Dogs are brilliant animals. Most dogs can learn up to 165 different words and commands. Meanwhile, the most intelligent dogs (or "super dogs") can learn up to 250 words in their lifetime!
Your dog's ability to learn new words and commands makes teaching new tricks easy. All you need are a lot of treats and a little bit of patience to get started.
Learning how to teach a dog to play dead is an excellent place to start. This command is fun to show off to friends, but playing dead also has more practical benefits.
What are the benefits of teaching your dog to play dead, and how do you get started if you want your dog to learn this new trick? We will answer these questions in this guide, so keep reading to find out.
Why Would You Want to Teach a Dog to Play Dead?
Training a dog to play dead is a fun party trick to show off to friends and family members. But this dog trick also has a more practical purpose. "Playing dead" requires a dog to lie on his side or back.
You can imagine the usefulness of this trick. For example, say your dog needs to lie down on his side for a vaccination at the vet's office. Giving a simple command is far less stressful for Fido than wrestling him onto his side.
Last but most importantly, teaching your dog new tricks is the perfect time for bonding. Working on your relationship with your pup will improve their loyalty to and trust in you and confidence in his own abilities.
How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead in 9 Steps
Now that you understand why playing dead can be a helpful trick, it's time to start training! Here is a simple nine-step process to help you teach your dog to play dead.
Step 1. Gather the Training Supplies
To teach your dog to play dead, you will need training treats. These can be your dog's favorite treat or one he rarely gets. The latter can make Fido even more motivated to learn.
Treats are crucial for the early stages of training. Your dog has to learn to associate "playing dead" with something good. In this case, that something good is a treat.
You will also need a distraction-free area with a comfortable place to lie down. If the quiet place you choose does not have carpeting, grab a small rug or mat to make him feel more comfortable.
Step 2. Tell Your Dog to Lie Down
When you were a baby, you had to learn how to crawl before you could walk. Similarly, your dog must learn to lie down before he can play dead. If your dog knows how to lie down already, that's great!
But if not, here's how to teach him. First, have your dog sit down by giving a command or gently pushing his bottom toward the floor. Next, grab a treat and hold it before your dog's nose.
Slowly move the treat from in front of your dog's nose to his chest. Then, bring the treat down toward the floor. When your dog follows the treat and lays down, praise him and immediately give him the treat.
Step 3. Teach Your Dog to Roll on His Back
When most dogs lie down, they tip their hip to one side. This is a more comfortable position for your pup. But it also shows you which side your dog will likely roll over onto.
With your dog lying down, take a treat and put it before his nose. Then, move the treat to bring their nose around to the opposite side of the hip they tend to lay on. Your dog should be lying on his side now.
This strategy works because your dog must lie on his side to follow the treat with his nose. When he does lay on his side, praise your pup and immediately give him the treat.
You can easily get your dog to roll onto his back from this position. Put another treat in front of your pup's nose and move it away from his head toward his back. Your dog should follow the treat by rolling onto his back.
Step 4. Teach Your Dog to Lay Down His Head
This step can be the most difficult. When a dog lays down his head, this puts him in a very vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable position. Teaching your dog this step may take a while, so expect lots of repetition.
Your dog should be lying on his side for this step. Grab a treat and hold it in front of your dog's nose. Then, slowly lower the treat toward the ground, encouraging your dog's head to follow.
Give your dog plenty of praise and award him immediately when he lays down his head. Immediate rewards help your dog learn to associate laying down his head with something good: the treat.
Step 5. Connect a Verbal Command With the Movement
With any dog trick, there are two components. The first is the movement itself. If you've gotten this far, congratulate yourself for overcoming this first hurdle.
The second component of any dog trick is the command. Ideally, you want your dog to be able to play dead on command, even if you aren't holding a tasty and motivating treat in front of his nose.
But first, you have to connect the command with the movement. Keep the treat in play during this step and simply add in a command. The command could be as simple as "play dead" or as fun as "bang."
Step 6. Connect a Non-Verbal Command With the Verbal Command (Optional)
Some dogs respond well to verbal and non-verbal commands. For example, when you tell your dog to play dead or say "bang," you point at the ground or pretend to shoot him.
You can incorporate this non-verbal command into the earlier stages of your training. But if you haven't done that yet, consider training your dog to recognize your chosen verbal and non-verbal cues at the same time.
Step 7. Remove the Treat and Repeat
You will know when your dog has connected your command with the play-dead movement if he can do it even when you don't have a treat. But you may have to work up to this point.
First, start removing treats. For example, you can stop rewarding your dog when he rolls onto his side. Instead, only reward him when he rolls onto his side and lays down his head.
Keep removing treats until you only reward him for playing dead on command. Then, you can work toward eliminating the treat altogether.
Step 8. Teach Your Dog to Play Dead from Standing
In the early stages of training, your dog may only be able to play dead from a sitting or laying position. This is an excellent beginning, but the ultimate goal is to get your dog to play dead from a standing position.
You've done most of the work already. Now, all you have to do is bring a treat back into the equation. Give your dog the command when he is standing up and reward him immediately with praise and a treat when he is successful.
Over time, you can remove the treat. Your dog should then be able to play dead from standing even when he only gets praise as a reward.
Step 9. Practice Makes Perfect
The last step in the process is to practice, practice, practice. And don't just practice in the area where you trained your dog to play dead. Progressively add new distractions to teach your dog to play dead wherever you go.
Only the most confident dogs will feel comfortable playing dead around other dogs. Some dogs may even feel nervous playing dead around strangers.
Respect your dog's fears and only ask him to play dead when he's feeling comfortable and confident. That way, he will trust you when you ask him to play dead.
Need Help Training a Dog in Dallas?
Learning how to teach a dog to play dead is more than just a fun trick. It can also help with vet visits and grooming appointments. Use our nine-step process to teach your pup this impressive and highly practical command.
Are you looking for more dog training tips? Find them on the K-9 Culture blog. Or book a consultation to learn more about our Dallas-area programs for training dogs like yours to learn new tricks and behave better.
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