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Treibball for Dogs: What It Is & How to Get Started

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Border collie at the dog sport Treibball

Treibball for Dogs: What It Is & How to Get Started

If you’re interested in involving your dog in sports that are both fun and safe, Treibball—also sometimes referred to as “urban herding”—could be well worth checking out. In short, Treibball is a game involving several large balls that a dog has to drive into a goal. It’s a versatile sport that can be played competitively or at home in your backyard, and dogs of all breeds, types, sizes, and energy levels can take part.

In this guide, we’ll explain in more detail how Treibball is played and how to get started and discuss how it can benefit dogs and their caregivers.

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How Does It Work?

Treibball originated in Germany, and the name of the sport translates to “drive ball”. In a Treibball competition, the dog uses their nose and shoulders to “herd” eight large, inflatable balls into a goal while their handler stands nearby, giving commands. When competing, dogs have a time limit in which they must get all their balls into the goal.1

As explained by the president of the American Treibball Association, this kind of activity doesn’t come naturally to dogs, so it does require some training, delivered in the form of positive reinforcement. The dog and handler must work as a team, so there must be a strong bond there, too.

The sport is often associated with herding breeds—who have an edge because of their natural inclinations toward chasing and high-energy pursuits—but any dog can learn to play Treibball and participate in competitions. They don’t have to be perfect at following commands, either, as this is something that can be continually worked on.

Entlebucher Mountain Dog with big yellow ball playing treibball
Image Credit: Michal Ninger, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Treibball Levels?

The fact that there are multiple game levels is another reason why any dog can take part in Treibball. The five levels are Pre-Novice, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert.

Playing at a lower level means fewer balls are used and the distance between the ball and the goal is shorter. As the dog navigates through the various levels, the number of balls and their distance from the goal increases. There are also various types of games that incorporate these levels, and we’ll discuss these more in the next section.

According to the National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts, the various levels increasing in difficulty are designed to give dogs time to build up confidence. Here’s a brief rundown of the NATE Treiball levels for a standard game requiring the dog to get the balls into the goal in any order:

  • Pre-Novice: This level utilizes three balls (in a triangle) that are between 15 and 20 feet away from the goal. The time limit is 2 minutes, 25 seconds.
  • Novice: The next level up level requires dogs to drive three balls at a distance of 15–25 feet from the goal. The time limit is 2 minutes.
  • Intermediate: Dogs playing at intermediate level must get six balls into a goal from a distance of 20–30 feet. The time limit is 3 minutes.
  • Advanced: This level requires the dog to drive eight balls into the goal from 25–40 feet away. The time limit is 4 minutes.
  • Expert: The trickiest level of all utilizes eight balls placed 35–50 feet away from the goal. The time limit is 4 minutes.

As dogs work through each level, they receive a new title. For example, the first title a dog gets in a standard game is TE-PN, which is at the pre-novice level. There are various titles for different levels and games. In addition, the size of the balls is determined by the size of the dog. For example, miniature dogs under 9 inches get balls 25 cm in size while extra-large dogs get balls 75 cm in size.

dog beside a treibball ball
Image Credit: Michal Ningar, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Treibball Games?

As we touched on above, there are various kinds of Treibball games played at varying levels of difficulty in addition to the Standard game.

These include:
  • Balls N’ Order: In this game, the balls must reach the goal in a specific order. The order is determined by certain colors or numbers. The balls are organized into a diamond shape.
  • Snooker Game: This game has two parts. In the first part, the dog must switch between delivering red and numbered balls (but these are rolled back out onto the playing area). When a certain number of red balls reach the goal, the dog must proceed to collect the last red ball, and then the numbered balls in order.
  • Team Game: The handler must direct two of their dogs to score goals in a Standard game.
  • Pairs Game: Two handlers play the Standard game with their dogs in unison.
  • Urban Herding Game: This game requires dogs to navigate obstacles like pens and fences on the way to the goal.

How to Get Started in Treibball

The best way to get started in Treibball is to join a Treibball class with your dog or work with an ATA-certified Treibball trainer to learn the basics before developing stronger skills. Alternatively, you can work on teaching Treibball skills yourself as a form of mental stimulation and fun for both you and your dog.

The National Association of Treibball Enthusiasts (NATE) has detailed training guides on its website should you fancy trying out some training techniques for your dog. The association recommends that dogs have completed basic obedience training before starting because this forms a solid foundation. If you register as a member with NATE, you can then enter your dog in NATE competitions.

Advantages of Treibball

There are a multitude of advantages to playing Treibball with your dog. For one thing, it’s a low-impact sport that’s suitable for all dogs, no matter their breed, type, size, or energy levels.

In addition, playing Treibball can:
  • Improve your dog’s physical fitness.
  • Provide mental stimulation.
  • Give you the opportunity to socialize with other Treibball enthusiasts and dog lovers.
  • Build the bond between you and your dog.
  • Improve communication between you and your dog.
  • Increase impulse control.
  • Improve your dog’s concentration.
black dog beside a treibball ball
Image Credit: Michar Peppenster, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of Treibball

There aren’t any disadvantages to playing Treibball, except that it may be harder in some areas than others to find a Treibball group or trainer, and some may need to travel a little farther afield to get to events. It also may not be the most practical sport for everyone to play at home with their dog, as not everyone has a yard.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Balls Are Used for Treibball?

Treibball is played with large, inflatable balls that vary in size depending on the dog’s size. According to NATE rules, Treibball balls must be made of burst-resistant vinyl or something similar. They must also be filled only with air and nothing else.

What Is the Meaning of Treibball?

Treibball is German for “drive ball” or “ball driving.” The sport started in Germany in the early 2000s, and it started to be played competitively in 2008.

man trains a dog to play treibball
Image Credit: Ryan Brix, Shutterstock

How Do I Teach My Dog Treibball?

One of the foundational steps is to teach your dog to go to a ball (this could be a mat instead of a ball for early practicing purposes) placed at a distance on cue. Once at the target, they must lie down while facing you, and stay there until you give the command to herd the ball, which is the main goal of training Treibball. Dogs must also have strong recall skills and eye contact with you.

Any dog can learn Treibball, but it takes time and patience to teach the various skills required. This is why some opt for Treibball classes. Alternatively, you can find tips for training on the NATE website.

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Treibball burst onto the scene in the early 2000s and has continued to grow in popularity ever since, with dedicated clubs and professional Treibball trainers to help enthusiasts and their dogs learn the skills, whether they be the tiniest pooches or the biggest.

The sport’s versatility and inclusiveness are among the biggest draws for those looking to take part in a fun but challenging activity with their dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Karl Steiner, Shutterstock

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