Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks!
Training is a great way to bond with your dog and help them feel secure. Teaching a new trick also challenges your dog's mind and encourages mental agility. As well as being super cute, the 'Play Dead' trick gives you both a goal to work towards. With regular twice daily training sessions, teaching such a command helps prevents boredom and provides valuable mental stimulation for the dog.
Indeed, teaching a fun trick has a more serious side. When you're in a high stress situation, such as visiting the vet clinic, instead of petting an anxious dog (which rewards and reinforces their fear) ask the dog to perform a trick. The idea is giving the dog an action to do will take their mind of their anxiety. Not only that, but seeing you aren't worried and consider performing tricks an appropriate thing to do, sends out an affirming message to the dog that there's no need for concern. While this may sound strange to us, to the dog it makes perfect sense and it works.
This classic trick involves the owner making a gun shape with their hand, aiming it at the dog and using a cue word such as "Bang." The dog then rolls over and lies very still on their side, until released from the command by the owner. But if you would prefer a more peaceful trick, then teach "Sleepy time", where you place your hands with the palms together in a makeshift pillow.
Teaching a trick isn't just about entertaining people, fun as this is, but about having the dog listen to an owner and obey the commands. Whereas playing dead is a fun command, it has hidden benefits in that it requires you to teach regularly and your dog to have a good level of discipline, both of which are hugely beneficial.
But please remember that training should always be fun. If your dog is slow on the uptake or seems confused, then take things more slowly. When necessary, break the trick down into small segments and only when the dog has mastered one step should you move onto the next. And always end the session on a high, with an easy command the dog can do. Then lavish the dog with praise.
This is a complex trick. Some dogs will master the movement in one step, while others need the action broken down into smaller pieces. Whichever method suits your dog, always encourage and reward the dog for the parts they do correctly, rather than punish mistakes. For this you'll need:
A rug or mat so the dog is comfortable lying down and rolling over
Treats with which to lure and reward the dog
A clicker, should you decide to use one to mark correct actions
A logical approach to breaking down the elements of the trick.
Also, you'll need to decide on a verbal cue, such as "Bang" or "Sleep", plus an appropriate hand signal. When you start training, do so in a quiet place with few distractions. Then, once the dog has mastered things you can practice in different environments with distractions present until he has the trick off pat.