The latest canine craze to hit Europe is now in America: Treibball originated in Germany in 2003 as an activity that was designed to allow owners of Border Collies, Aussies, and other high-energy working sheepdogs to excercise their instincts and talents for Herding without the need to keep sheep or ducks, or to have access to large acreages of land. The game was so much fun, that somewhere along the way, it became an ALL-BREED titling competitive sport.

So if the dogs don't have farm animals to herd, what do they use? Giant inflatable exercise balls, of course! Guided by their handlers from a slight distance away, the dogs push with their noses, chest, or heads, to "drive" eight huge but lightweight balls, one at a time as directed, into a "pen" - such as a soccer practice goal. The owner stands near the goal and guides the dog using only voice, hand, or whiste signals, or movements of the shepherd's crook (a stick such as a dowl rod, fishing pole, or pvc pipe if they do not have the "real thing"). In competition, the dog has 15 minutes to get all the balls into the pen. no harsh handling or angry words are allowed; it's all about encouragement, praise and reward. Because of the distance between the handler and the dog, treibball is trained almost exclusively with clicker methods.

Dogs LOVE treibball; it's fast, non-stop action and it forces them to think, and there are no potential dangers because the dogs don't jump or weave or encounter obstacles that they might run into or fall off of - and most dogs seem to instinctively love balls, even great big ones, so there are no "fears" to overcome in this sport (except possibly being near the "crook", though that's an easy one to fix.

The challenge lies in communicating to the dog which ball to push. and to push it toward the goal. So the basic beginner skills treibball dogs need to know include: Targeting to a place (signified at the first by a small rug or placement, gradually faded); Targeting around a barrier (eventually, the ball itself) in particular direction ("Away to me" and "Go bye"); Relaxing with the crook, Touching the ball properly (just below its "equator", so it doesn't fly into the air and so the dog doesn't end up on top of the ball - and with the right pressure for a "push"; Down at a distance("Settle"); and Pivoting around the ball to gain efficiency in timing and direction.

Herding breeds may have a natural aptitude for treibball, but all sorts of dogs, from Cairn Terriers to Great Danes, have titles in it now. It is fun for EVERYone, and builds self-control skills like no other activity.

Want to know more? Check out the newly formed American treibball Association at http://www.americantreibballassociation.org/.

logo-treibball