Treibball ("Tribe-ball") is a relatively new dog sport that originated in Germany around a decade ago. Treibball literally means "push ball" and that's basically the gist of the sport! Think soccer, but for your dog. The objective of the game is to have your dog herd 1-8 fitness balls towards you and into a goal. The balls are usually arranged in a triangle out on the field, but this can vary. Any willing dog can participate in Treibball, but overall, the sport is a genius way to provide enrichment for herding breeds.
The best thing about Treibball is that it's a low impact sport that even dogs with mobility issues or seniors can excel in this game! Handlers with disabilities can also participate as they mainly just need to hang out in the handler area, give verbal or physical commands with their arms and wait for the Doggie to bring the balls.
You might already have an old yoga ball gathering dust somewhere in the basement. That's all you need to get started. Here are some helpful things to teach your dog so you guys can play:
Push: Your dog will need to learn to push the fitness balls with their nose and shoulders.
Go out: This command is used to have your dog go around the balls and then lay down facing the handler. You can teach this with one ball to start or use a chair or similar large object to teach your dog to go around and settle behind the ball (or chair).
Come: I think this one goes without saying! You should have top-notch control over your dog in any and all off-leash settings.
Lie down and other impulse control exercises: Treibball requires expert focus and listening skills. You'll want to make sure your dog or puppy knows how to keep their cool and wait for direction.
You'll also want your dog to learn to follow directional cues such as left (away) vs right (come by) when asked so you can control which ball they go after. Sometimes in competitions, it can be random but other times a judge may want the balls in a specific order. For now, just focus on making sure your dog knows the basics listed above.
To teach your dog to push the ball, start by standing behind the ball opposite your dog. Tuck a treat under the ball in front of you (the side closest to the dog). Your dog will likely go looking for the treat and end up pushing the ball with their nose in consequence. Reward and repeat this exercise. After a few trials, continue with the dame exercise only this time, only pretend to put a treat under the ball. Your dog will go looking for it anyway and end up pushing the ball. Say "good dog!" and give them the treat after they push the ball with their nose. Once they understand that you want them to push the ball with their nose, you can start to pair the command "push" with the behavior. Continue to practice this until your dog is pushing the ball on cue.
Try to make sure they push the ball towards you in a straight line, start with short distances. Reward your dog at the end of your game by throwing their favorite toy at them and playing a quick round of tug, frisbee or fetch!
Treat tip: when training for sport, we use lots of treats! But we don't want your dog to spoil their dinner or get a belly ache so here's what you can do:
Use your dog's meal and feed it to them as treats during your training exercises.
Use soft treats that you can cut down into crumb size pieces so you can turn one treat into 13 treats. I like to use Ziwi Peak dog kibble as treats. They're easy to break up into tiny pieces and the pups go nuts for that stuff!
Remember, Treibball is a game and games are fun. If your dog is showing signs of stress such as whining or pacing, you may be asking for too much too fast. Take it slow and have fun with it!