Another fun and entertaining trick that you can teach your dog is the “play dead” trick. This is such a great trick, because it gets a really strong reaction out of people watching your dog in action.
I will tell you right off the bat that this trick will be much easier if your dog knows the “down” command.
If your dog is clicker trained then grab your clicker and your doggie treats to get started. If your pup is not familiar with the clicker, then the treats will work just fine.
As with all of our training lessons we are going to keep them very short. I like to do several 5 minute or less sessions a day. You want to keep your dogs attention and any longer than the 5-minute mark will be too long.
Okay, let’s get started with our step-by-step program for “playing dead”:
- Have your dog stand or sit in front of you.
- Hold the clicker in one hand and your dog’s favorite treat in the other hand. If your dog is not clicker trained, simply omit the clicker.
- Command your dog to go into the “down” position.
- From the “down” position, use the treat to guide your dog over onto his side.
- Now it gets a little trickier. With your dog on his side, hold the treat in front of his nose, and bring it back over his shoulders. You will see your dogs head moving to follow the treat. As soon as your dog begins to move his head to follow the treat, click and give your dog the treat.
- Follow steps 1-5, but this time hold off on the click and treat until your dog’s entire body rolls over onto his back. You will find that trainers disagree on the playing dead position. Some believe that it is the dog laying on his side and some like the dog on his back. I prefer the dog on his back, as it looks more dramatic and it is a fun trick after all. We want the full effect. You can play around with it and see which you prefer. If you only want your dog on his side, then omit step 6 entirely.
- It is time for us to add our verbal cue words “play dead.” Follow steps 1-4 as stated. Right before step 5, say, “play dead.”
- Begin to remove the click and treat slowly, as well as your hand movement over the shoulders. You want to train your dog to rely solely on the cue words “play dead.” You don’t want to remove them all at once, but a gradual phase out will be successful.
- If you really want to get fancy, you can add a hand signal to the trick. This is a little much for some dog owners, but others just love the idea. Make a gun shape out of your hand and pretend to shoot your dog a split second before you say your verbal cue. Some owners choose to keep the verbal cue “play dead” and some teach their dog another cue “Bang!” Soon you’ll be able to phase out the verbal cue and rely solely on the hand signal.
- You may want to add a release command to, so your dog knows when to flip back over and get up. Encourage him to stay there for a couple of seconds. Then say, “Wake up!” or another command of your choosing.
Playing dead is a fun trick for you and your dog. You will find that some dogs like it so much that they will start to play dead even when you do not use your verbal or hand cue.