by Sandi Pensinger
There is a cool new dog sport of urban herding! Treibball (pronounced try-ball) is the exhilarating canine sport of driving exercise balls into a goal with a combination of herding, agility and soccer-like skills. Dogs who like to herd and chase are natural candidates for treibball. Dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes can play the game.
Treibball is a competitive, timed sport, but you can play just for fun at home or at your local park. The sport encourages collaboration and teamwork between the handler and the dog. It is a fun way to tire out your dog if he has endless energy and needs an outlet.
Treibball Rules Basics
· The handler stays in position within an arm’s length of the goal.
· The flat playing field is 100 to 164 feet long by 50 to 82 feet wide.
· The balls must stay in the bounds of the playing field.
· The goal is 24 feet wide by 8 feet deep.
· Eight large exercise balls are arranged in a triangle on a field, similar to racked billiard balls.
· Four balls are in the first row (closest to the goal), three balls in the second row and one ball in the third row.
· The dog has 15 minutes to get eight balls into the goal.
· The clock starts when the dog leaves the handler’s side and stops when the balls are in goal and the dog is lying down by the handler.
· The dog may not break or burst the ball.
· The handler may not punish, intimidate, force, or yell at the dog.
· The fastest team with the fewest penalty points wins.
How to Train Treibball
Here are some skills for playing the game. Your ability to communicate and direct your dog’s position, speed, and progress on the field are critical to your success.
Training your dog to go 100 feet out into a field around a “flock” of balls starts with sending your dog a single step to a target mat. Train your dog to lie down on the mat facing you when you are one puppy-step away from the mat. Let your dog know that you reward all good choices to go to the mat. Step away from the mat an inch or two at a time, until the dog chooses to go to the mat to make rewards happen. Mark the moment he or she steps on the mat with a click or a word like “yes,” then follow up with an immediate food or toy reward. Eventually you will train your dog to go out greater and greater distances to the target.
You can teach your dog to bring the balls to you by teaching the dog to orient to you. Start by asking your dog to sit straight in front of you. Mark with a “yes” and reward your dog and toss a cookie behind your dog to reset him. Turn 180 degrees and have your dog find the front position again. When the dog is reliably zooming to be in front of you, add in a ball by holding it between your legs. Move around the ball and call your dog to sit or stand in front of you. Mark and toss a cookie behind your dog to reset him.
You can ease into ball-pushing behaviors by teaching the dog to touch a target stick with a closed mouth. Train your dog to touch your hand and many things with his nose. It is a fun trick and will transfer to pushing the ball with a closed mouth. An easy training trick is to roll up a yoga mat with a trail of treats every few inches inside the roll. Allow the dog to unroll the mat with his nose to get the treats. You can also set the ball on a dog bowl with a treat in the bowl and have him push the ball off to get the treat.
If your dog gets really excited by balls, work on getting him to be calmer around them. Avoid letting him play with exercise balls until you have good control.
This is just the beginning; soon you will be playing the game, with your dog driving the rolling sheep into a goal near you!
Sandi Pensinger teaches a variety of puppy, family dog, and sport training classes, including Treibball in Aptos, CA. She enjoys competing with her Jack Russell Terriers as much as she enjoys helping her clients achieve their goals. Sandi is the author of the Treibball Handbook and the Beginning Treibball DVD. Find out about Sandi’s classes at www.livingwithdogs.us.