How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead

Nj Rongner
Oct. 5, 2015

Playing dead is an advanced trick for your dog and it has more benefits than just impressing your friends.

Once you've taught your dog all the basic commands like "stay" and "down," you can start teaching him more advanced ones like "play dead." It's the next step for Fido, but it will also be a challenge for you to learn how to teach a dog to play dead.

Teaching your dog how to play dead is more than a just a great way to impress your family and friends. It teaches him how to settle on his side, says Garrett Rosso, owner of Village Dog Works, a provider of dog-training services. It is also great for anxious dogs, as settling on their sides, can help him calm down.

How to Teach a Dog to Play Dead



  1. Start Off With the Mastery of the Basic Skills
    Teaching a dog how to play dead requires a prerequisite skill set. "'Playing dead' or 'bang' is an advanced trick that I only teach once a dog already knows the 'down' and 'roll over' commands," advises Rosso.
  2. Wear Her Out
    Unlike with many other tricks, a well-exercised, tired dog will have an easier time learning to play dead, recommends Rosso.
  3. Command "Down" First
    Start off by giving your dog the "down" command by pointing to the ground using your right hand.
  4. Encourage Your Dog Onto His Back
    Sit down in front of your dog and encourage him to roll over, but instead of allowing a full roll, stop him halfway through with a belly scratch.
  5. Use a Treat in Your Hand as a Guide
    While your dog is still on her back, encourage her into a roll over onto her side by placing a treat near her nose and slowly moving your hand from her shoulder blade to behind her head.
  6. Guide Your Dog's Body With Your Hands
    "You may need to gently guide your dog's midsection with your non-treat hand to encourage him to roll half the way over. Don't give him the treat yet," advises Rosso.
  7. Use a Verbal Cue
    While your dog is on her back, give her a belly scratch as you say "Bang!" or "Play dead!"
  8. Keep His Focus
    Use the treat hand to keep your dog's focus as you continue to gently scratch his belly.
  9. Release Her Out of the Trick
    After your dog lies on her back for a few seconds, release her out of the trick and give her the command to get up. Rosso recommends using the verbal cue you've already established with your dog, such as "okay" or "release."
  10. Reward Your Dog With His Treat
    After your dog is standing, give him his treat.

These steps can and should be repeated until your dog has mastered how to play dead. Remember, this is an advanced trick and might take a while for your dog to learn. "I recommend short practice sessions every day, and as your dog progresses through the steps and masters the sequence of the trick, you can use verbal cues instead of food to get your dog to play dead," says Rosso. Eventually, you should only have to look at your dog and say "bang!" or "play dead!" to get him to do the trick.

Want even more trick ideas? Try these 7 Best Dog Tricks Ever.

NJ Rongner is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts where she enjoys hanging out with her family and walking the neighbor's dog.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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