How to teach a rabbit to play dead

Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Admin

A rabbit that knows how to do tricks, more so play dead on command, is most likely going to be the center of attention at home. However, the question some rabbit owners often wonder is how to teach a rabbit to play dead. Not only can you easily train a bunny to do this particular trick but it can also instinctively play dead when in fear or fright. This article gives you a detailed step-by-step guide on how to train your rabbit to act dead.

How to teach a rabbit to play dead

How do I get my rabbit to play dead?

The procedure for teaching your bunny to play dead is almost similar to that of training a rabbit to roll over. For this trick, you’ll need a clicker device, your pet’s favorite treat, and a comfortable area without any distractions.

  • Identify your rabbit’s favorite lying side

Before you commence training, find out which side your bunny prefers to rest on the most. This will make it much easier for your pet to understand the concept, thus making the trick appear natural to them.

  • Luring

With a piece of your rabbit’s favorite treat in one hand and the training clicker in the other, lure your pet by placing the treat near its nose. Slowly move it around your bunny’s shoulders in the opposite direction from its favorite resting side. This will in turn allow it to automatically lie down on its preferred position. Once your bunny is lying on its side, use the clicker before rewarding it. Do this repeatedly thrice per day in sessions that last 10 minutes each, until your bunny eventually gets the hang of it.

  • Verbal and hand command

Once your rabbit completely understands how to lie down, replace the clicker with a verbal and hand command of your choice. After using the two cues, reward your bunny. Again, do this repeatedly until your rabbit learns to play dead on command.

  • Extending the trick’s time frame

Sometimes you’ll find that your bunny plays dead too quickly and may fail to impress your audience. If this is the case, you’ll definitely need to train them to lie down a bit longer. Extending the timeframe for the trick is quite simple, while your rabbit is lying down, wait a few seconds before handing the treat. Alternatively, you can coax your bunny to lie down a bit longer by giving them a gentle stroke on its back before rewarding it. Do this repeatedly to re-condition your pet’s training and as a result, extend the trick’s duration.


An alternative method for teaching a rabbit to play dead


This technique is quite straightforward, although it will probably take longer than the first method mentioned above. How it works is, every time you see your bunny sleeping on its side, reinforce the behavior with a “play dead” verbal command before rewarding your pet with its favorite treat. Do this repeatedly until your bunny eventually learns the trick on verbal command.


How long can a rabbit play dead?

A rabbit can play dead on command for an average of 10 seconds. On the other hand, it can instinctively play dead or go into thanatosis for 10 minutes, when it’s in a fright state. This will entirely depend on how close and for how long your pet is around a stressor.



Hopefully, you’ve learned how to teach a rabbit to play dead. Prior to training, always ensure that you’ve created a strong bond with your bunny if you want the process to go smoothly. Lastly, never train your bunny to play dead on its back or in a trance state as it is often stressful for your pet.


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