A reader asked about the game of Treibball, which I wrote about back in November 2011. This is a variation of herding using different sizes of balls that the dog is trained to push through “gates” like a herding dog would corral sheep. The question got me thinking of another game I wrote about in 1998 called “push the ball.”
I am not predicting a severe winter, but I have heard about a lot of snow and ice next season, which means our pets may not have the opportunity to play outside as much as they like. Because of this I am going to give a summary of “push ball” as a game that can be played inside.
The dog is taught to push a ball with his head or legs. The ball is sized to the dog, from a tennis ball for toy breeds to a large hard ball for large breeds. (A soft, fuzzy ball can be used if the dog doesn’t chew on it.)
If you want the dog to learn to push the ball in a straight line, create a “trough” for the dog to push the ball along in the initial stages. I used picnic benches turned on their sides.
Start with the dog on lead in an area free of distractions. I used my basement, but an empty garage will do, too. Introduce the dog to the ball placed halfway down the trough, letting him investigate it and the barriers. Show him the treat, I used a small piece of pressure-cooked liver. Let him watch you place the treat under the edge of the ball nearest him. Give him a signal to get the treat.
At this point he will have to push the ball slightly with his nose. Repeat this a few times going first in one direction and then moving the ball in the opposite direction. Use the command “push” to start the game. Praise him verbally and reward him with a squeaky toy or rope tug-toy since you are using food in the training process.
The next day repeat the above once, then place the treat on the far side of the ball so the ball has to be pushed over the treat before the dog can reach it. Repeat a few times, praising and rewarding with the toy.
On the third day remove the barriers and start with the treat under the nearside of the ball and progress to placing the treat under the far side. On the fourth day practice each of the above steps once, then pretend to put the treat down and give the command to push. Immediately reward with the treat which you have in your hand.
On the following days, limit the treats and use praise and toys in place of the food starting randomly, such as after one push, then after three pushes and finally, back to two pushes.
Now provide a box for the dog to push the ball into. You are ready to try Treibball, which is a competitive game.