Owners of border collies, Australian shepherds and other herding breeds may be looking for ways to drain their dogs’ energy, but not many activities can match the appeal of herding sheep. Unless you own lots of acreage and a farm, most likely your herding dog will have to adjust with a game of fetch, a long hike or a trip to the dog park. These activities may be fun, but they usually don’t provide sufficient mental work, and most of all, they fail to properly channel those strong “herding instincts” that include the impulse to “round up” herds of livestock. The good news is that today, a relatively new sport can provide an outlet to these strong herding instincts.
Introducing the Sport of Treibball
The sport of Treibball was invented by dog Dutch trainer January Nijboer in Germany. This sport works great for herding dogs because it gives them the opportunity to “herd” and work with their owners in a teamwork fashion. The unique feature of this sport is the fact that no sheep are required. Instead, dogs are asked to herd several large inflatable exercise balls (often referred to as “rolling sheep”) under the directions of their owners.
The main objective of the sport is to have the dog drive eight balls into a net within fifteen minutes. At first, it may seem like the dog must do most of the work, but in reality, dog owners are greatly involved too as they must communicate and guide their dogs as shepherds did in the past with their sheep dogs. Indeed, just like shepherds, when directing their dogs, owners are only allowed to use whistles, verbal cues or hand signals.
Not Only for Herding Breeds
While herding dogs are naturally inclined to play this sport, your dog doesn’t necessarily have to be a herding dog to enjoy a game of Treibball. Chances are, if your dog loves to chase and play with balls and he is a high energy dog, he will enjoy a game of Treibball. Many dogs belonging to the sporting breed category love this sport, but so do many other dogs such as terriers. Virtually dogs of all ages and sizes can enjoy the game if introduced the right way.
The sport can also be a good confidence booster for shy, tentative dogs. With time, these dogs learn to interact with the balls and become confident enough to push them around. The biggest challenge in this sport though is training ball-crazy dogs to exert some self control as many dogs would like to take off with the ball rather than follow directions. Once these dogs are trained to learn the rules of the game though, they become more focused and less aroused.
First Some Basics
While dogs of any age and breed can learn the sport of Treibball, a few basic skills are required to get started. Following is a list of what dogs should know; however, dog trainers can always help should dogs need some further proofing in certain areas.
- The dog must be capable of working at a distance
- The dog must be reliable off leash
- The dog must be able to wait for directions and work quickly
- The dog must be under control despite distractions
- The dog must know some basic cues such as lie down, stay and target.
As seen, the sport of Treibball can be a fun way to provide outlets for energetic dogs who love to work, but can benefit virtually any dog. The sport of Treibball is readily spreading, but it is still not very popular in certain geographical areas. Dog owners interested in finding a class in their area, can contact the American Treibball Association.