How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead: 8 Tips & Tricks

Teaching your dog new tricks can be a fun activity, but it’s also an excellent way for you both to bond. Dogs love spending time with their humans and making them happy. What better way to do that than teach them something new they can show their friends at the dog park?

The trick “play dead” is a classic one where you give a signal to your dog, and they flop onto the ground and lie still until released. Read on for the best way to teach your dog this new trick!


The 8 Tips to Teach a Dog to Playing Dead

Be sure you and your dog are already familiar with the commands “lie down” and “stay” because this new trick builds on these.

1. What Side Does Your Dog Lie On?

Big Brown Dog Rolling in Grass
Image Credit: Valeria Boltneva, Pexels

Many dogs favor a particular side for rolling over. If your dog has a preferred side, use that one when training it to play dead since it will be easier for them to adopt the action. You can teach a dog to lie on its back to play dead, but this will take longer and isn’t always successful.

2. Pick a Good Spot

Make sure you choose somewhere your dog is comfortable, free of distractions, and where you are in control. The ideal location will generally be your home. Picking the dog park, for example, will be too distracting.

3. Give the “Down” Command

Dog training outdoor
Image Credit: Paya Mona, Shutterstock

Use the verbal cues and hand signals your dog is familiar with to get them into their down position.

4. Coax Your Dog Onto Their Side

You can use a dog treat for this part. Hold it between your first two fingers a few inches from your dog’s nose, and then bring it to their side. This should have your dog rolling onto their side while looking at the treat.

If your dog has learned to roll over, it may roll all the way over at this point. Only give them the treat when they’re in the correct position. If you are using clicker training, you will click your clicker instead.

5. Reward and Repeat

jack russell terrier having treats
Image Credit: Reddogs, Shutterstock

Reward your dog each time you repeat this action. Do it several times, so they get used to it.

6. Add New Verbal Command and Visual Cue

Once your dog understands that they get a reward for lying on its side, you can add your new verbal cue and hand signal. Most people use “bang,” which they accompany with a gun-like hand signal, but the choice is yours.

7. Repeat

Dog consistent training
Image Credit: DestinyWiens, Unsplash

Repeat this process, and when you do, you’re going to reset to the very beginning, so they are attentive and under your control each time you start.

8. Be Patient

Each canine is different and so are their attention spans. Some people can repeat this training process for 15 minutes, while other dogs won’t last as long. 5–10 minutes is usually a good time. You want to keep them having fun, or they won’t want to try again.

Once your dog has mastered this trick, be sure to practice it often and choose different locations, so it’s fresh in your pet’s mind when it shows off at the dog park.



Any time you spend with your dog is time well spent. If you follow these eight simple steps, your dog will be performing a new trick you can show off at the next party. If you have to repeat some steps, that’s fine! At the end of the day, your dog will love it because they’re having fun and getting the opportunity to spend time with their favorite human!

Featured Image Credit: David Cohen 156, Shutterstock

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