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Teaching Your Dog to "Play Dead"

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you and your pet. It's best if your dog knows and can perform the basic obedience commands of sit, stay, and down reliably before advancing to tricks. Most tricks are built on these commands and your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.

If your dog has any type of arthritis or degenerative joint disease, check with your veterinarian before proceeding. Even simple tricks can place stress on joints that are painful and sore.

The success of training your dog relies on rewarding correct behavior. Rewards differ from dog to dog; for some it may be food and for others praise. Some dogs will do whatever you want just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn. Work with your dog daily in 5-15 minute sessions. Keep it fun and end the session with a reward. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.

To teach your dog to play dead, first give the DOWN command. Notice the side to which he is leaning. From this position, give the command of PLAY DEAD and gently push him over until he is lying on that side. Offer verbal praise and a belly rub until he is comfortable in this position. Repeat the exercise until your pet rolls onto his side on his own. Follow with a small food treat.

Continue to practice this over and over. Always use a happy singsong voice and lots of positive reinforcement. Eventually, your dog will understand and fall to the ground with a thump.

The way to success in teaching your dog tricks is patience, practice, praise, and persistence. Every step in the right direction should be rewarded as though he had just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – learning how to do them should be fun, too

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