When we meet a dog for the first time, whether it be a new dog to the neighborhood or a friend’s new puppy, we often ask, “Do they know any tricks?” When you train your dog to do fun moves like wave, roll over, and bow, you not only help strengthen the bond between you and your pup, but also give others an approachable way to interact and build trust with your favorite furry friend.
Trick training can also benefit your dog’s overall health by providing both physical and mental activities. Teaching your dog to roll over, walk backward, and even dance, can help improve your pup’s flexibility, muscle movement, stamina, and concentration. Tricks can also help your pooch channel their energy into something positive and refocus their attention if they need a distraction.
Bil-Jac partnered with TV Show Host and Professional Animal Trainer Joel Silverman to present a series of videos that walk pet parents through every step they need to take in order to teach their dog’s new tricks. One of Joel’s favorite commands, play dead, is often used on movie sets and tv shows, which makes it a particularly fun trick for you and your pup to pull out at parties.
If your pup already knows simple commands like lay down and stand and now you’re on the hunt for a fun new party trick, use these 7 simple steps to learn how to teach your dog to play dead.
Steps to Teach Your Dog to Play Dead
Studies have shown that your furry friend may not always easily remember specific details about how to perform a trick, but they can remember the positive association between their actions and receiving a treat. So, treats are an essential component to training your dog to play dead.
Before you start your training, make sure you have your dog’s favorite treats on hand. “If we’re using positive reinforcement, we want to use whatever treat is the most motivating to the dog.” Silverman says. He goes on to recommend starting with Bil-Jac Dog Treats because there are a good variety of taste options, they’re healthy, and dogs love them. You can experiment with different treats to see which ones your dog likes the most and use that as motivation for training.
Step One: Lay Down
You will want to start with your dog in a lying down position. Next, hold a treat in the opposite direction that you would like your dog to rotate. If you want them to roll to the left, hold a treat to the right. If you want them to roll to the right, hold a treat on the right.
You will then use the treat to guide your dog toward the direction you want them to roll, passing over them with the treat to naturally make them want to roll to their side. You will notice they will begin to rotate their hips until they naturally move to laying on their back.
You will also want to pay attention to the motion your hand makes when you perform this step, that movement will come in handy later on during step five.
Step Two: Stay
Since they are on the right track to successfully playing dead, now is a great time to reward your dog with a treat. This laying down position means they are well on their way to executing the full trick, so positive reinforcement is key to help them understand how to pull it all together.
During this step, the important factor to keep in mind is that you only want to reward your dog if they stay still and don’t leave the laying position. If they sit up, roll over, or transition out of the laying position, you will want to start step one over and repeat the motions until they get it right.
Step Three: Straighten Up
After your dog finishes their treat, say “straighten up” and use a treat to guide them back up onto all four paws.
Step Four: Repeat
Dogs don’t learn as quickly as humans do, so it is important to repeat and reinforce new skills several times to help them learn. Repeat steps one through three until your dog starts to move a little bit easier through the commands. Make sure you reward your best friend with a treat during each successful step to positively reinforce the behavior.
Step Five: Repeat Again
When your dog is consistent with the motions of step one through three, try repeating the steps again but this time without the treat. Instead, use your hand to mimic the motion from step one. Joel refers to this as the on your side motion, which you can see him perform in the play dead video above.
Repetition and reinforcement are going to help solidify this new skill, so even when you take the treat away make sure to still give positive reinforcement through plenty of pets and praise.
Step Six: Move Back
Now it is time test your pup’s skills. Move slightly away from your dog and continue to use your hand to signal on your side. Repeat all the steps from this new position until your dog is comfortable and moving through the positions with ease.
Step Seven: Master the Trick
Your best friend will most likely master this trick over the course of about 4-7 days. Don’t forget that practice makes perfect, so repeat these steps regularly to help your pooch remember how to play dead.
Other Helpful Tips for Training Your Dog
Whether you are training them to walk on a leash, go to the bathroom outside, or play dead, remember to always use the same words and actions with your pup. Consistency and repetition will help your dog catch on quickly and make it easier for them to recognize and respond to your commands.
Going through training sessions with your dog brings the two of you closer together and helps create that special bond. Teaching your best friend new tricks is exciting, so remember to end each session on a positive note. Let your dog know you are very proud of them; they’ll love the fact that you get so excited when they learn a new trick. That enthusiasm will build their confidence and your connection!
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