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How to Play Treibball: The Perfect Backyard Dog Game!

Amy Aitman
Sept. 18, 2015

A great game to play with any breed, treibball is taking over backyards and dog parks. Here is what you need to know about this fun, competitive sport about ball herding.

Treibball is taking over local parks and backyards everywhere. It's a fun sport you and your dog will enjoy playing. "It's a sport of distance, skill and teamwork. In a timed run, the handler sends the dog out around a group of large exercise balls to drive them in with his nose," says Sandi Pensinger, a trainer at Living with Dogs and the president of the National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts (NATE). It's a sport sheep dogs naturally gravitate towards, but she says, "The sport can be played by all breeds."

It's not just fun. It's also great for building a rapport with your dog and also enhancing your dog's skills. Elisabeth Weiss, a dog behavior counselor and the founder of DogRelations NYC, believes sports are a positive experience for handler and owner. You build skills in your dog by keeping the regimen fun and positive.

What Exactly Is Treibball?
According to the NATE, the sport originated in Germany as a way to help herding dogs learn to, well, herd. The game starts with eight large balls set in a triangle formation. The object of the game is for your dog to get all the balls into a soccer goal, or designated space, in a set amount of time (generally 15 minutes). You help your dog with commands.

Once your dog has the point ball in the net, you can decide how to proceed, according to the American Treibball Association. "Basically, the handler is limited to move within the goal area and must direct the dogs from a distance. The runs are timed, and the dog can't use his paws or his teeth to move the ball. There are different height categories in which smaller dogs push smaller balls, larger dogs push larger balls" says Pensinger. Points are given to pairs based on cooperation and direction.

You can play it anywhere. All you need are balls, a net area and a timer. The size of your balls depends on the size of the dogs, and you can always use beach balls. No net? Section out a part of your backyard -- it's that easy!

How Can You Train Your Dog?
Here is a rundown of four skills to focus on when playing the game with your dog:

  1. Nose Targeting
    "Start by teaching your dog to touch your hand with her nose without biting it. You can progress from the hand to the ball and teach the dog to push harder," says Pensinger.
  2. Commands
    "Start by putting a treat on your dog's mat while he's watching and you're holding his collar. Back up away from the mat, say 'Ready, Steady, Go!' and release the dog's collar and let him go eat the treat," Pensinger says. "Continue to back up a few inches each time until your dog can go to the mat."
  3. Front Orientation
    "Have your dog line up in front of you, facing you with his spine straight and reward him," says Pensinger.
  4. Impulse Control
    Weiss advises to teach your dog to wait and only touch the ball when asked to go for the object. "Only on cue using a clicker and a treat," she adds.

What Are The Benefits?
You'll notice this game is a great mental and physical workout (it was developed partially for that, according to the America Treibball Association). You have other benefits to appreciate too:

  • Your Relationship Strengthens
    Through all the training, competitions, treats and triumphs, you and your dog build a stronger relationship.
  • Get Better Communication
    The training carries over into real life. When you teach your dog to listen on the field, you get her to listen off the field.
  • Receive Fresh Air and Exercise
    Even though the dogs do most of the running, you'll be outside too. And if you enjoy the competition, you'll be jumping up and down and running around just as much.
  • Gain Lifelong Skills
    Your dog will learn to follow your lead and will learn delayed gratification, two skills that can be used anywhere.
  • Everyone Has Fun
    It's all about socializing -- for you and your dog. Any game can start anywhere, so have fun!

Amy Aitman is a freelance writer with a passion for the four-legged creatures in this world, especially her 13-year-old Westie, Buckles. Follow her on Twitter.

*This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither
Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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