It’s dog trick training time! I’ll cover how to teach a dog to play dead.
“Bang!” or play dead is my dog Wally West’s second official trick, to be exact.
So far, we’ve worked on basic obedience commands like “sit,” “down,” and “stay,” and he’s learned the “shake” trick. I’ve written about it here on ThatMutt before, so feel free to check it out if you missed it:
How to teach a dog to play dead
The “bang!” or play dead trick essentially teaches your dog to fall onto his side and stay in that position, ideally in a somewhat dramatic way!
It’s a cute party trick, and since Wally didn’t know it yet, I gladly accepted the challenge of tackling it when Lindsay suggested I write about it.
It’s also a great way of keeping him engaged and entertained inside, especially now that the dog days of summer are upon us here in North Carolina.
Keeping training sessions short and fun!
I never spent more than 5-10 minutes at a time on the “bang!” trick when teaching it, but had several training sessions throughout the day instead.
That way, Wally worked his brain muscles just enough to burn some mental energy and not get bored by too much repetition. I made sure to always end a training session on a positive note, even if it only meant to reward a “sit” or a “down.”
How to teach a dog “Bang!”
Option 1: Train your dog to play dead through “shaping.” This means breaking the trick down into five different steps and teaching the steps one by one, then creating a flowing movement performed on command.
Option 2: Train your dog bang through “capturing.” This simply means naming a behavior your dog already does.
More on both of these training concepts below.
How to teach your dog “bang!” using “shaping”
Like I mentioned above, I broke the “bang!/play dead” trick down into 5 individual steps:
- moving his head to the side
- lying on his side
- adding the gun hand signal & voice command combination
Knowing the “down” and “roll over” commands is helpful and will make teaching the trick easier, but it’s not a prerequisite. Wally already knew the “sit” and the “down” command, so that was a good start in the right direction for us.
If your dog needs a refresher on any of these, check out these training posts:
- Teach your dog to sit until you say OK
- Training a solid down-stay
- How I taught my dog the rollover trick
So I started by asking Wally to “sit,” then I told him “down” from there. He then learned to move his head to his side, followed by lying down on his side. After each step, I rewarded him with a training treat.
Once he was on his side, I used a clicker (from the app below) and rewarded him with a treat.
I also added the voice command “bang!” along with the gun hand signal, i.e. my thumb held up and my index finger pointed at Wally.
Here is Wally doing the bang trick on Instagram:
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Wally is very food motivated, so training treats were a helpful tool in teaching the “bang!” trick. I like to use tiny treats because Wally can very quickly eat them without the training flow being interrupted.
Training treats I really like are the Grizzly Wild Salmon treats. I discovered them at one of my favorite local pet food retailers, but I can also find them on Amazon.
*If your dog isn’t food motivated, you could try luring him into the different positions with a favorite toy.
How to train your dog to play dead using “capturing”
Capturing a behavior in dog training means just that – when your dog performs a certain behavior on his own, you reward him for doing it and give it a name.
Your dog will eventually start to make the connection between the name and the reward, and will perform it on command. This is by far the easiest way of teaching any commands or tricks!
In Wally’s case, catching him lying down on his side wasn’t too hard because he loves lounging on his side, both outside in the sun as well as inside, usually after our walks.
I used this in my favor by adding the gun hand signal and saying “bang!” at the same time, along with rewarding him with a (training) treat.
Teaching your dog to play dead using a clicker
Besides using high value training treats for rewarding my pup Wally, I also used a new tool when teaching him to play dead. It’s a virtual clicker that’s integrated into the dog training app Puppr.
I have to say that I liked the effect the clicker sound had on our training sessions so much that I’ll finally be getting a clicker myself! You can order an actual clicker from That Mutt’s partner Mighty Paw, if you’d like.
I also enjoyed the virtual training experience through the Puppr app because it’s customizable as far as being able to enter my dog’s name.
It has a fun way of being able to track your training progress with different badges you get awarded once a category of tricks has been mastered.
The different categories are basics, silly, silly 2.0. charming, circus, circus 2.0, performer, useful, and agility. Some are free whereas access to others has to be paid for.
The benefits of teaching your dog tricks – dog trick training
The trick “bang!” or play dead is certainly a fun one that people and kids tend to get a kick out of whenever they see a dog perform it. But trick training in general is so much more than just a crowd pleaser. It helps you with the following:
- Bonding with your dog
- Keeping your dog mentally engaged
- Preventing boredom related problem behaviors
Other tricks to teach a dog
Does your dog know the “bang!” command or how to “play dead”?
Let us know in the comments!