How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

Need a cute dog trick to wow your friends and family? High five is always a crowd-pleaser. Or how about spin? Not impressive enough? How about something a little more dramatic? How about playing dead?

A dog that rolls over to play dead on cue looks like a total genius. Really, however, this trick is no harder to learn than any other basic cue. Here’s the skinny on how to teach your dog to play dead.

Teach your dog to lie down first

To teach a dog how to play dead, they first need to lie down on cue.

If your dog doesn’t already know how to lie down, show them how! Here is the progression:

  • Bend head down
  • Stretch to touch belly to ground
  • Repeat

And here’s how to teach it.

1. With your dog in a sit, put a treat between your fingers with your palm facing down. Hold your hand in front of their nose and lower it straight to the ground.

When your dog bends towards the ground, mark it with a clicker or a marker word (“Yes!” works well) and reward them. Repeat five times.

2. Next, ask your dog to sit. With a treat between your fingers and your palm facing down, lower your hand straight down from their nose, then pull it back towards yourself.

When their belly is on the ground, mark and reward. Repeat five times.

3. Repeat Step 2, this time with no treat in your hand. Mark and reward when your dog’s belly hits the ground and practice it at least five times.

4. Now add a verbal cue. Say the word “down” then lower your empty palm to the ground. Mark, reward and repeat.

5. Finally, fade out your hand signal. Ask your dog to sit then say “down.” Give them about five seconds to think it out. If they respond and lie down, mark and celebrate with a reward!

If they don’t get it, show your hand signal instead of repeating the verbal cue. When their belly is on the ground, mark and reward.


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