What is Pushball a.k.a. Treibball?
From the webpage of the American Treibball Association, www.AmericanTreibballAssociation.org, here is some basic information about this new dog sport: Treibball is a new way to play with your dog! It’s a competitive sport for dogs of all ages and sizes–it promotes better teamwork and communication between a dog and his handler. It’s great fun for any energetic dog who works well off-leash and needs a job, or any dog who likes to herd and doesn’t have sheep!
If you haven’t seen the game in action yet, watch the videos on our American Treibball YouTube channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericanTreibball
Treibball began in Germany to give their energetic dogs some much needed mental and physical stimulation.
We think it’s a great game–perfect for American dogs and their owners, too! It’s fun for any dog that loves to play chase games, to herd or just use their amazing, problem-solving ability. Competing in Agility takes special equipment, the ability to run with your dog and direct him through each obstacle. Treibball promotes the same kind of teamwork and communication, but does not put any physical stress on the handler. It also builds confidence for the shy dog, and helps reactive dogs with impulse control.
ATA, a non-profit membership organization, was formed to establish the sport in the United States. We encourage individuals, trainers and clubs to join ATA, form classes and start sanctioned ATA competitions throughout the U.S. As the sport gains wider acceptance, more people and their dogs will enjoy this new kind of teamwork!
Teaching the Push
It is easy to use a throw rug and to roll it up as pictured below. When you roll it up place treats in the center every few inches. This way when the dog investigates the smell she is prompted to unroll the rug. This is your push behavior. You can then fade the treats and capture the push and click and treat your dog for it. Once you have the behavior you can name it a common cue used is “push”.
Another way to teach the push is to use social learning. By getting on your hands and knees you can assume the position of a dog and push the ball with your own nose and head. Most dog’s will imitate your behavior and push the ball, you can then click and treat this push.
Types of Pushes
The types of pushes are taught separately, but here are pictures of types of pushes so you have a mental picture of the end goal.
Below is a nose push, notice how this dog’s nose is nice and low, this makes for a good push. Ideally click and reward low hard nose pushes.
Here is another nose push, again notice the dog low and nicely driving the ball.
Pictured below, is a shoulder push.
And, below, another shoulder push.
Finally the third type of push, a paw push.
Before pushball training it is recommended that both you are your dog warm up. Light stretching and a nice warming massage are recommended for both of you!
Eye Contact Game
Pushball, like any sport requires eye contact and a fast response to your dog’s name. Click and treat your dog for eye contact and build duration by delaying the click for longer and longer periods of time.
In order to learn to watch your hands and to generalize the push concept it is a great idea to teach your dog to hand target.
Click and treat when your dog touches his nose to your hand. Be sure to only click for touches with a closed mouth. Add duration to the behavior, click and treat multiple times so your dog begins to hold his nose on your hand for several seconds. Add the cue ”nose” once you are consistently getting the behavior, then release your dog from the nose target with “ok”.
Generalizing the Push
Using objects other than the rug you can now help your dog generalize the push concept. You can use a toy car or a can as pictured below. Click for low hard pushes at the center of the can or toy.
While training the push behavior you always want the dog to be moving the object toward you. Ultimately pushball will require your dog to bring the balls to you.
To get the push behavior you can also use a target stick, a lid of some kind, or a post-it note as a target. You can then
Orienting to Handler (aka The Sandwich Game)
In pushball you want your dog to orient toward you. Before introducing the ball you can shape your dog to “sandwich” and object between you and himself.
Once your dog is consistently sandwiching the object with you at 6pm and the dog at noon as if a clock face, you can move onto a ball and repeat the same exercise. Note that the handler has placed a towel in a O shape to prevent the ball from rolling away. She is feeding her dog in an ideal “sandwich” position.
Adding Movement and Mirroring
Now that your dog understands that the “sandwich” position, we can add movement; while sandwiching the ball—toss a cookie to your right and step to your left so when your dog approaches he will automatically be lined up to “sandwich” the ball again. Repeat this many times and gradually increase difficulty.
By consistently sandwiching the ball the dog is learning to mirror you and to ultimately drive the ball back towards you when you ask him to.
As previously you want eye contact with you and for your dog to continue the behavior until you release with “ok”.
If your dog is too excited by the ball you may need to start with using a chair or a cone.
Sending Left and Right
Ultimately you will want to send your dog out and around a ball so that he can bring that specific ball to you. The signal for the dog to go to your left will be your raised left arm parallel to the ground. The signal for your dog to go right around and get a ball will be your right arm raised parallel to the ground.
Human Leg Targeting
While playing pushball you will want your dog to push the ball toward you. So your legs, make for an ideal target. To set your dog up for success you can add some sort of target so your dog knows how and where to push the ball.
Ultimately your dog may need to travel a great distance away from you to get a specific ball. So we will need a way to communicate with your dog how to move to a distant point and then what do once he gets there. A great way to achieve this is to teach your dog to go to a mat.
Click your dog for sending to the mat opposite of you; toss your treats so that your dog wants to stay on the mat.
As previously stated, the dog always pushes the ball toward you. So as you get ready to have your first real ball push make sure you set everything up in an ideal fashion.
Dog is at noon and handler is at six o’clock. Ball is braced by towel so it does not roll until you are both ready. By placing some treats down below the towel holder and the ball directly in front of the dog you can prompt your first real ball push.
The Send Game
The purpose of the send is to teach your dog impulse control and to move to the side opposite of you (sandwich) off both sides of your body.
Pictured above, place the mat at 12 o’clock and yourself at six o’clock. The ball is braced by the holder so it does not roll away. You can now practice sending your dog away from you to the opposite side of the ball.
Introduction of herding cues – Come Bye and Away to Me
With dog facing you, sending dog to YOUR right sends them clockwise – COME BY (or come by the clock(wise).
With dog facing you, sending dog to YOUR left sends them COUNTER clockwise – AWAY TO ME – sends dog in opposite direction to your left or counter-clockwise to YOU.
Your RIGHT hand is used to send your dog moving to HIS LEFT or clockwise to YOU, the cue is COME BYE.
Your LEFT hand is used to send your dog moving to HIS RIGHT or counter clockwise to YOU, cue is AWAY TO ME. Alternately you can use left and right if this is easier for you.
Another way to Move the Ball
If you have taught your dog to touch a post-it note with his nose you can now place the post-it note on the ball and use it to prompt a push. Notice that the target is below “the equator” of the ball, thus prompting a LOW push.
It is important for your dog to show self-control around the ball. This dog has been sent to her mat and now is being asked to down.
Teaching your Dog to get Behind the Ball
A great way to teach a dog to get behind a ball SECOND EXERCISE: Put ball in corner leaving just enough room for your dog to step in behind the ball. Your dog is then clicked and treated for the “sandwich” position again. Sandwich = dog, ball, handler.
You are looking for four things from your dog:
- The sandwich position
- A patient wait for your cue to push/drive ball
- That when cued your dog pushes the ball towards YOU
- To push with his head LOW to push the ball or to shove ball out of corner his shoulder
Only click and reward pushes toward you – if your dog pushes the ball away from you, just stop, and re-position with directional.
Be sure to PRACTICE BOTH SIDES.
Ultimately you will want to be able to send your dog to where you are pointing. This may be straight ahead, to your left or to your right. You will need your dog to understand the direction of the send so one way to do that is to use the mats. The handler pictured below has sent her dog to the center mat, her dog will turn toward her and lie down on her mat, handler can then click and run to the mat and deliver a cookie.
The handler pictured below sent her dog to the left mat and again has clicked and treated and is now delivering the treat.
Alley Pushball Game
A fun game combining some of the games you have been working on is to create an alley.
The ring gating, a goal and the ball and the mat create an alley.
Start with your dog on the mat and you on the opposite side and ask your dog to “push”. This way your dog is pushing the ball down the alley toward you!
The distance to the goal can be a few feet or longer depending on how hard your dog pushes the ball. Be sure to set your dog up for success!
Again your starting position is going to be a down and your dog will be showing self control before you actually start the game. As your dog reaches the goal simply step out of the way and allow your dog to push the ball into the goal. Throw a huge party for you and your dog! Your first ball was just penned!
Your dog will need to generalize what he has learned to different surfaces. Don’t assume your dog will be able to handle a surface you have not practiced on. When exposing your dog to a new surface always go back to kindergarten and review all of his training.
Happy Pushball Training, The Staff of Courteous Canine, Inc.!