How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead (Bang! Bang!)

Playing dead is one of the most famous and time-honored dog commands out there. Certainly, it's one of the most impressive tricks you and your pooch can pull out at parties. But while the result may appear effortless, getting there takes quite a bit of work.

A Complex Process

There’s a lot more to training your dog to play dead than merely pointing your finger his way and saying “Bang!” That’s mainly because the trick itself is more or less a skilled progression of the basic commands “stay” and “down.” If your dog doesn't exhibit mastery of these basic orders, the only reaction you're going to get from extending your index finger and going "Bang!" is a quizzical look; one that may read "what on earth are you doing?"

While these basic commands serve as the backbone of the play dead trick, there are variances that stem from them that lead to the fun to occur. Specifically, the trick consists of three elements that your dog needs to understand for it to work. He needs to perform a physical task, recognize a verbal cue, and react to a visual aid.

Step One: Teaching the Roll

How to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead 2

The first part of successfully teaching your pooch how to move past the “down” command and roll to his side or his back without rolling over (which of course is a different command altogether). In order to do this, you need to place yourself on the floor and give the down command, so you can be at his level to complete the task in a manner that is comfortable to him. Once there, you can roll him to his side or back and give the stay command.

Once your pooch masters this aspect of the trick - which he should pick up on after several short, consistent bursts of practice - you can move onto the next part, which is introducing a verbal cue. Since the traditional method of executing this trick involves pretending to “shoot” your dog, the most obvious cue to go with here is “bang.” However, any word that conveys a similar effect like “pow” or “boom” - or even a shot-like sound effect - will work perfectly fine as long as it is used consistently.

Finally, once your dog learns to associate the physical action with the verbal cue, it's time to add the visual aid. This is as simple as pointing your index finger and thumb toward your dog as you say your "trigger" word. Generally speaking, your dog will be able to pick up on the trick in a couple of weeks as long as you remain diligent in your training regimen.

Further Advancing the Advanced Trick

After you and your four-legged friend get the basics of the play dead trick down pat, you can move to make the trick a little more elaborate to really wow your friends and family. This could involve something as simple as teaching your dog to play dead from a standing position; a command that may require you to lead him to perform the down command along the way. This could also involve teaching your dog how to ham it up a bit for an especially dramatic "death."

Treats, Praise, and Persistence - The Lifeblood of This or Any Trick

If you attempt to teach your dog to play dead, be prepared to give him plenty of praise and treats during the process. These two elements are iron-clad ways in which your buddy will know that he is doing exactly what you want him to do. Eventually, he will be able to do this on his own without the benefit of a tasty morsel.

Also, if you are serious about training your furry friend, you need to remain persistent. Stick to a consistent training schedule, and keep each session to a tight, compact time frame. Doing so will keep the trick fun and keep your patience firm.

Ultimately, adhering to these steps will do more than teach your dog a neat little party trick. It will deepen the bond that you and your pup share. And that’s really the best reason to teach your pooch this or any other command.

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