How to Train Your Dog to Herd a Ball

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

There is a new doggy game sweeping the nation called Triebball (pronounced as Try – Ball). This is a great way for you and your dog to play together and consists of your dog learning to herd a number of large inflatable balls into a soccer-style net. Virtually any dog can be taught to herd one or more balls, some such as Border Collies, corgis, and German shepherds have a natural instinct to herd animals, but most can be taught to herd a ball, as they love to play games.

Triebball is not just a fun game for you and your pup, it is also a highly competitive sport that can be played by dogs of all sizes and ages. This sport started out in Germany as a way to keep herding dogs busy during downtime. Once a few videos of this surfaced on YouTube, the concept swept the canine world. This can be a great way for you and your pup to bond and, at the same time, master a new set of skills he can have fun with. 

Defining Tasks

The basis of this game is that you will be training your dog to move a number of large balls into a goal using his nose to push the ball. Your role is to stand in the goal area and, using a series of commands, have your pup push the ball into the net. In the competitive version, the handler and dog are timed, and he cannot use his teeth or paws to move the ball. You earn points based on how well your dog listens-- how quickly he gets the balls into the goal.

The good news is that you can play this game with your dog anywhere you have enough room to spread the balls out and set up a net. You will need to adjust the size of the balls to the size of your dog. Be sure to use balls your pup is capable of moving easily in any direction. 

Getting Started

To play this particular game, you need a small number of supplies and plenty of time to go outside and play with your pup. These include:

  • Treats: You will always need treats to reward your dog for getting things right.
  • A large space:  This game takes plenty of space to play in.
  • A goal:  You can use a soccer goal or simply use two poles set in the ground or in a stand.
  • Ball:  You can't train him to move balls around if you don't have any to work with!
  • Patience: You can never have too much of this.
  • Time: Teaching your pup to heard balls is going to take a fair amount of time, as you need to practice regularly.

The good news is that you can teach your dog to play this game virtually anywhere there is enough room for you to play. Even better, this is a very fun game for you and your dog to play. Once he has mastered it, you can let others play the game with him too, as long as they use the same commands. 

The Touch Method

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Step
1
Grab your supplies
For this training, you will need several inflatable balls, a pad of Post-it notes, and treats.
Step
2
Hold your hand out
Hold your hand out in front of you and encourage your pup to touch it with his nose. Reward him with a treat when he does. Repeat this several times until he gets it.
Step
3
Move to a Post-it note
Next, stick a Post-it note on your hand and encourage your pup to touch it with his nose. Reward him with the treats and keep practicing.
Step
4
Move the note
Move the Post-it note to the ball and encourage your pup to touch the note. Treat when he does. Gradually make the note smaller and smaller until he will touch the ball without the note.
Step
5
Move the ball
Work with your dog to start moving the ball towards you. You can use the same commands used in herding animals. These are 'away to me' for right turns, 'come bye' for left-hand turns, and 'to me' when you want him to bring the ball towards you.
Step
6
Add the rest of the balls
When your dog has mastered moving one ball around, add in another, and then another, until he can move up to the full eight balls and get them in the goal. Then all you have to do is work on speed. Remember it takes time, patience, and a lot of treats to get him to this point.
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The Opposite Method

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1
Stand across from each other
Start out with the ball on the ground with your toes pointed towards the ball. Your dog should be standing on the other side facing you. When he assumes this position, give him a treat.
Step
2
Move around the ball
Once he has mastered standing across from you, start moving to the left or right around the ball. If your dog follows you by staying opposite you, be sure to praise him and give him treats. This establishes his foundation behaviors before he starts pushing the ball.
Step
3
Continue
Continue doing this until your pup will automatically assume the position when you walk up to the ball and reward him with a nice treat.
Step
4
Target the ball
Holding the ball between your knees, encourage your pup to touch the ball with his nose. Give him a treat when he does. Keep working on this until he will touch the ball with his nose and applying a certain amount of pressure.
Step
5
Moving the ball around
Time to put the ball on the ground. Now using your choice of command, such as 'go right', 'go left', 'to me', have your dog learn to move the ball around in the yard. Don't worry about specific targets at this point. You just want him to master moving the ball around.
Step
6
Add the goal
Once your pup will move the ball any direction based on your commands, you can introduce the goal into the game. Keep practicing and soon you and your pup will be ready for competition.
Recommend training method?

The Nose Touch Method

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Step
1
Using a treat
Start by using a treat to get your pup to touch your hand. Reward him with the treat when he does. Practice until he will automatically do this.
Step
2
Shut that door
To help him learn to increase the pressure behind the push, use treats to teach him how to close a door using his nose. You can use a piece of colored tape or a Post-it note to help him focus on the door. Do not let him use his feet.
Step
3
Go around and wait
Place a chair or other obstacle on the floor and start tossing treats behind it. The idea is to teach your pup to go around the object (which will later become a ball) and wait for the next command. Keep practicing until your dog will go around to the opposite side of the chair and wait for your next command.
Step
4
Brace and push
Brace the ball between your knees and wait for your dog to come up and push the ball. You can use a treat to teach him to focus on a low spot on the ball. Adding a piece of tape to the ball can help with this. Once he is pushing firmly on the ball, he can start pushing the ball towards you. Be sure you reward him well when he does so.
Step
5
Get around the ball
Place the ball in a corner where he has to get behind it to move it towards you. Use the corner to teach your dog to get behind the ball and move it either left or right using a hand signal or command. Reward your pup with treats each time he gets it right.
Step
6
Add distance
Start moving back a few steps at a time and have your pup navigate the ball to you, using a combination of hand signals and verbal commands. Each time he gets the ball to you, give him a treat. You can add to the challenge by having your pup move the ball in a zigzag pattern down the hallway.
Step
7
Finally move outside
Now you get to go through the whole process all over again outside. Take your time work with him over a variety of surfaces and get ready to get out there and play Triebball!
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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