Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wanna Play Treibball?!

Get The Ball Rolling
Dianna Stearns
Wanna play Treibball?  What's Treibball?  Glad you asked!  It's a super new dog sport that's lot of fun for both dog and person. There's nothing like talking with the co-founder and current President of the American Treibball Association to find out.  

Dianna Stearns, who is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and the owner of Winn's West Dog Training and Behavior Consulting, LLC, in Northglenn, CO is enthusiastic about this new sport that she describes as, "a quiet, problem-solving game of teamwork between the dog and handler; a one-on-one communication game. It’s not fast or loud, like Flyball, or flashy like agility, so it probably will never have the showmanship quality of those dog sports. But, for many owners, who would like to create a better bond with their dog, and improve their dog’s ability to listen to them and take direction, (even at distance) the sport of Treibball is an outstanding vehicle. For those owners who do like to compete with their dogs, it’s a sport both can participate in without fear of injury Treibball is sort of like herding sheep without sheep, and sort of like soccer...for dogs."

Stearns got interested in it during Fall to Christmas of 2009 when she found some videos on YouTube showing the sport but because there was a language barrier she couldn't understand the dialog. She began writing to Dutch and German trainers who featured Treibball on their websites in an effort to learn more but her mail went unanswered, likely due to the language barrier. 

Because there was no information available, she and her colleague, Mary Manka, decided to figure it out for themselves, watching over 45 videos and visiting over 30 Dutch, Scandinavian and German websites to determine the game's common denominators. As taught in Europe it was basic obedience with some herding hand signals mixed in. Since the basics could apply to anything, Stearns started creating a curriculum that she could introduce her students to Treibball.

"My first class was held in July 2010 and my training colleague, Mary Manka, Hilary Lane and I formed the American Treibball Association in December of that year to promote and establish a structure for the sport in the U.S.," Stearns recalls.

Dianna Stearns and Friend

The sport takes about 4 to 6 months for a dog to learn, depending upon the dog, of course. And dogs need to know basic obedience, like Sit, Stay and Down.  "We work on training the basic skills and cues first, and then increase the dogs’ distance from the handler and work on more precise ball handling as the dogs’ skills increase. In each of our classes we practice to get them ready for a mock-game, by the end of the class. Certainly by 6-8 months they could be ready for competition."

"Puppies can learn the basic skills needed for Treibball, any time from 4-6 months of age," says Stearns "Our youngest class participants have been 6-7 months. For Treibball competitions there are several age categories: 6 months to 2 years, 2 to 7 years, and 7 years and older. Our oldest competitor so far has been 9 years old. The older ones may learn or move slower, but they’re still having fun!" And that's really what a dog sport should be - fun for dogs and owners.

"My goal, as a trainer/teacher has been to introduce the game, and its benefits to a wider audience. While word of the game is spreading among trainers and folks who’ve seen the videos, it’s still a bit of well-kept secret to the general population,"Stearns relates. To that end, Get The Ball Rolling is the book/workbook Deanna Stearns has written, the first comprehensive publication about the new sport. It has just been published by Dogwise.  It's available through them, soon at Barnes and Noble, and for those who can't wait, at Amazon right now: https://tinyurl.com/mxyn9vz

Go to the American Treibball Association's website, www.americantreibballassociation.org, where you'll find a Trainer Directory tab, which lists Treibball trainer and facility members, by state. Interested dog owners can contact the trainers in their area for upcoming class dates and times. "The ATA currently has over 300 members in 6 countries, with new dog owners and professional trainers joining us weekly, but we know not everyone will have a trainer in their area, yet," says Stearns "We encourage dog owners who want to get involved in the sport, to join the ATA at the beginning membership level, get the handbook (as part of their membership) and start working with their dog. As part of that membership they will be invited to join our Yahoo discussion group where they can ask questions and get training advice."

"Treibball is an all-positive, low-impact team sport that handlers and dogs of all physical abilities can play equally. There are no corrections allowed in Treibball, just the use of verbal cues and hand signals; it's all positive and all fun, with the dog working under the handler's control. For training, Treibball requires some space with low minimal cost for equipment. You need a designated goal, a fitness ball 45-75 cm, a clicker and a target stick to train, and additional field space, 8 balls and a larger goal to play the entire game or to compete:
The game is played with the dog working off-leash, using his nose, shoulders or the backs of his paws to drive eight fitness balls into a goal area, within 10 minutes. The handler directs the dog which balls to bringing, in which order. The eight balls are laced midfield in a triangle (like in billiards) with the point/peak ball farthest from the goal. The balls can be of differing sizes or all the same size, just appropriate to the size of the dog playing at that time, so dogs of all sizes can play! The mid-point of the balls should be at the level of the dog's nose or shoulder. The game stops when 10 minutes is called or when all eight balls are in the net/goal and the dog lies down within the goal area (like penning sheep). The better the communication between the dog and handler, the faster the time the team achieves. Bonus and demerit points are added/subtracted to the score, based on the team’s performance. The 2013 Sanctioned game rules can be downloaded free from the ATA website.

Stearns says that if anyone knows "a professional, positive reinforcement trainer in their area they’ve enjoyed working with, we encourage them to get that trainer involved, to start a local class. Membership information is available on the website, under the membership tab."

For more information ATA has a website, www.americantreibballassociation.org, a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/americantreibball, and a YouTube channel where you can see videos of students and competitions, www.YouTube.com/AmericanTreibball

Questions can be directed to their mailbox: info@americantreibballassociation.org