Last Sunday here in Colorado, the American Treibball Association held its Winter Games. Now that I’ve seen how it’s taught and what the full game looks like, I’m happy to share insights.
Step 1: Eye Contact
The first game participants played rewarded the dog/handler team that maintained the longest WATCH ME.
I found myself amused by the competitor who not only held food near his face but who held his face about a foot from his dog’s face. My first thought? “CHEATER!” But, when the dog looked away, I realized that tactic was a detriment, not a bonus, because the dog clearly felt crowded and broke off the gaze.
Step 2: What We Call POKE
Then, dogs competed to see who could POKE one of these push-on lights the fastest. It takes some solid pressure to do this, not just some wimpy poke.
Hilary Lane from Fang Shui Canines, who teaches treibball locally, says that you can also teach dogs to push doors closed with their nose to practice this skill.
Step 3: Generate Motion With Nose
I cannot WAIT to try this with Lilly, so stay tuned.
Step 4: Targeted Away to Me/Come Bye
Essentially, for those of you with agility under your belt, this game sends the dog OUT and around one of the herding balls toward a target. It seems like some sources disagree on which phrase means which direction in herding cues.[As we learned in Lilly’s herding instinct test, she is naturally a clockwise dog.]
Dogs got clicks/treats for going the right direction toward a target (cardboard X on the ground). Often, handlers use target sticks to extend their reach and directional instruction.
Step 5: Putting It Together
Organizers set up the various size exercise balls like you would balls on a pool table. Handlers stand in front of a goal, and they send their dogs out around the balls and cue them to push one ball at a time toward the goal. The handler really isn’t supposed to move away from the goal, so this teaches “distance work” to dogs.
I was curious to see just how enthusiastic dogs were about the balls. Now that Lilly has seen goats, for example, I question how interesting she will find balls.
Most of the demo dogs I watched seemed fairly sedate about the task, but you could tell they were having fun. More like they were doing a trick than triggering a true herding buzz.
Then, off on the side, there was one border collie and later an aussie that were indeed pushing and shouldering the balls around like Lilly did with the goats recently.
So, I suppose it depends on the dog.
Where Was Lilly?
Because Sunday was my only day off the mountain all last week (and likely all this week), I left the house around 12:30 pm and didn’t get home until after 8 pm. That would have been a LONG day for Lilly to be out and about … and possibly just sitting in her crate in the car.
I wasn’t sure what the event would be like, but I knew that a big, metal barn with people and dogs she did not know … and games and cheering and noise … wasn’t the best situation for Lilly.
I’m glad I went with my gut and Tom’s veto of the idea.
Lilly would have been stressed out and miserable.
Like so many group events with performance dogs, there were just enough nervous/bordering on reactive dogs there that Lilly would have flipped out. There was just enough buzz in the air, dogs being fussy, leashes taunt with tension that I’m glad I let Lilly say home with the boys.
I love to have my girl with me, but it’s completely NOT fair to drag her around, if she cannot have my full attention.
And, because a childhood friend (who has a cat, no dogs) agreed to go with me, I certainly owed her my attention as well. Plus, we went out to dinner afterward.
So, Lilly stayed home.
Will she ever be able to attend a real treibball class? I’m not sure.
BUT, in the meantime, we’ll spend these cold/windy winter days playing with a few of these baseline tasks required and see if I can get Lilly to think about exercise balls in a new light.
… because until now … she only knows this ball-based trick.