When I first heard of Treibbal, I had low (as in subterranean) expectations that Fido would have any interest in this new dog sport. Not that Fido isn’t smart and trainable; he has a file full of Dog College certificates to prove that he is.
The problem is that Fido has only one context for balls: possession. Not fetching. Not giving. Just “Mine!”
Treibball, on the other hand, is about following cues to go to one designated ball out of eight and push it into an enclosure. The process is repeated until all eight balls are in the enclosure within 10 minutes.
Never heard of Treibball? Think of soccer for dogs . . . Or herding without the sheep. Dogs of any size, age or breed can enjoy the sport. But here’s a better way to get a taste for Treibball.
During a recent introduction to Treibball led by Michael McManus, ANWI, CATT, of Ready Sit Go, Fido surprised me. He discovered the sport offers one thing he can get behind enthusiastically — treats! Two diced hot dogs later, he was almost over his fear of nudging the ball.
Teaching a dog Treibball
Training for this sport is not as hard as it looks. According to McManus, it only takes about five sessions. Treats are used to focus the dog’s attention on the right ball, and eventually push the ball to the goal. Some herding cues are also used, but most of it is classic obedience school positive reinforcement of the right behavior.
In Los Angeles, the Pasadena Humane Society offers a five-week introduction to Treibball class for $120. (The fee is discounted to $100 for dogs adopted from the PHS.) Each week’s class is one-hour long.
McManus, one of the first graduates of the American Treibball Association’s Treibball Training Academy and an incoming member of the American Treibball Association Board of Directors, offers classes in Altadena. Each session is five weeks long and costs $150 per dog.
An alternative to agility work
Unlike agility training, little special equipment is needed: weighted fitness balls, an enclosure to collect the balls, a 20-foot line for distance work and a six-foot stick to help guide the balls into the enclosure. The dog is working off-leash, obeying the cues and using its nose or shoulders to push the ball to the goal. You don’t have to run the course with the dog the way you do in agility training.
A dog and trainer can learn the skills just to have fun — or to compete in trials with other dogs.
Fido and I are still discussing whether his Hanukkah gelt will include a certificate to go to Treibbal school. While visions of border collie-like zeal and precision dance through my head like sugar plums, Fido is dreaming of five weeks of chopped hot dog feasts.