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 dowel rod 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.

Herding breeds may have a natural aptitude for treibball, but all breeds of dogs, from Pomeranians to Great Danes, have titles in this sport. It is fun for everyone, and is wonderful for building self-control skills.

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

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