Treibball. Urban herding. A combination of pool and soccer for dogs. However you want to describe it, Treibball is a wonderful activity that can be enjoyed by dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes and hits on all the goal points of any dog sport: 1. is mentally engaging, 2. provides physical exercise, 3. furthers the training prowess of the handler and 4. is fun!
Treibball: Mentally Engaging
"I don't get it...don't the dogs just push balls around? What's so special about that?!"
Treibball is a LOT more than simply pushing a ball around.
It is working on physical proprioception (knowing where one's body is within a given space), the ability to work a distance away from the handler (oftentimes over 10'), being able to complete a complex task (line up to a specific ball, push said ball into a goal where the handler is standing, perhaps around obstacles, and then do it again!) all while staying focused and capping off excitement thresholds (read this as: dog too high, dog uses teeth on ball, ball goes pop). What does all of this mean?
Treibball takes a TON of mental energy on the part of the dog! Every step of the process is stretching them mentally. Which is a good thing. Mental stimulation is a wonderful way to prevent your dog from getting themselves into trouble. Remember the saying: a tired dog is a good dog? Being mentally satiated is a crucial part of that equation.
Treibball: Provides Physical Exercise
"Come on, you mean to tell me pushing a ball around is physical exercise? You've got to be kidding me?!"
I kid you not.
The key here is HOW the dog is pushing the ball around.
Your goal with Treibball, ultimately, is to have your dog bring you a specific ball as quickly and efficiently as possible. That means ideally in a straight line. But have you ever tried to push a fitness ball from Point A to Point B? Let's just say, they have a mind of their own.
Now, envision trying to do this without hands or thumbs, and instead you are on all fours and all you can do is push the ball with either your nose or your shoulder. Push too hard and the ball goes flying...but in the completely wrong direction. If you're off-center to the ball, it will not stay on your ideal path. Push too low or too high, issues galore. See my point?
Your dog has to learn all of this, and how they can properly use their body to get the ball where it needs to be. Michael McManus, Dog Sport University Treibball Program Instructor, and co-founder of the Treibball competition organization PUSH Treibball, describes this as balancing. The dog must learn how to balance on the ground WITHOUT the ball first - learning to properly line themselves up with their handler - and then how to maintain that balance once a ball is introduced. All of this is physically AND mentally demanding, so you get a twofer. Once you finish a Treibball training session, your dog is going to feel pretty well tired, both mentally and physically. And that's a good thing.
Treibball: Improves Handler's Training Abilities
"I'd like to see you explain this one."
Treibball is really complicated. There are many moving parts and pieces to it. All the while, you as the handler are trying to communicate to your dog what the game is all about, breaking down the activity into small enough pieces and then chaining them together.
But if your timing is off, or you don't think through how doing A may not lead to B, but will actually result in Y, your journey is not going to be a pretty one. Michael does an outstanding job with his Intro to Treibball: Balancing Skills course of laying out for handlers how they can progress with teaching their dogs these skills, while developing crucial skills of their own. Understanding the value of movement, of kicking into prey drive without sending the dog over-the-top, how to increase criteria to ensure progression without setting the dog up to drown in the deep-end of the pool.
All of this is incredibly valuable and are skills that will bleed over to all aspects of training your dog. Staying focused. Being centered. Noticing what your dog may need in a given moment and then providing that for them. Knowing when to push the envelope and when to step back a step. Basically, everything you need to be a good dog trainer. Playing the game of Treibball can definitely help you achieve all of that, and more.
Treibball: It's Fun!
"I hate to admit it, but this Treibball stuff does sound kind of interesting...but will my dog enjoy it?"
Sorry, didn't mean to yell.
Treibball keys into so many "fun" aspects of activities dogs enjoy, running, targeting and not least of all is pushing the actual ball around!
But perhaps the most fun part of this activity is the partnership the dog has with their handler. The communication between you and your dog. No, you do not need a Border Collie to play this game. Yes, your Chihuahua can do this and they would probably love it.
It's the ability to be in this sort of dance with their handler, to have a handler who is confident enough in their dog to allow them to go 10' out, line up to the correct ball and bring that same ball to the goal where the handler is standing. To the dog, that partnership, level of trust and freedom must be so exhilarating! For the dogs I have personally seen play this game, they love it. As in really, really, really love it.
Handlers also enjoy the fact that you can make this increasingly difficult by using weighed balls, designing obstacle courses, only having the dog return certain balls withing a large group of balls...the list goes on and on.
So How Do I Get Started?
You're in luck! At Dog Sport University, we are fortunate enough to have Michael offer his Intro to Treibball: Balancing Skills course. Student enrollment sessions are offered once a month, but if you wanted to go through the course as an Auditor or Watcher, you can enroll at any time!
So if you are looking for a new activity to play with your dog, one that will hit on all the notes: mentally engaging, provides physical exercise, will improve your training abilities and is fun for dog and handler alike, then you need to take a look at Treibball. You'll be happy you did.
Dianna L. Santos has been training dogs professionally since 2011. She has done everything from teaching group training classes and private lessons, to specializing in working with fearful, reactive and aggressive dogs, to being a trial official and competition organization staff member.
Following a serious neck and back injury, Dianna was forced to retire from in-person dog training. But she was not ready to give up her passion! So, she created Family Dog University, Dog Sport University, and Scent Work University to provide outstanding online dog training to as many dog handlers, owners and trainers possible…regardless of where they live! Dianna is incredibly grateful to the amazingly talented group of instructors who have joined FDU, DSU and SWU and she looks forward to the continued growth of all these platforms and the increased learning opportunities they can provide.