The Game (How to Play Treibball & Rules) in Canada

Check out the Treibball Demo at the 2012 Vancouver Pet Expo: 

Some fun video from K9 Studio who is teaching the game:

Training note:  We also tried having some of the dogs push a ball through a tunnel. The following video is their first try at this. By the end of 6 weeks the ball would come flying out of the end. When I watched the video I couldn't believe that we didn't stretch the tunnel so that the ball would roll more smoothly - DUH! Rosie, the miniature Schnauzer, is quite a senior citizen and has participated in a lot of dog sports - but treibball is her favourite! We have 3 tunnels and maybe we'll try a tunnel maze at some point... .

and you may want to check out the new video from Jan Nijboer (founder of the sport) Treibball for Dogs DVD

Game Rules: 

From the founder of the sport - the European rules.

From the U.S. come - the American Treibball Association rules for sanctioned matches.

The Canadian association currently does not publish a rulebook.  We encourage folks considering putting on a competition or "play day" to consider both the detailed work of our U.S. counterparts and the original intent of the founder -- and then put on a match that suits their area and tastes.  At least until a formal structure takes hold in Canada.  Please let us know about your show and the results of it so we can post them on line.  

We do advise people thinking of competing seriously in North America to begin and go on training with the American rules, as given our geography and funding it's quite likely there will be more American matches on the schedule for advanced competitors.

Game Overview

Treibball is a herding sport for any environment and urban herding is a lot of fun.

The breeds with natural herding ability probably have a bit of an edge, but any dog who can learn to move to a handler's commands (on, and eventually off-leash) can play.

Eight different-coloured Treibball fitness balls are arranged in a triangle (similar to the starting set-up of a game of billiards), 15 feet away from the goal net. 

The dog handler stands at the front right of a large goal and stays there while the dog works in a herding area that is the length of about half a soccer field. 

When the start whistle blows, the dog has 10 minutes to herd the balls into the net with its nose or shoulders (not teeth, feet or paws please.)

The dog has to push the balls into the net in a certain color order and the handler directs the dog with distance and direction cues to the correct ball (and draws the ball into the goal when they get close with a stick.) 

Significant yelling results in a time penalty. Advanced Treibball competitors push the balls through narrow passages and water obstacles; beginner handlers and dogs just need to get the colored balls into the pen.  Clickers and treats are certainly used in training and at early competition levels, though later in their career competitors focus on speed and leave the reward until the end of the run.  It takes thinking, communication and teamwork to get the driving done, and all those balls (sheep!) into the goal.  The game (and timer) stops when all eight balls are in the net and the dog lies down in front of the goal.

What do you need to play and train Treibball?

  • A dog willing to learn and one who has started being able to focus on the handler's cues
  • A fitness/gymnastic-type ball
  • A large soccer or hockey net or other similar enclosure as a goal to hold the balls
  • A 6-foot wooden dowel/staff to help guide the balls into the goal
  • A space indoors or out about the size of half a soccer field (training games can take much less)
  • A great attitude!

As might be expected there are many variations in this sport. Sometimes obstacles are created made of cones or long objects like logs. The dog drives the ball through the channels created by the obstacles, perhaps in a meandering path pattern, or slalom like weaving the ball in and out.  Since its formation the sport has grown, diverged and diversified. It has turned out to be suited to virtually any dog breed. Because it is low impact it can be enjoyed by older dogs or those dogs - or handlers - with some mobility limitations. 

Different web sites list different dates for the origin of the activity as a sport. Some sites list Jan Nijboer as the creator of the activity as a formal sport in 2003. He is currently based in Germany. It became a competitive sport in Europe in 2007. The goal of the founderwas to provide an activity suited to channeling the  drives of the herding dogs in the urban environment. Much of the terminology in this form of Treibball is taken from herding.

The name of the sport "Treibball" is German, in English it may be described as "Driving Ball.". If you encounter the words "wax", "bump", "propellant" or "blow" in any automated website translations from German, just substitute"push" to get the intended meaning.  

Training Treibball

To being your training, we suggest getting your dog used to the ball and then teaching your dog basic directional and functional cues using a ball and your clicker/treats.  

To get your dog used to the ball, blow it up and put it in the training environment/room...and just ignore it for a few days.  In the meantime, teach your dog how to target (touch).  By the time your dog understands targeting well, the ball will be "just another piece of furniture" that the dog can be asked to target/touch.

You can use these cues below, or come up with your own - it's more about the function (getting the dog to move around the field and bring balls effectively without yelling, using a combination of arm/hand/whistle, etc.) then worrying about whether you use a specific word or even language.  

Having said that, especially in a group or when discussing Treibball with fellow internationals competitors, it's often easier to have a common language so when we talk about "Go Bye" it means the same thing.   The following are the common cues we suggest using - most derived from traditional livestock working cues.

GO - a compound cue used as the first part of a command sequence indicating that the cue will be carried out at a distance from the handler. 

BYE - the dog goes to the left of the ball (right shoulder to the ball) and goes clockwise around the ball

(alternatively, shepherds use Come-bye)

AROUND or AWAY- the dog goes to his right with its left shoulder to he ball, then circles around the sheep to the left counterclockwise 

(alternatively, shepherds use Away to me, or just  'way for a counterclockwise circle)

(These two cues are reversed in some regions!)

You can see photos of shepherder cues on the following page:

Get Back: sends the dog to the far side of the sheep, without worrying about which side he takes to get there

The point is: in a flanking cue the dog isn't going Left or Right. He's positioning himself so he can then go Clockwise or Anticlockwise, relative to the sheep.

And look at this really fun concept:

"When you send a young dog to the ball from a down position, hold the stick out the direction you DON'T want the dog to go. If you want to send the dog Away to Me, you hold the stick in your right hand and turn so the stick is behind you blocking the dog. Some people try to "wave" the dog in the desired direction. (Either with their arms or with the stick.) This results in blocking the dog from going the way you want it to. Remember to block the wrong way."

PUSH - using nose or shoulder, push the ball towards the handler standing in the goal

Stand - stop, although when said gently may also mean just to slow down.

Steady or take time - slow down. 

Wait, (lie) down or sit - stop (for example, behind the ball)

Look back - return for a missed ball

In here - go through a gap

Walk upwalk on or just walk - move in closer to the balls

Back up - helpful for backing into position

That'll do - stop working and return to handler.

These cues may be indicated by a hand movement, whistle or voice. These are not the only cues used: there are many variations. When whistles are used, each dog usually has a different set of cues to avoid confusion when more than one dog is being worked at one time.

Note that both the original and U.S. version of the game rules suggest that you are not allowed to apply pressure to your dog.  The US interprets this to mean that "pressure" to mean NO form of physical or verbal intimidation toward the dog, while competing. The handler can use verbal cues, hand signals and actual body position within that 24 inch goal area, to direct the dog and guide him, but NO form of physical or verbal pressure are allowed (yelling, berating the dog, cursing, threatening gestures, etc).

For information on training directional cues, we encourage you to look at all the excellent suggestions on the websites for herding - basically in this game we are herding plastic sheep!

Then try out and practice your skills in one of our Treibball games (if you like, you can create an indoor or outdoor competition day using these games, suitable for all dog and handler levels):

Training Videos and Games: 

      How to Teach The Basics - foundations video 

The"12 O'Clock" Game: 

The handler moves around the ball (always considering themselves standing at 6 o'clock position on a clock face) and the dog is rewarded for moving exactly opposite them (into the 12 o'clock position on a clock face). 

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