Treibball is one of the newer dog sports, having only been developed within the last decade, but it is already gaining quickly in popularity with competitions cropping up both on the national and international level. The sport first entered sanctioned competition in 2008 and since then, many organizations devoted to it have been created, signaling the growing interest in this activity that combines obedience, timing and skill.
The idea for the sport stemmed from the practice of herding. As owners of herding dogs know, these breeds have an innate instinct that allows them to guide large groups of sheep or even cows, keeping them within particular boundaries or driving them into an enclosed corral. Shepherds and their dogs work together using a series of verbal commands or whistles, sometimes over large expanses of territory.
From this idea came the concept of treibball. In this sport, a series of eight large balls, between 17-29 inches in diameter each, are set up in a triangle, similar to the way balls are set on the table in billiards. A dog must then move each individual ball from its start position into a space the size of a soccer goal within a set period of time, usually about 15 minutes.
The handler is positioned in a section of the competition field to the left of and no more than a few feet beyond the goal area. From here, he or she must communicate with the dog via verbal commands, hand signals or whistles in order to direct the dog to move the balls into the goal. Handlers are forbidden from issuing any verbal or physical corrections during the competition.
Dog and handler teams competing are scored on both cooperation and direction within the allotted time limit. They may also earn extra points or demerits depending on how they are able to navigate their task. Unlike other sports where athleticism is the main focus, this is a true display of trust, communication and obedience, highlighting the skills of both dog and handler equally.
While these competitions are open to any breed, certain breeds will have more of a natural affinity for this particular skill than others. In fact, the sport was first developed as an outlet for herding breeds that did not have regular access to sheep. The large rubber balls became a substitute herding subject and are often referred to as “rolling sheep” for just this reason.
The sport was first developed in Germany in 2003 and the first formal competitions were held in 2008. It has since taken hold in other countries, including the United States, where the American Treibball Association (ATA) and National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts (NATE) are both located. Under the NATE guidelines there are various levels, ranging from pre novice to Masters, with each level involving increased numbers of balls and larger playing fields.
This can be a fun and engaging sport for dogs who require both mental as well as physical stimulation and for handlers who enjoy developing an increased level of communication with their canine friends. If you are interested in this sport, check and see if there are any clubs in your local area dedicated to it and get in on the fun today!