How to Train a Golden Retriever to Play Dead

Medium
1-3 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

If you're looking for new party tricks for your Golden Retriever to impress friends and family with, playing dead is the perfect skill to try. Teaching your Golden to play dead won't be too difficult, especially if she already has mastered basic training like 'down' and 'roll over'. In fact, this trick is the perfect progression once you've mastered basic obedience and want to move on to more difficult tricks and training. 

Continuing to challenge yourself and your dog with new tricks like playing dead is important, not only to strengthen the bond you have together, but also to keep her mind sharp and attuned to you. Golden Retrievers love to learn and they love to please you, so teaching her new and interesting tricks will keep her entertained and happy to be by your side. As a bonus, the mental work of learning a new trick will help tire her out and keep her challenged. 

Defining Tasks

Before you can teach your Golden Retriever to roll over, you will need to make sure she can already 'sit', 'stay', and 'lie down'. If it's been a while since you worked these commands, give her a quick refresher before you begin a new trick. If you've already taught her to roll over, you'll be one step ahead of the game, but don't worry because playing dead can be taught whether she can already roll over or not.

This trick requires her to be still and attentive, so make sure she's well exercised and ready to learn before you begin. Play fetch or frisbee or take her for a little run to get the energy out and get her ready to concentrate. Golden Retrievers love to please their people, but even the most focused dogs need to play a little to be at their best for training tricks like playing dead.

Getting Started

Teaching your Golden to play dead doesn't require too many tools to get the job done. Besides ensuring she has basic training, you'll want these items to make sure you are successful.

  • A quiet place to train
  • Delicious training treats
  • A little patience

Read through the three training methods below and choose the best one for your dog. Don't be afraid to mix and match, or try a few to get the right fit. With a little time and patience, your dog will have a new trick and you'll have a fun skill to show off at your next party or BBQ.

The Lure Method

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Step
1
Pick your place
Find a quiet place to practice with plenty of room to move around.
Step
2
Start with a 'down/stay'
Ask her to lay down and stay.
Step
3
Lure her to the side
Use a treat to lure her to her side. Place it in front of her nose and gently move it to her side until she's laying down with her head on the ground. Give her the treat.
Step
4
Practice this move
Keep practicing this move. Make sure you give her the treat while her head is on the floor. Tell her to stay while you stand up and then release her with a "good" or an "ok."
Step
5
Bang!
Start to name the move before you give her a treat. Many people shape their thumb and index finger into a gun and say "bang!" You could also say "play dead." Say the command and give the hand signal just before you lean down to give her the treat.
Step
6
Remove the treat
After several sessions, she should start to play dead right when you say "bang!" Begin to treat her less often and only when she performs the trick seamlessly. Eventually, you won't need to treat her at all.
Recommend training method?

The Gentle Guide Method

Effective
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Step
1
Find the right room
Find the right room to work on your trick. It should be quiet and have plenty of space to move around.
Step
2
First, lie down
Ask her to lie down and stay to begin.
Step
3
Guide her to her side
Use your hands to gently guide her to her side. Give her a treat only when her head is on the ground.
Step
4
Introduce the hand signal
After she begins to anticipate you guiding her to her side, start to introduce the play dead hand signal. Use your thumb and index finger to make the shape of a gun just before you guide her onto her side.
Step
5
Say "bang!"
At this point, your dog should start to get in position once she sees your hand signal. Introduce the command by saying "bang!" right as you make the signal with your hand. She should need very little guidance into position. Give her a treat and then release her with an "ok."
Step
6
Remove the treat
Slowly treat her less and less and only for her best attempts. Eventually, you won't need to treat her at all and she'll play dead as soon as you ask.
Recommend training method?

The Belly Rubs Method

Effective
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Step
1
A quiet mind
Before you can begin, make sure your dog is in a relaxed state. Play with her to get her energy out.
Step
2
Down and stay
Ask her to lay down and stay.
Step
3
Gently rub her belly
Start to rub her belly to get her to lay on her side. Tell her to stay.
Step
4
"OK" and treats
Get to your feet, tell her "OK," and giver her a treat.
Step
5
Make a hand signal
Now that she is starting to understand the action you want, make a hand signal in the shape of a gun with your thumb and index finger just before you rub her belly.
Step
6
Say "bang!"
After a while, she should start to lay on her side as soon as she sees the hand signal. Add the verbal command "bang" to the hand signal. When she lays on her side, give her a treat.
Step
7
Remove the belly rubs
Now that she's laying on her side when you give her hand signals and verbal cues, stop rubbing her belly. Instead, give her a treat after she's successfully played dead. Eventually, you can wean her off treats and she'll have a full grasp of the command.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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