How To Teach Your Dog To Play Dead | A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re looking for a fun trick to teach your dog, look no further than “play dead.”

Not only is it impressive to onlookers, but it’s also a great way to bond with your furry friend.

And who doesn’t love to see their dog flopped over on the ground in an adorable pseudo-death position?

Keep reading to learn how to teach your dog to play dead with our step-by-step guide.

How To Teach Your Dog To Play Dead Step-By-Step


white brown dog laying on side playing dead

Learning your dog to play dead is more accessible than one might think, a dog learns new tricks very fast.

However like all things with dog training, some preparation is necessary.

Before getting started, it’s essential to find a rug or mat for the dog to feel comfortable lying down and rolling over.

Additionally, setting up treats to lure and reward the dog will help create a positive learning environment.

It also helps to keep them motivated during practice.

Finally, if you’re looking for extra precision when it comes to training, add clicker training to mark the dog’s progress and make sure it knows when it has performed an action correctly.

Also, make sure to choose a location with just a few distractions if you have a dog who’s getting easily distracted.

With these items in hand, you can start training your dog to roll over and play dead.

Choose A Verbal Command You Will Use To Get Your Dog Into The “Play Dead” Position, Such As “Lie Down” Or “Roll Over”

colorful dog lying on grass looking happy

To start, use an upbeat and encouraging tone of voice.

Then use your chosen verbal cue, doesn’t matter if it’s “lie down” or “roll over”, and then make sure that your body language is clear as well.

You can, for example, give a hand signal like a gun shape.

Then hold a treat near their nose or head to encourage them to go in the down position.

Once your dog is lying in the correct position, reward him with a treat. 

Treat To Make Him Roll On The Side

The next step after getting your dog to play dead is to help them use a treat as a guide until they are comfortable doing it on their own.

By presenting the treat in front of the dog’s nose and then moving it out towards their side, it will guide them into lying onto their side from the down position.

It’s essential to talk in a soothing voice during the process.

Also, make sure you’re using your verbal cue, and your hand signal (visual cue) and even reward them with treats when they successfully roll over or lie down into position.

With patience, consistency and positive reinforcement, you’ll be able to get your dog used to do it in no time, it will just need some training sessions.

Add Variation

brown dog lying on back playing dead

Once your dog has mastered the basics of the trick and if the dog understands what you want him to do, you can start adding variations to increase their entertainment and education.

Have them roll over onto their back from a sitting position and then play dead.

As they practice this new trick, be sure to reward them with verbal encouragement and praise as they get it right.

Eventually they will happily play along on command, demonstrating their full “play-dead” capabilities!

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

It is a skill that requires patience and consistency.

To be effective, the dog must be taught the trick multiple times by repeating it in different contexts.

And never forget the yummy treat in front of your dog’s nose.

Teaching your dog this trick repeatedly ensures that he will remember what to do in a variety of scenarios and can protect you from any potential danger from other animals or people.

Not only is it a useful technique for times of potential threat but it also makes for great entertainment when your dog performs the trick correctly!

If you’re not sure how to teach this trick to your dog or if it doesn’t work, you can also contact a certified professional dog trainer for help.


You have successfully taught your dog how to play dead.

Now that they know the basics, you can start adding variations and challenging them with new tasks.

Be sure to keep rewarding them for their successes along the way; positive reinforcement is key in training dogs.

Make yourself a mental note to always be patient and consistent when teaching your furry friend new tricks, always use a hand signal, verbal praise and enjoy watching them learn and grow.

Do Dogs Like To Play Dead?

white dog lying on back playing dead

It is unclear whether dogs are aware of the concept of playing dead or if they react to our cues as people.

It is well known that some dogs will do the command when asked or on command, seemingly pretending to die or feign injuries when their owners want them to.

But why?

Perhaps it is a form of dog-owner bonding, humans and their canine companions practice this activity because it pleases both dog and person.

Whatever the source, it’s clear that dog playing dead is an interesting phenomenon worthy of further study.

colorful dog lying on back playing dead and has a toy in his mouth

Why Do People Teach Their Dog To Play Dead?

This has become a relatively popular training trick for dog owners.

It provides a lot of entertainment.

Before You Go…

Now you know how to teach your dog to play dead.

If you want to learn more, read the following article too!

Mena Emad, DVM
Mena has a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. His expertise, passion for animal welfare, extensive knowledge, and experience in the field of veterinary medicine make him an excellent resource for our readers.