
2) Pick the hand signal associated with the command.
Dogs understand visual cues more quickly than verbal cues. Choose a hand signal that is different from any other signals you use in training. To go with “bang,” I put my thumb in the air, pointed my index finger, and folded my other fingers back against my palm so it looks like a gun.
Read more: How Dog Training With Hand Signals Works
3) Create a routine.
Dogs are creatures of habit and they learn routines easily. The "play dead" routine is simply Sit + Down + Roll Over. By breaking up the trick into smaller tasks, your dog will learn it more easily than if you tried to teach one command for several actions. Give your dog the commands for "sit," then "down," then "roll over" to get him into the "play dead" position.
If your dog has trouble with any part of this routine, try the tips below:
a. If your dog doesn’t know “sit” and “down”: check out How To Teach A Dog To Sit In 2 Minutes and How To Teach A Dog To Lay Down In 2 Minutes.
b. If your dog knows “roll over” and tries to roll all the way over: Once your dog has rolled to his side, reach out your arm to stop his legs from going up and over. Say the command for “play dead” as you do this so your dog doesn’t start thinking that “roll over” means he should lay on his side. Or skip the "roll over" part of the routine and try the tip below –
c. If your dog doesn’t know how to roll over: Have your dog sit, then lay down. With a treat in hand, show your dog the treat, hold it over his nose, then move it to the side and down as you say the "play dead" command. Most dogs will automatically roll over to get the treat with the least amount of effort. It helps to notice if your dog is leaning to one side or the other, then move the treat towards that side.
4) Reward the desired behavior.
Once your dog is laying on his side in the “play dead” position, reward him with treat and praise. Repeat the command and hand signal as you do so. This will associate the command you’ve chosen with your dog’s position laying on his side.
Repeat the chain of commands several times. Eventually, your dog will know that “Play Dead” = laying on his side and you won’t need the whole routine of Sit + Down + Roll Over.
That’s it – 5 easy steps. Keep practice sessions short, 5 to 10 minutes a day, and practice each day until your dog has it down. Gradually decrease your use of "sit," "down," and "roll over" until all you need to say is “play dead.” Likewise, gradually decrease your use of treats as your dog gets better. Keep up the praise with every successful attempt.
Learning how to teach a dog to play dead is easy. Tricks like this are a good way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and learning, even once he’s passed obedience school.
Ready to try it at home? Follow PawPosse.com on Facebook for more fun ways to enjoy life with your dog.
If you liked this, you may also like:
How Do I Keep My Dog Mentally Stimulated? – 3 ways to give your dog's brain a workout.
The Best Training Tip I Ever Heard – To get your dog to do what you want, you have to figure out what he wants.
Dog Puzzles For Dogs – A fun way to challenge your dog and reward him for learning something new.
Photo credit: Mike Epps