why I love treibball!

Last year, the spring of 2011, I kept hearing about this new dog sport from Germany, something about urban herding, balls, goal keeping, etc. Everyone was spelling and pronouncing it a bit differently, lots of different opinions were floating around, good and bad, and I couldn’t seem to obtain clear information. In all honesty I wasn’t looking that hard, I was busy with other dog sports and family stuff. But it piqued my curiosity on some level.

I love YouTube for a lot of reasons; music, comedy, movies, and dog sports to name a few. Some of my good friends from various parts of the world I met through YouTube. One  evening I settled in with a glass of wine and searched for TREIBBALL. I was truly surprised how many videos came up. I watched about twenty videos before I came to one that made me smile and move in my chair, that is always a good sign by the way!


A woman, her dog, a soccer field, and a dozen or so exercise balls. I was hooked. I could sense that this was a team sport all the way around. And it only took this one VIDEO to turn me on to a new dog sport challenge. What I liked about this video was the trust at a distance, and that each team mate had a job and/or task to perform, independent of each other. I love, love, love freedom in training once there is a partnership and trust. For me it is being able to read each other, understand each other, and work through concepts together.

The history, where did it all start? Jan Nijboer, a German trainer came up with treibball, a combination of what he felt were complex behaviors that included soccer and herding skills. Mental and physical work for a dog. Today he runs the International Natural Dogmanship Center where he trains people to train their own dogs. Thank you Jan for your creative way of thinking!

I was looking for, and needed a breath of fresh air in my own personal training program, something to challenge me and add new skills. I also wanted to try a new sport that wasn’t concussive for my dogs,  and that all of my dogs could learn, even with their varying ages.

I am a visual learner. I can watch something, and in my brain, some place, it all makes sense. (OK, my neuropsychology friends, tell me why?) Dogs sports, cooking, knitting, gardening, but not carpentry. That my dear friends, I suck at!

So we went to work. We had a bunch of beach balls at home, the benefits of having kids. We also had a couple of exercise balls, the down side of aging and squeaky joints!

The kitchen, our favorite training ground is where we started touch on the ball. $eeker can be a bit grippy, so I wanted to make sure we had a solid foundation and new understanding of the balls purpose. Ocean has a HUGE fear of balloons, so this didn’t go well. I had to leave the balls out in the house and yard as ‘ornaments’ so to speak. I let her observe the other dogs practicing touch with the balls for a few days and asked nothing of her. When she was comfortable and offered a touch, we moved forward with that. Being able to observe was so helpful for her.

What hit me right away was that the balls were not the focus, the TEAM or handler/dog relationship was the focus. The balls were a way to access each other. I loved seeing that.

My dogs all have distance skills, or what we refer to as ‘go to’. Distance is different depending on the context of the task at hand. Whether it’s hiking, freestyle, agility, or games in the yard, ‘go’ means ‘keep going until you hear otherwise’. Distance is so fun to play with, and when you have distance combined with understanding of behaviors and vocabulary it’s feels like freaking magic! Here is a VIDEO of our distance/mat work that we play with all of the time. If your dog has a plethora of behaviors while performing in front of you, can they also do it 30,40, 50, 100 feet away? Fun all the way around.

Ah, the pushing. This was tricky at first as I had four dogs and four different styles of pushing. $eeker took to it like he had just stayed up all night and watched every treibball video on YouTube, AWESOME. Story was offended that I was asking him to move something with his face. He truly had a look of disgust when we practiced this. So I let him come at it his own way. He will push to get it rolling and them guide it with his chest. He wants to see me, and he wants his face off of the ball. He took the longest to learn this concept. Ocean was initially a light tapper, but once she got into it she knew instinctively how to guide and direct that ball right to me, my little perfectionist. Franny, well this is where her game stopped. Repetition and tasking are not her things. While she is still a great toucher when the ball comes out, she believes the ball should move on it’s own if the ball wants to move, she’s no baby sitter, and for sure no ball slave!

Then I started to put all of these skills together, and play, play, play –

  • go to mat
  • go to mat and lay down facing me
  • go to mat/down with duration
  • go to mat clockwise and counter clockwise
  • go to amt with balls all around the yard
  • touch ball
  • balance with ball, handler/dog opposite of each other
  • fun games in the garden with pushing and distance runs
  • playing new games with counter and clock outruns
  • playing games with ‘wait’
  • playing games with discrimination and multiple balls
  • playing games with directing the ball around objects
  • playing with blind finds
  • playing with control or driving the ball to the handler
  • changing up ‘push’ with ‘bring it’, ‘drive it’, ‘find it’
  • working on multiple ball brings before reward
  • games with more distance
  • keeping motivation high
  • short games at first
  • introducing balls on windy days
  • playing in all weather
  • games, games, games

I can say that out of all of the activities we do, my kids and husband love playing this with the dogs in the yard. The equipment, balls, are light and colorful and you can kick them to the other side of the yard for the next dog to bring in. They all love doing distance work, again it feels like magic. And the dogs love it!

I have quite a few VIDEOS logged on my own YouTube channel. Check them out if you love this sport!

For me, this sport has all of the components to be challenging, interesting, intense, and fun. I love that once I send my dogs out to their ‘place’ behind the balls, once they are released the game is theirs, making choices and decisions on their own to get the ball to me. Awesome! For my dogs, it allows me to see their abilities to solve concepts, reason, work through problem solving, work through frustrations, work as a team, and when finished have that look of being completely satiated! Woop!

Nancy, pushing on!

16 Comments Add yours

  1. mtwaggin says:

    Love the photos and the explanation and I like that you kind of did a list of things you trained in order for us! Thank you! Oh look, evil dog – who btw turns 6 Sunday (if he lives that long – yup there is a story there).

      1. mtwaggin says:

        Haha last night I would have gladly let you have him and put him on the next bus! 🙂

  2. The dogs must have a lot of fun doing this. All my dogs have loved balls, of course, but they were smaller….. 😉

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      once they get it, it is fun, in fact a blast. It’s like a riddle or puzzle everytime you step out to play!

  3. Lisa says:

    Ditto ! Treibball is a blast…but windy days…sigh.
    I had Cass sitting near a ball, turned my back and walked 3 metres to pick something up. Turned back and there was no sign of a ball at all. The field is about 7 acres. How could this be ? Cass is just sitting there smiling.
    I said out aloud, ” Where could it be ?”
    And then one seriously high speed dash followed with Cass cranking it up moment by moment as she headed towards the boundary fence. Yep. There it was, wedged up against the fence.
    In that time it had travelled about 300m.
    Ugh..windy days.


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      😉 for sure, in the beginning wind is the enemy, especially with non sand weighted balls. But believe it or not it becomes a blast on a light wind day (not hurricane force by any means), as it makes it even more of a puzzle, and the dogs have to have quick reactions and work at getting them to you without the wind taking them away again. What is that sailing word for going back and forth in the wind, ‘tacking’ or something like that? My dogs started to do that this summer when playing in the wind. And the kept the ball coming my way.

      7 acres, that is way too much fun! I would never leave, I would just play all day out there!

      1. Kim says:

        How do you get sand in the balls to weight them? Or do you buy them this way?

        I don’t have a wind issue in my corner of MT…rain, OTOH, has been a problem!

        I’ll have to step up on the ball purchases…Holly’s got working 2 balls about 1/2 the length of my yard down pat now 🙂 Whoop!

      2. Nancy Tanner says:

        Kim, you can buy them sand weighted, they have fancy names like ‘stability ball’ or something like that… Woop, go Holly is right! That is exciting!

  4. Really nice write up on all of the assets of Treibball as an alternative sport! I posted this link on my own blog, along with your videos. Thank you!
    Char from VA

  5. Sounds like fun! This looks like a great way to get some exercise in a new and fun way.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      it is awesome… while we don’t play everyday, we play enough times per week to make our backyard a lot of fun!

  6. Jenn says:

    Love this article. i am anxious to get involved as well up here in Canada.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks Jenn. I think you will love this sport … It would be great to see it grow all over the north…!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s