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Dog Treibball Guide – Rules, Training, Equipment & Resources

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Published on
Wednesday 12 February 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Dog Treibball Guide
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Dog treibball happens to be a sport that is fun for your dog and will also keep them fit. Not only is this great for their health, but a fit dog is also a joy to hang out with.

Dog treibball is a sport that is more suitable for herding dogs. In places where herding dogs don’t have sheep or ducks to herd, treibball is a great way to ensure the dogs don’t lose their edge. Moreover, even if your dog isn’t a herding breed, treibball will prove to be a fun activity for you and your furry friend.

What is Treibball for Dogs?

Treibball originated in Germany as an activity to train herding dogs. You can call it herding without sheep. With its rise in popularity, it was sanctioned as a professional dog sport in 2008.

This sport involves both the dog and its trainer. The trainer, called the Handler, directs the dog to push balls inside a goal post. During this, the trainer has to be present in a specified area. He can’t touch or force the dog to push the balls. He can only use voice commands, gestures, and whistles to encourage the dog to achieve their task.

The dog pushes the balls, 8 to be exact, with his nose. And he has to push them all into a goal post within a set time frame.

This is a basic summary of the game. If you only want to play this at home, then it is nothing more than a sophisticated game of fetch with very large balls. But if you want to go pro, you will need to follow and be dedicated to their extensive list of rules. The higher you go in the professional ring, the harder the game gets.

Dog Treibball Rules & Regulations

Dog Treibball is a sanctioned sport. It has a governing body, the American Treibball Association, which has defined its extensive list of rules and regulations participants need to follow.


There are several tiers to the membership within ATA. Here’s a brief overview of how that works.

Level 1 – Adult

This type of membership requires the applying person to be an adult of 18 years or older. This is a necessary membership to compete in ATA sanctioned competitions or hold one.

Level 1 – Junior

For people younger than 18, Level 1-Junior membership is required to compete in junior ATA sanctioned competitions.

In Junior competitions, participants compete in one of the following classes, separated by age:

  • 8-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-17

Juniors, accompanied by a parent or adult, demonstrate they can control their dog without a leash.

Level 2 – Professional Trainer

This membership is for reinforcement trainers who wish to be a certified ATA trainer. After getting this membership, they become voting members of the ATA. They can attend annual meetings and are eligible to attend the trainer certification academy to become an ATA-certified treibball trainer.

Level 3 – Regional/Local Dog Training Club, Breed Club, Training Association or Training Facility

This membership is for establishments who wish to hold ATA sanctioned dog treibball competitions and events. These facilities are for full voting members of the ATA and have at least one reinforcement trainer among their ranks.

Affiliate Members

This membership is for people who want to promote treibball outside the US and want to become affiliate members. Affiliated members can’t vote and also require a contact person who will be responsible for maintaining communication between the Affiliate Member and the ATA.

All of the membership forms and documentation are available on the ATA website.

Dog Registration

Dogs are registered through the name of their handler and are assigned a unique registration number. This number remains the same for the lifetime of the dog. Upon registration, dogs will be divided based on their height and age. The height and age classes are as follows.


Standard: Height greater than 16 inches, measured till the withers

Teacup: Height less than or equal to 16 inches, measured till the withers


Adult: 6 months to 7 years

Seniors: Older than 7 years

Dogs can also be classified as honors. These are dogs that are old or have some form of disability. The same applies to their handlers. If the handler is of 65 years of age or older or has some form of disability that limits them to some extent of the competition, the dog is classified as honors.

goal of dog treibball
Treibball has simple rules but takes a long time to master.

Start Area

To start the game, the handler leads the dog on a leash to the start area. Once the dog is sitting in the start area, the handler unleashes the dog and assumes the position in the handler area.

The game starts when the handler gives the dog a verbal cue or a signal to do so and all four paws of the dog leave the start area.

Ball Order

The order in which the dog must bring the balls in goal varies from class to class. In the beginner class, the dog can bring the balls in any order. In the intermediate and excellent classes, the dog must bring the balls in a specific order. In the case of the Champion class, the dog must bring the balls in an order specified by the Judge.

Ball Size

The ball size is always in accordance with the height of the dog. Generally, the ball diameter should be parallel to the shoulders of the dog. However, the owner may request a different ball size.

In addition to this, the owners of extra-large breeds should not expect dog treibball venues to carry balls of all sizes. So, to prepare for this, they should be ready to supply balls themselves.

Handler Position

After leaving the dog in the start area, the handler must remain in the handler area for the entirety of the run. Otherwise, a demerit point will be given to the handler, even if one foot remains inside the handler area.

Ball Contact by the Dog and their Handler

Here’s some detail on how the dog and their handler are supposed to come in contact with the ball.

Dog: The dog may use any part of the body to push the ball in the goal as long as the ball is not damaged. If the ball is damaged, the judge can decide to give their run the status of non-qualifying (NQ).

Handler: The Handler may not touch the ball outside the handler area. Once a ball enters the handler area, the handler can direct it towards the goal. Anything else will incur penalties.


The game is finished only when the dog has pushed all the balls in the goal and has assumed a finish-position inside the handler area. A finish-position is a “sit” for all categories except honors. Honors can simply stand on all four paws. Once the dog assumes the finish-position, the clock will be stopped and the time noted.


The handler can give their dog treats, toys or physical praise, but only inside the Handler Area. If these are given outside of the handler area, this will result in an NQ.

Similarly, the toys and food can’t come in contact with the playing field in and outside of the handler area.

Competition Levels

There are several competition levels in treibball. Here’s an outline for them.

  1. Intro
  2. Beginner
  3. Intermediate
  4. Excellent
  5. Champion
  6. Seniors/Honors

These levels are then further subdivided into divisions, height, and age classes. Each of the treibball competitions for dogs has slightly different rules with the difficulty of the game increasing from intro to champion.

Scoring Runs

Scoring in the game of treibball is conducted through the basis of addition or removal of time from the total time taken by the dog to complete the run. 1 bonus point means 30 secs are taken off of the final run time. Similarly, 1 demerit point means 30 secs will be added to the final run time.

The following are the rules for the award of bonus and demerit points.

Bonus Points

Bonus points are awarded according to the following conditions:

  • 1 bonus point is awarded if the dog walks up to the balls and sits behind them in a clockwise direction behind the pointer ball and pushes the pointer ball in the goal. While pushing the pointer, the bonus is only given if the pointer ball is the first ball that is being worked by the dog and is the first ball entering the goal in all divisions
  • 2 bonus points are awarded if the dog performs a clean run in the excellent or champion categories. A clean run means the dog pushes all the balls in the goal in the correct order without scoring any demerit points, and no spare or unintended balls enter the handler area


The demerit points for dog treiball are as follows:

  • The handler will score 1 demerit point if one of their feet extends over the handler line while the other stays inside the line. This occurs regardless of whether a ball enters the handler area or not.
  • 1 demerit point will be awarded if the dog fails to move in a clockwise direction or, on his way to sit, passes between the handler and the balls
  • The most severe penalty occors when the dog starts moving before the handler has entered the handler area. If all four dog paws leave the handler area before the handler has both feet inside the area, 2 demerit points will be added to the total run time. This rule is a little different for the honors division, the dog has to substantially move before the handler has entered the handler area to gain demerit points

In summary, the dog either has to move before the handler arrives in the handler area, move in a counterclockwise direction or pass between the handler and the front row of balls to be given a demerit.

How to Train a Dog for Treibball?

The first step in training your dog to play treibball is to figure out what you want out of the game. Do you want to play it just for fun? Or do you want to target the professional circuit? Your answer to these questions will determine the level of training your dog will need.

If all you want to do is play it for fun, then follow this guide and you’ll be all set. However, if you want to turn pro, start with these steps and then get in contact with a trainer who can help you and your pooch.

The basics of getting your dog started with Treibball training!

Teaching your dog to lie down

The first step in treibball training is to teach your dog how to lie down on a specific spot. This is essential for treibball since the dog has to be lying in a marked place to start the game.

For this purpose, we will use a handkerchief or any other piece of cloth. Place that cloth on the ground and have your dog sit on it. Once he does that, give him a treat so he knows that you appreciate this act. Repeat this practice until your dog needs no direction from you and sits on the cloth on his own. You will use this cloth to train your dog to sit at particular places all over the field. Repeat this practice but replace the command of sitting to lying down to get them competition ready.

Increasing the distance

The next step in target training a dog for treibball is to increase the distance of the target. Slowly place the target further and further away from yourself. Let your dog sit on the target on his own. Repeat this a considerable number of times so your dog requires no direction in locating and sitting on the target.

In addition to increasing the distance, also decrease the size of the cloth you are using. Doing this will train your dog to spot small objects away from you. Only reward your dog if he sits on the target by using a clockwise approach, it is called a go-out. Remember that an anticlockwise go-out carries a penalty in treibball.

Moving behind the ball and avoiding distractions

In a treibball competition, a crowd of people will be watching. To make matters even more difficult for the dogs, the competition also places hurdles between the dog and the goalpost. So you need to train your dog to avoid hurdles. The best thing you can do in this matter is to intentionally place hurdles during training.

When you intentionally place hurdles, make sure to only give your dog treat if he avoids them and heads straight to the target and sits with a clockwise go-out.

Now you can place balls instead of the target and begin training your dog to sit behind them. Only treat your dog when he does all of these things right. Don’t worry if your dog does not understand it straight away. It takes a lot of time to train the dogs to sit properly on the target, so be prepared for gradual progress.

Pushing the ball

The next step (and a slightly easier one) is to train your dog to push the ball towards you. To do this, you need your dog to develop an interest in the ball. Place a ball at your feet and give the go-out command that your dog has practiced. Once your dog sits behind the ball, reward any little interest from them towards the ball. This way they’ll know that he needs to interact with the ball.

Once you have practiced enough, use a clicker or a voice command to direct him to push the ball. Only give a treat when they touch or push the ball. Continue with this training until you see consistent results.

Finally, start to put some space between you and the ball and let your dog figure out what to do. Gradually increase the distance until your dog gets the ball to you while you are standing in front of the goalpost. Congrats, now your dog knows how to push the ball into the goal to score points.

Add more balls

Once your dog is comfortable with bringing you one ball, place another one in front of them. For training, purposefully make sure you use balls of different colors or sizes. Place one ball at the usual distance while placing another closer to you.

When you give the go-out command, ask your dog to move the closer ball first and then let him engage the other one. Remember to give treats and positive encouragement when training for dog treibball. Once two balls are not an issue for your dog, place the third one and continue. Do the same for the fourth and the fifth ball until your dog can move all 8 balls in the order you direct it to.

Voila, your dog now knows how to play treibball. Of course, these are only general directions. If you want to get some practice done, head down to your nearest treibball club and ask for some training or advice.

treibball at home
Treibball is a canine sport that can be enjoyed at home in a non-competitive environment!

Treibball for Dogs – FAQS

Treibball is a fun game for sure. However, it’s not a simple one to understand. The following are some questions regarding treibball that a lot of people have asked us.

How can I start training my dog for Treibball?

You can start treibball training your dog by first training him to sit when you give the command. Use treats to entice him to follow your directions. Once your dog starts doing that, make him sit at a target. Again, use treats to reward him. After this, progressively move the target farther and farther away until your dog sits at the distance specified by the rules.

Then is the time to add some balls in the mix. Place a ball at your feet and use a clicker or your voice to draw your dog’s attention to it. Once the dog pays attention to the ball, give him a treat. Repeat this until they regularly focus on the ball. Now that you have managed to train your dog to focus on the ball, take a few steps back and direct your dog to move the ball to you. Once they touch or push the ball, give them a treat.

Continue this and you will train them to push the ball towards you on command. Add more balls and continue training and you’ll soon turn pro.

What dog breeds perform best in Treibball?

Any dog breed can play treibball and perform well in it. Some dog breeds have an advantage over others. These breeds include the Border Collie, German Shephard, Australian Cattle Dog, and Sheltie, among other herding dog breeds. This is because of their natural bred speed, ease of training, and agility.

What size ball is used in Treibball?

Treibball ball sizes range from 45-75cm in diameter. These are just ordinary exercise or pilates balls.

Treibball balls are selected based on the height of the dog. So, shorter dogs are given smaller balls and vice versa. Usually, balls should be high enough so their top is parallel to the dog’s withers. However, that rule is not always followed.

How to stop a dog from herding others?

In order to stop your dog from herding others, you need to teach your dog remote obedience. It will take time and patience but is possible. Follow these instructions to do so:

  • Stop laughing or giving him any reaction when he herds others or you, this can be accidental positive reinforcement
  • Keep them on a leash to prevent them from herding others. Whilst on a leash, teach them to sit on command. To do this, stop and say “sit” whilst you are walking them on a lead. When they do so, give them a treat to reinforce their behavior
  • Similarly, teach him to stop moving or pulling on a leash when you say “Hold”
  • After you have taught both of these commands to your dog, it is time for you to remove the leash and train them to resist herding whilst they are off-leash

What equipment is used in Treibball?

You don’t need a lot of equipment to play treibball. The things that are essential include:

  • Falt-buckle collars that are without tags
  • A leash and collar so your dog can enter the playing field. The handler needs to remove the leash before the play begins
  • 8 exercise or Pilates balls also referred to as “Rubber Dog Balls” that the dog will push in the goalpost. Sometimes these will be provided at competitions

How can I teach my dog to push a ball?

Here’s how you can teach your dog to push a ball:

  • Take a ball and place it at your feet
  • Use a clicker or your voice to draw your dog’s attention to the ball. Once they play with the ball, give them some attention and a treat. Repeat this.
  • When you feel your dog automatically pays attention to the ball, move back and point to the ball. If you see them touch or try to push the ball, give them a treat. Continue this until they bring the ball to you

The key to training your dog to do this is to be tenacious. He isn’t going to get it the first time. It will take a considerable amount of effort and a lot of treats, but he will get the hang of it. Dog treibball is a fantastic sport to teach ball handling to your dog.

Dog treibball is a fun and engaging sport for you and your pup. It requires a lot of training, but with patience, you can soon teach your dog how to play in the champion’s level.

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