Playing dead is an excellent dog trick. Although it is not as essential as teaching your dog commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, it can be a fun game for both the dog and the trainer.
Make sure your dog is familiar with the basic commands ‘down’ and ‘stay’ before teaching him how to play dead. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to adding “play dead” to your dog’s list of new tricks:
Step 1: Practice the down position
Command your dog to lie down. Take into account which side your dog prefers to lie on. Many dogs like to roll over and lie on one side. Make a mental note to use this side as you teach your dog to play dead, as it will be easier for him to learn the action if he seems to enjoy it on that side.
Step 2: Use treats
Use treats to entice your dog. Get your dog’s attention by holding a treat right in front of his face. Slowly lure your dog’s head over his shoulder using the treat. Your dog will naturally turn his body as he follows the treat. When your dog follows the treat to her side, stop turning your hand to prevent your dog from rolling over. Then draw your dog’s attention to the treat by pointing it toward the ground. Reward your dog with a treat when his head follows the treat all the way to the ground. Once your dog is on his side, say “yes” or “fine.” Or click your clicker. Then give the dog a treat. Repeat these steps several times.
Step 3: Add signals
Add a cue phrase and a hand signal after your dog completes the role a few times. Most people use the verbal words in combination with a hand signal command, placing their fingers together to resemble a gun pointed at the dog. Whatever command you choose, say the phrase, show the dog your hand signal, and place the treat on the floor next to the dog. Eventually, you stop putting the treats on the floor and reward the dog after he comes back to life.
Repeat the process for up to 15 minutes, always making sure your dog is under control and attentive before beginning the command. Give your dog a break after 15 minutes.
To make the lessons interesting and positive for both you and your dog, end each session on a positive note as your dog practices the method successfully.