Skip to Content

How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead

This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.

“Play dead” or “Go to sleep” is an advanced trick that you should teach your dog after he has already learned all the basic obedience commands like, “sit”, “stay” or “drop it”.

Dogs love to learn new things and if you are running out of commands and tricks then this is the one to teach.

The command is also known as “Shoot the dog dead” which seems too harsh for some owners.

If you want, you can always go with it as a quiet sleep command to put your dog at ease.

Before you teach your dog to play dead, grab his favorite treats (Natural Chicken Treats) and a clicker if you are training with one, and let’s start.

How to Teach a Dog to Lie Down

If your dog already knows this command then you can simply jump to the next step. The command “lie down” is very helpful for this trick and for many other commands out there.

Get plenty of treats and start in a low distractive environment like your living room.

If you are afraid that your dog might get hurt when sliding down on the wooden floor then you can always lay a blanket or mat under him.

This will make the process much more comfortable for him.

  • Start by showing him that you have treats in your hand. You can already reward him once you have his attention.
  • Get him into a sit position and hold the treat tight between your fingers close to your dog’s nose.
  • Slowly lower your hand with the treat so your dog slides into a lie-down position. Wherever you lure the nose, the body will follow.
  • Once his front paws are fully on the ground, you can reward him.
  • Add the cue “down” after a few times and always praise with treats.
Source: Couponchief

Once you have repeated the steps from above and your dog had a few successful downs in a row then you can gradually fade out the luring and only give him a treat when he completed the command.

Before you read any further, choose one of these audiobooks for FREE to expand your knowledge!

Now you can continue with training the actual command play dead.

1. Lie Down

Start with your dog in a down position. After a few times, you can add the verbal cue and be sure that he stays in this position until you release him.

2. Roll to Side

Gently push your lying dog to one side by rubbing his belly or luring him with a treat and praise him for doing that.

After a few times, you can try to hold the position for a few seconds or longer and reward.

3. Adding Command

Choose your desired verbal cue, like “play dead”, “bang” or “go to sleep” and repeat it whenever your dog rolls to its side.

You can also add a visual command, like a shooting movement with your hand to make it even more fun.

Teaching from a Standing Position

This is the advanced version from the command “play dead”. Before teaching it from a standing position be sure that your dog has mastered the easier part first.

For this, you will need to train your dog a proper “stand” and “stay” so he won’t move into another position before you give him the command.

Give the verbal and visual cue and if your dog doesn’t know what you are talking about then you can add a “down” to make it easier.

After a few times, your dog will get into the “play dead” command much quicker and more easily.

How to Teach a Dog to Roll Over and Play Dead

Once your dog has perfected the play dead command, you can teach him to roll over and combine the two tricks. In this article, you can learn how to teach your dog to roll over.

You can either use the two commands separately, so the rollover command first and then the cue for play dead or you can choose to teach your dog to play dead after every rollover.

The second one will condition him pretty fast and it is definitely a nice addition to rollover.

If you haven’t taught your dog to roll over, then instead of teaching him to roll into a lie-down position, you can teach him to only roll to his side.

If you do not want him to do it every time, then simply tell him to “roll over” and treat him and then say “play dead”.

How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead with a Clicker

Play dead is a great command to teach it with a clicker. It is no different than clicker training with any other command.

When your dog has performed the desired behavior click instead of a reward cue like “yes” and treat him.

A dog that has already learned the rollover command will probably go completely around every time, this is where a clicker comes in handy.

Slowly lure your dog’s nose behind his shoulder and right when he lays on his side click immediately and treat him.

After a few tries, your dog will understand that he gets no treats for completely rolling over and only for ending on his side.

If your dog has problems with that, gently push him onto his side when he rolls over.

You can then slowly increase the time, your dog is laying on his side and only giving him treats after a few seconds.

Paying Attention to the Process

When you train any new trick or command, be patient and calm to receive the best possible results.

If your dog makes mistakes, that means that you went on too quickly and your dog can’t keep up with you.

Do not push your dog for too long and include playtime or try it on another day otherwise your dog might feel pressured and will start hating the training process.

If he seems frustrated, tired or bored then stop immediately and be sure to make it more fun next time.

If you want your dog to be excited about a new trick, then be excited yourself and make it interesting.

Be consistent with the commands you choose and the way you teach them. You cannot expect your dog to know what you want from him.

A dog doesn’t understand human language and words mean nothing to him, you could also teach him “car” instead of “sit”.

Let me know your thoughts on this command in the comments and what results you achieved from training it.

Pin This:

how to stop puppy howling and barking
How to Quickly Stop Puppy Barking & Howling
← Read Last Post
8 alarming signs your dog may be sick
8 Alarming Signs Your Dog May Be Sick
Read Next Post →

About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.


Tuesday 28th of May 2019

I love this new trick and my little girl has learned it so fast, thanks to you!


Wednesday 29th of May 2019

Thank you! I am glad that you like it!