Nowadays many people keep herding dogs as pets due to their intelligence and fast ability to learn. However, it can be a struggle to keep them entertained and happy, even in the most stimulating of environments.
Treibball was designed specifically to occupy and exercise herding dogs that do not have animals to herd, making it a great way to keep your dog happy and in tune with its natural instincts.
It’s a fun sport in which dogs use any part of their body to ‘herd’ 8 large balls into a goal within a an allotted amount of time.
Why is treibball so well suited to herding dogs?
Dogs that were bred for herding are usually highly intelligent and need a lot of mental and physical exercise to stay happy and healthy.
Herding dogs that aren’t stimulated can become bored, destructive and noisy. They can also develop undesirable behaviors such as nipping and chasing, which in turn makes them difficult to exercise around other dogs and people.
Treibball was created to tackle these exact issues and has quickly grown in popularity across the world since it started in Germany in 2003.
You see, treibball offers herding dog breeds an opportunity to “herd” without the need to interact with livestock. It also keeps a dog busy as it requires a lot of thought and concentration, which wards off boredom in the process!
With the aim being to nudge large balls into a goal area, the dog is not allowed any physical help from its owner, but can be guided towards the goal using gestures, commands and verbal cues in a manner similar to traditional sheepdog training.
This makes it a safe option to satisfy herding dog instincts that so often focus on the need to have something to drive.
How do you start playing treibball?
Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of equipment to take up treibball with your dog. All you need is one large ball, a goal of some sort, and room to play.
You can buy specific herding balls for dogs, or alternatively you can use another type of large sport ball, such as a heavy duty Pilates gym ball.
If you want to get into treibball seriously, you will need a lot of space.
It’s unlikely that you’ll have enough room at home for this sort of activity, but a field of grass, or a beach would do just fine and there are increasing numbers of treibball clubs and trainers you can connect with to help you fine tune your skills.
Your dog will need to have grasped certain commands before you get going.
- a good recall
- the ability to ignore distractions
- obedience to the “stay” command
- the willingness to lie down several feet from you, not just beside you
Mastering the treibball “go out” cue
If your dog has mastered the above skills, it can move onto the basics that are specific to treibball.
You should start by teaching your dog to walk away from your side and circle around an object (ideally a ball, but anything will do). This is known as the “go out” cue.
Step 1 – You need to teach your dog to lie down on a target object.
You can look into mat training if you’re having problems with this trick.
Step 2 – Your dog should be able to complete this when you present the object (the mat in the case of mat training), even without a command.
Step 3 – Once your dog has mastered lying on the object, you will need to teach this as a distance command.
Step 4 – If you want to compete in treibball, you will need to teach your dog to go clockwise around the object and lie down facing you.
Step 5 – You can then start increasing the complexity by putting a ball between you and the object. Reward your dog if it still goes to the object, rather than getting distracted by the ball.
Step 6 – Introduce the verbal “go out” cue to keep its attention on the target.
All these steps will lead to your dog being in the right position. It will be facing you at a distance of several feet, with the ball between it and you.
This is the position you need for treibball, and once you have achieved it, the target is no longer needed and must be phased out.
Teaching your dog to get to this stage is often a challenging process, so be patient!
Mastering the driving cue
Use treats to encourage your dog to interact with the ball and push it toward you.
Reward control and gentle nudging, not simple ball chasing. You can use verbal cues to get your dog to associate the correct movement with a command.
When the dog brings you the ball, get it to lie down.
And with that you’ve mastered the basics of treibball!
You can then start adding more balls and making the exercise more complex by adding objects to navigate around.
Increase the distance and try it out in various environments, and you’ll be treibball masters in no time.
Herding dogs can be a challenge to keep happy, and if you have a herding dog, you’re probably constantly on the lookout for new activities to exercise your dog’s body and brain.
Treibball is a great activity that is fun for both you and your dog, as it satisfies their desire to round up items – whether that’s sheep or balls!