This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Training is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog while bonding with them. Teaching them a trick like “play dead” can be fun too!

To teach your dog to play dead, you will need to get them properly motivated, encourage them to lay down, then use the motivator to get them to fall over on their side. You will then need to practice this motion over and over while pairing it with a command.

In this article, we will walk you through the steps needed to teach a dog to play dead. We will also give you some tips about what tricks to teach your dog before trying this one, in case your dog has trouble. Finally, we will discuss the benefits of dog training and the importance of teaching them tricks, even silly ones.

As a long-time dog owner and lover, I am going to walk you through the process of teaching and training your dog to play dead. Learning how to do this with your dog will not only bring the two of you closer together, but it will cognitively stimulate your dog as well. Let’s get started!

Table of contents


How Do You Teach A Dog To Play Dead?

While teaching your dog to play dead can seem silly, training of any kind is beneficial for your dog. Whether you are teaching them basic obedience, an advanced athletic trick, or something fun like play dead, your dog will be mentally stimulated, will get some exercise, and will deepen their bond with you.

The basic process for teaching your dog to play dead is to get your dog into a “down” position and then letting them fall or roll to the side and lay still. You will use motivators like treats or toys to encourage them to do the movement, and then pair that movement with a command.

With proper training, practice, and positive reinforcement, your dog will master this trick in no time.

Determine The Best Motivator For Your Dog

One of the most important parts of dog training is knowing what motivates them. Most dogs are highly motivated by food and treats. You can simply use some of their kibble or one of their favorite treats during training. Food, especially kibble, is a great motivator because you can use training as a means of feeding your dog at mealtimes.

There are dogs, though, that are not motivated by food. This is where training can get tricky. Since food is one of the easiest motivators to work with, you want to completely rule it out before moving on to other methods.

Try using their all-time favorite treat, or you can even try a new, high-value treat. Your dog may not be interested in generic cookie-type treats, but they may love peanut butter or meat. Try a few different treats to see if anything motivates your dog.

If food doesn’t work, you can always try a stuffed animal or another toy that they love. This type of motivator will work fine for teaching your dog to play dead but is not ideal for all possible tricks that you might want to teach your dog.

Have Your Dog Get in a “Down” Position

Once you have determined the best motivator for your dog, have them get in a “down” position where they are laying on the ground facing you. If your dog doesn’t know how to lay down, you may want to teach them that trick first. We have a short guide for how to teach this toward the end of this article.

Once your dog is in the “down” position, reward them. This is the position that they will start the trick from. You are now ready to move to the next step.

Encourage Your Dog to Fall To Their Side

Now that your dog is laying down and focused on you, it is time to get them into the “play dead” position. Use your dog’s preferred motivator to do this. Hold the treat, kibble, or toy just out of their reach, then move it to the side toward their shoulder and then the ground.

It may take a few tries, but your dog should eventually fall to the side. This will be the desired “play dead” position. When they get into this position, give them the treat, kibble, or toy and lots of praise. This is how they will know that they did the right thing.

Practice this over and over again so that they get the hang of the movement. Be sure to practice with them falling over to both the left and right sides. You will want them to be able to fall to either side when performing this trick.

Extend Time Before Giving a Treat

In this next step, you will be working with your dog to extend the amount of time they are laying on the ground. When playing dead, you don’t want your dog to fall down and then immediately get up to get their treat or other rewards.

When your dog gets into the laying down and fallen over position, wait a few moments before giving them a treat. You may need to do this over time, waiting a few more seconds each time you practice the trick.

Eventually, you will get to the point where your dog does the trick for several moments before getting up again.

Pair This Movement With A Command

Once your dog has mastered the movements of this trick, you can pair it with a command: “play dead.” Simply say the command each time they enter the position. At first, you will still give them a treat each time that you have them do the trick.

Over time, you can start to ask them to do the trick without a reward. Again, you may need to do this slowly. You can start by not giving a treat once, then skipping the treat two times the next day, and so on. Eventually, you will only need to give your dog a treat for this trick every once in a while as practice.

How To Passively Train Your Dog To Play Dead

There is also a way to teach your dog to play dead without going through a bunch of complicated steps. This method is not as effective as what we have already described, but can be used to teach your dog a trick like “play dead.”

The “play dead” position simply involves a dog laying down on its side. This is a position that most dogs find themselves in throughout a normal day when they are resting. You can simply approach your dog when they are naturally in this position to give them a treat, praise, and the command words.

This method of training will take longer than a standard training method, but over time your dog will learn to do the trick on command with this method.

What Should I Teach My Dog First?

Before you start teaching your dog to play dead, they will need to master the “down” command. This basic obedience command is something that most dogs would benefit from knowing. It is a prerequisite for a lot of other tricks, like playing dead. It is also a great way to get your dog to calm down if they get overexcited or you need them to be still.

To teach your dog “down,” you will need to first have your dog sit. Then, you will use their preferred motivator, like a treat or some kibble, to get into a laying down position. Take the treat and move it toward your dog’s nose, then to their chest, and finally to the floor, all in one motion. It may take a few tries, but your dog should eventually lay down.

Once your dog has mastered getting into the position, you can pair the movement with the “down” command. With lots of practice, your dog will be able to lay down perfectly on command.

Benefits of Teaching Your Dog to Play Dead

Teaching your dog this trick may seem silly, but learning this is beneficial to your dog. Teaching your dog requires a lot of time and communication between the two of you. This time alone is enough for you to form a strong bond. The more training you do, the more your dog will trust you and the happier the both of you will be.

Teaching tricks and commands like “play dead” is also an excellent way to mentally stimulate your dog. Certain dog breeds require mental stimulation as much as they need physical exercise. Boredom from lack of mental stimulation can contribute to bad behaviors like chewing and destroying things in your home.

Finally, by teaching your dog to play dead, you are preparing them to learn other, more difficult tricks. Playing dead is a relatively easy trick for your dog to learn. By learning it, you are walking your dog through the training process. Once they master this trick, they will be much more likely to learn and retain other tricks and training.