Trick training can be a fun way to interact with your dog and to give your pet a healthy outlet for an intelligent mind. One trick that many people want for their dogs is for the dog to play dead on command.
In order to train your dog to play dead your dog should first know how to lie down on command.
Start with the Lay Down Command
Start out with your dog lying down. Grab one of his paws to steady him in position. Then as you tell him ‘play dead’ (or whatever command you want) push him on the side of his head or body TOWARDS the paw that you are holding. By holding the paw on one side and pushing him from the other side you should be able to create a situation where the dog starts to roll onto his back.
Once he is on his back now you want him to hold that position. Slowly and calmly continue repeating ‘play dead’ or whatever other command you are using. You can even calmly dispense little pieces of treat into his mouth as long as he stays on his back.
If he moves from his position or hops up then you need to stop with the treats and immediately start over from the lying down position.
If your dog is going nuts over the treats, getting overstimulated by you holding his paw or pushing on him then more than likely you need more obedience training.
The foundation for most trick training is to first have a dog that listens well on command and can be relied on to pay attention despite food or other distractions.
I always encourage my clients to work on trick training AFTER they’ve done obedience training. Obedience training establishes proper relationships between dogs and owners and it is far more important than any trick you can teach. Essentially, don’t put the cart before the horse.
I say this because I’ve worked with many a dog owner who tells me, “My dog is great! She does all the tricks. She shakes, fetches, rolls over, plays dead, sits pretty and all the rest. I just can’t get her to come when called, walk properly on a leash, or stay like she should.”
I always wonder how much more success the owner would have had if they had put the effort into their obedience training that they put into their trick training.