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Playing dead has to be one of the greatest tricks in the canine playbook. Once you teach your Chihuahua to play dead on command, you will soon find yourself sneaking up on him, pointing a "finger gun" at him and going "Bang!" just to see how fast he can drop. You can, of course, use any cue word you want, but whatever you choose, try to make it something cool like "Dead Dog!" or "Ka-Pow!" It really doesn't matter what you use as long as you always use the same cue.
The good news, it really doesn’t take that long to teach your pup to play dead. It simply takes a little time and effort on your part, along with a virtually endless supply of your pup's favorite treats. As with most advanced tricks, your pup should have already mastered the basics and be able to perform them on demand. You will be using them as part of his training and as part of the trick.
The 'play dead' trick is really not much more than 'lie down' and 'roll over' combined and truncated into a single trick. In order, your Chi will first go into the "down" position by laying on his belly, from here he will roll over onto one side--or if you really want to get fancy, onto his back. At this point, he must learn to remain still or "dead" until you release him.
You can teach this nifty trick to dogs of any age, but as with most tricks, the younger you start the faster your pup will learn. This leaves you with plenty of time to teach him other tricks. Older dogs can learn it as well, but it may take longer, and you have to take their overall health into account.
Training your pup to play dead is relatively simple and doesn't take much in the way of supplies. However, there are a few things you may find come in handy, including:
- Treats: Soft chewy ones for rewards.
- Time: Several short training sessions every day works the best.
- Patience: You're trying to train a Chihuahua. 'Nuff said.
- A quiet room: Training always works better if you have a quiet room in the house to work in.
The most important thing you can bring to each training session is a calm, relaxed attitude--and be ready to have fun. The more fun you make the training sessions, the more your pup will enjoy them and work with you.
The Down Position Method
Put your pup in the 'down' position
Call your pup over to you and give him the 'down' command. This puts him in the right position to segue into the 'dead' position.
The treat lure
Hold one of those smelly treats in front of your pup's nose and then move it slowly to one side. This should encourage your pup to roll over as he tries to reach the treat.
Keep practicing this until your pup masters it, be sure to give him the treat each time he rolls over on his side.
The given word
Once your pup has mastered following the treat over on his side, introduce the command word you have chosen, like: "Fido Bang!". Start with 'down', then using the treat, give the cue word and entice him to roll on his side. Each time he does, give him the treat and praise him.
It's up to you
The rest of teaching your Chi to play dead lies in repeating the training for a few minutes several times a day. With practice comes perfection. It won't be long before you sneak up and go over the top calling out "Fido Bang!" just to see how fast your pup hits the deck.
The Belly Rub Method
In the 'down' position
Call you Chi over and give him the 'down' command. Give him a treat and praise him.
On his back
Using a treat, encourage your pup to roll over on his back. When he does, be sure to give him a good belly rub along with plenty of praise.
Add the hand signal and cue word
This time instead of a treat, point your "finger gun" at him and give him the cue, "Fido, bang!" while encouraging him to roll over on his back. Be sure to praise him and give him a treat every time he gets it right.
More belly rubs
While he is laying on his back, be sure to give him more belly rubs. This will help him to associate your commands with getting his belly rubbed, which is a very positive experience in any Chi's world.
Hold your pup in position for a few seconds and then release him and let him get up. While doing so, introduce a cue word like "Up" so that he learns he has to stay in place until he is released. Each time he gets it right be sure to heap on the praise and give him plenty of treats. Rinse and repeat until your pup masters the art of playing dead.
The Slow and Gentle Method
The 'down' command
Call your dog over, give him the 'down' command, then reach down and rub his belly. This should make him roll onto his side.
Repeat this process several times a day, for several days.
Introduce the cue
Now that your pup is getting comfortable with the action, introduce your choice of cues, such as "Rover, play dead!" Repeat this process until you can give your pup the cue word and he will drop to the floor and roll over on his side.
To get him stay in place while he is playing dead, start out by using the 'stay' command to get your pup to stay in the "dead" position.
Extend the time
Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing this part of the trick until you can step back away from him and he will stay in place without the need for the "stay" command.
Keep working it
Keep working with your pup over the course of several weeks until he drops the moment he hears the cue. If you really want to make it an over the top trick, you can teach your pup to bark when you give him the cue for that extra added touch of realism.
Written by PB Getz
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021