Sporting Dog Series: Treibball

All about the sport of Treibball.

Ever played billiards? Maybe you played soccer?  How about teaching your dog using positive reinforcement while participating in a competitive sport? Treibball is a combination of billiards, soccer and positive reinforcement dog training rolled into one! This is the third episode of our Sport Dog Series, if you haven’t listened to the other two, go back and give them a listen as each section builds on information for the next. For instance, this is the final section for herding breed sports and I think you’ll find this one quite interesting. You can listen on Dog Works

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While researching for this series I stumbled upon something new! I actually was so intrigued that I think I might take the course to learn how to teach Treibball next summer!  Now I know you are dying to find out what Treibball is and like me I bet your imagination may have already taken you to google to find it!  If it hasn’t it surely will by the end of this podcast.


According to National

Treibball is an exciting new dog sport that began in Germany in 2003 and was initially intended for herding dogs that needed a job. The sport is suitable for all types of dogs. The goal is for the person and the dog to work as a team. The handler directs the dog from a distance around a set of balls to push them into a goal one by one. In competition the dog’s work is timed. Distance, time, and the number of balls  are some of the variables in the game.


Is there only one way to train Treibball?  There are as many different methods of training dogs successfully as there are dog/handler combinations.  National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts or NATE for short, supports and encourages the use of reward-based training. NATE discourages coercive, punitive, intimidating or forcible training techniques. Handlers who use abusive methods in competition will be eliminated. Reward-based, force-free training is the dog-friendly way to get fast and reliable distance behaviors to set your dog up for success.


Treibball is a positive-reinforcement, competitive dog sport which originated in Germany and entered sanctioned competition in 2008. The dog must gather and drive large exercise balls into a soccer goal.

Eight balls of approximately 45–75 cm are set in a triangle formation, similar to billiards, with the point ball farthest from the goal. The object of the game is to get all eight balls into a confined space the size of a soccer goal within a set time period, usually about 15 minutes. The handler may not move outside of an area that contains the left half of and several feet beyond the goal area. The dog works in close cooperation with the handler, who is only allowed to use whistles, verbal or hand signals to direct his dog. No verbal or physical corrections are used in Treibball. The dog and handler must communicate effectively to herd one ball at a time into the goal, in fifteen minutes time. The dog and handler team are scored on cooperation and direction, within that fifteen-minute time limit, and can earn extra points or accrue demerits accordingly.

The balls have been referred to as “rolling sheep” in recognition that this sport stems from herding for dogs who do not have access to regular sheep.

So how would you even get started?  There is a skills certification program where your learn how to Send, Push and perform directional cues with your dog. There are three levels of skills that progress with distance and ability levels. From what I can ascertain the difficulty comes in getting the dogs to focus on large objects of attraction – the yoga exercise balls without losing control of them while they push them around obstacles and into goals. In other words the dogs must learn patience, be focused, and able to maintain compliance with instructions all while moving around these huge balls. For the handler this will take the same skills, patience, determination and even drive to reinforce and maintain your own emotions and frustrations during the training phases to build up on your handling skills. Treibball will certainly teach you and your dog how to have a very strong bond.

In my professional opinion, it looks challenging for novice dog handlers and would even be challenging for pros. Utilizing the right dog with the right type of drives and ability to remain completely focused is a key component.

I would imagine that training herding dogs to compete in other sports like the Sheepdog Trials and herding is difficult in and of itself but now we’re adding in balls!

I would love to hear from any of you that participate in this sport, have tried it, or even any of you that have heard of it before hearing about it here on this podcast.

From the NATE website you can find all of their training resources here is just an example of what is listed as foundation skills.

Some basic team skills before you start sport training are very helpful to a successful sport experience. This is a brief overview of some of the behaviors that will set your team up for success.

Reward Based Training – Using rewards to build your dog’s skills is essential for distance work.

Shaping – Doing distance work requires a team that can think on their feet. Shaping is a training technique that rewards successive approximations of behavior using patience, timing, rate of reinforcement and criteria. A good resource is the Karen Pryor website and her 101 Things to do with a Box Game.

Attention to Handler – A dog who is attentive is easy to train. Your dog can’t be a good team member if they are not attentive to the handler and vice versa!

Position Relative to Handler – Front position: The straighter the dog is when pushing the ball the more likely the ball is to come straight to the handler without going off in other directions. Side & Heel Position: Dog stands next to the handler on the left for Heel and Right for Side.

Send Out – The send out is used to send your dog out a distance to position him behind
the balls to push them in. A familiar version of this in basic training is the “Go to Your
Spot” or “Go to Your Crate” behavior. Training this as a game not only makes your dog happy it can make you happy to have a constructive game to play with your dog AND build a great companion dog.

Wait, Stay and Leave It are basic impulse control exercises that are helpful to keep a dog’s arousal under control. The game of Treibball has rules about starting position, ending position and pushing on cue after a pause. The more practice your dog has in impulse control behaviors the more successful you will be in the game of Treibball.

Targeting, touching and pushing Using different body parts (front of nose, top of nose, head, shoulders, body, etc.), pushing with different levels of intensity and pushing multiple times will help you get better ball pushing behaviors and body awareness for straight pushes. Use of targets and platforms for positioning and distance with your dog can be fun and skill building at the same time. Work on perfecting targeting, touching and pushing before you start pushing balls around and you will benefit with more efficient pushing skills rather than wild and crazy out-of-control pushing.

Directional cues are not usually taught in basic obedience classes, but teaching your dog to respond to go right or left, forward or further away can jump start your team’s Treibball career.

There are many, many games you can play to prepare your dog for sports. A good Treibball program will incorporate foundation skills into their program. You can always practice foundations regardless of how advanced you and your dog are. Look for a trainer that teaches progressively using good consequences (rewards and gentle handling) and force free techniques to train your dog in the sport of Treibball.

I can think of about half a dozen clients right now off the top of my head that would take this challenge. If you are interested in taking a course with Alaska Dog Works working on some of the foundation skills and possibly even getting all the way through all three skills levels, let us know. We will do our homework and brush up on our skills and take on this challenge with you.

I was not able to locate any other trainers in Alaska doing Treibball – it would be cool if we were the first!