Treibball Step by Step – The Ultimate Guide to Urban Herding

This article describes the competitive sport of treibbal step by step – in detail. We also, describe the rules, the goal of the sport, and the equipment required. Treibball Step by Step is the ultimate guide to urban herding.

We also discuss the training needed for this sport. In addition, we describe how trainers train their dogs for competition or a fun game to play with your dog.

Some Treibball History

Treibball originated in Germany for the purpose of training Herding dogs with no access to sheep, cattle, or ducks.

The Herding dog breeds are intelligent, high-energy dogs requiring a lot of mental and physical stimulation, or they become bored.  There is nothing quite as destructive, annoying to neighbors, and difficult to live with as a bored herding dog!

Herding dogs need to be kept interested and focused on positive activities.  Puzzle toys, agility training, and nose work are likely to hold their interest.

Herding dogs can become bored, destructive, and noisy if they aren’t mentally and physically stimulated. They can also develop undesirable behaviors such as nipping and chasing. This makes them difficult to exercise around other dogs and people.

Treibball was created in Germany in 2003 to provide a positive outlet for herding dogs for mental and physical stimulation. It also has the added benefit of keeping herding dogs’ skills sharpened.

Treibball became an official competitive sport (for the USA) in 2008. Since then, it has become increasingly popular both as a competitive sport and a game for you and your dog.

 Mixed breeds and purebred dogs may not be treated any differently. Therefore, all dogs of any kind whether mixed-breed or purebred may participate fully in this sport.

The American Treibball Association (ATA) is now officially closed. Please refer to the website for further information.

The Object of this Game

Dog standing in front of balls ready to play triebball
Ball set up for treibball

Eight exercise balls are placed on the field in the shape of a triangle, as in billiards. The balls can be different colors but should be no higher than the dog’s shoulder. Dogs push each ball into the goal one at a time. The time limits vary according to the level of each competition. The novice group’s time limit is frequently set to 15 minutes. Each dog and handler make up 1 team.

The Handler Area contains the left half of and several feet beyond the goal area. Handlers are not permitted to move outside this area. The dog and handler teams must have excellent communication between them. Teams are scored partially based on cooperation and direction within the specified time limit.

Handlers may direct the dogs using whistles, verbal cues, or hand signals. Physical and verbal corrections are not permitted in Treibball. Dog and handler teams are scored on cooperation and direction within the 15-minute time limit.

Dog and handler teams may receive bonuses or penalties, depending on whether they complete the course within the time allotted.  After all the teams have completed their attempts, the team having the fastest time with the fewest error points wins.

Treibball Step by Step

  • 1:  Dog and handler team enters the field of competition with the dog on a leash.
  • 2:  The handler gives the dog a cue to lie down in the Start Area, and walks to the Handler Area.
  • 3:  The balls should be set up in a triangular formation with the point ball farthest from the goal. The Handler Area is directly in front of the soccer goal.  The handler must remain in the handler area until the dog has completed his competition.
  • Step 4:  Timing officially starts when the handler enters the Handler Area and signals “ready” to the judge. Timing will also start when all four of the dog’s paws leave the Start Area.
  • Step 5: The “Go Out,” cue means that the dog is to circle behind the triangle of balls and lie down facing the handler.
  • Step 6:  The dog can follow verbal cues, hand motions, and whistles from the handler.
Dog being encouraged to push the ball over the goal in Treibball
Dog competing in Treibball pushing a ball into the goal
  • Step 7:  The dog herds the “point” ball into the goal first at all levels. In the higher levels of competition, dogs are expected to herd the balls in a variety of orders.
  • 8:  The dog can move the ball in any way it likes as long as it does not damage the ball.
  • 9:  Dogs may receive help in penning a ball once the ball has entered the Handler Area.
  • 10:  Handlers may reward dogs with treats, toys, or praise during competition.
  • 11:  The round is completed when the balls are in the pen. Also, the dog must be lying down or sitting facing the handler inside the Handler Area.

Train Your Dog to Play Treibball

You can train your dog to play treibball both for recreational purposes or for competition. Most dog owners will train their dogs at first for recreation.  Later you might decide to go for competitive Treibball. 

treibball step by step
Dog learning treibball

Fortunately, there is not that much equipment involved in treibball. You will need one exercise ball, size determined by your dog’s height at the shoulder. You will also need a significant amount of space. However, when you are just starting out you can focus on the basics of treibball.

I believe it’s good to start out with recreational Treibball in mind, especially if you’re new to dog training.  Before you start with any balls there are a few commands your dog should have down well:

  • a good recall 
  • the ability to ignore  distractions
  • obedience to the “stay” command
  • the willingness to lie down several feet from you, not just beside you

Mastering The Treibball Basics

treibball step by step
treibball step by step

When your dog is strong in the above commands, you can begin training your dog for foundation work in treibball. A good place to start is with the “go out” cue.

Start with the “go out” cue

  • Start by teaching your dog to walk away from your side and circle around an object. It doesn’t have to be a ball, but eventually, your dog will need to circle around a ball. This is known as the “go out” cue.
Teach your dog “Mat Training”

You need to teach your dog to lie down on a target object. You can use mat training to master this move. To accomplish mat training follow the steps below:

treibball step by step
Starting mat training
  • Select a mat that you will use as your target object
  • Only bring out the mat when you are going to use it for training
  • At first, click and reward your dog with treats for any interest shown in the mat
  • Then reward her only when she gets all 4 paws on the mat
  • The goal, in the beginning, is to teach the dog that being on the mat is a positive experience and when she is off the mat it’s very boring — no treats.
  • When she is off the mat you don’t look at her and hopefully, she will figure out that things really improve when she is on that mat because she gets attention, praise, and treats!
  • Next, you encourage her into a down position on the mat and only reward her for producing the down position on the mat. Don’t give her any clues as she is to work this out herself. Once she performs the down on the mat, reward and praise her and move her off the mat and wait for her to perform this behavior again.
  • Give the behavior a name once she is reliably performing the behavior from about 3 feet away. Give the behavior a verbal cue such as ‘go to your mat’. Also, add a hand motion in the direction of the mat. Now she will know that this gesture and the verbal cue mean for her to go to her mat and get into a down position.

The goal is that your dog should be able to complete this behavior when you present the object even without a command.

Mat Training from a Distance

Once your dog has mastered lying on the object, you will need to teach this as a distance command. If you want to compete in treibball, you will need to teach your dog to go clockwise around the object and lie down facing you.

  • Next, you want to start rewarding her for staying in the down position on the mat as you gradually move away, but then come right back and reward her. Keep moving further and further away and reward her for holding the down position.

  • Then, as you walk away incorporate some distractions such as jiggling the doorknob, if she holds the stay, reward her then continue to increase the distraction, this time opening the door. If she breaks the stay, just bring her back to the mat in the down position and continue to repeat the door opening until she holds the stay through that.

Adding a Ball

You can then start increasing the complexity by putting a ball between you and the object. Start increasing the complexity by putting a ball between you and the object. Reward your dog if she goes straight to the object and is not distracted by the ball.

treibball step by step
Just add a ball in training

Introduce the verbal “go out” cue to keep your dog’s attention on the target.

All these steps will lead to your dog being in the right position. She will be facing you at a distance of several feet, with the ball between her and you.

This is the position you need for treibball.

Teaching your dog to get to this stage can sometimes be a very time-consuming and challenging process, so be patient!

Mastering the “Driving” Cue

Start out standing with your dog on one side of the ball and you on the other with your feet pointed toward the ball. Gradually move back using treats to encourage your dog to interact with the ball and push it toward you.

treibball step by step
Border Collie playing treibball

Reward control and gentle nudging, not simple ball chasing. You can use verbal cues to get your dog to associate the correct movement with a command. Dogs may move about any way they can if they don’t break the ball. Discourage any motions by her that could pop the ball as that is a disqualifying move, in addition to possibly causing your dog to be afraid of treibball.

When the dog pushes the ball to you, get her to lie down. 

These are the basics of the game of treibball. However, there will be much more to learn if you decide to get into competitive treibball. Also as you increase your level of competition the dogs have to move the balls from further away, also they have to push the balls in a particular order based on the size of the ball and/or color of the balls. So there will be no shortage of tricks to teach your dog and keep her interested.

You can then start adding more balls and making the exercise more complex by adding objects to navigate around. For more detailed information about competitive treibball, here is a site that goes into more detail about the rules and the layout of the field.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you do, keep Treibball fun for you and your dog and you will continue to get years of fun and enjoyment. Treibball is a great way to have fun and strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Regular Treibball sessions will keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, and this can help prevent problem behaviors from surfacing as a result of boredom. For senior dogs, studies have shown that problem-solving activities can even help to slow the cognitive aging process.

Another really fun activity for you and your dog is Frisbee Dog or Disc Dog.

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