First annual Treibball Play Day Event in Virginia-Aug. 15, 2015

In addition to our regular class session starting on May16th, we will also be hosting our first annual Treibball Play Day event on August 15th. This is the first treibball event of this kind in Virginia, with something for all levels! If you have been training on your own or taken classes anywhere else, here is your chance to meet other treibball enthisiasts and play some of the organized games. OR maybe you are new to the sport and want to get started-well here is your chance to do that too!

There will be a beginner workshop in the morning from 9:00-12:00, with intermediate to advanced activities in the afternoon from 1:00-5:30. The afternoon will include NATE and Wag IT Dog Ball games with other training challenges and troubleshooting. You can check out the links here for rules, and start practicing! Beginners from the morning workshop will be encouraged to stay and spend some more time learning about treibball by observing the afternoon activities and visiting with others.

Instructor and organizer for this event is NATE charter member and trainer, Char Turner, see bio here.

This will be held in the air conditioned building at Love on a Leash in Harrisonburg VA. Registration details are coming soon, but in the mean time if you have other questions please email Char: dogsontheball@gmail.com

We hope you can join us for a fun time of all things Treibball, learning and playing with our dogs!

Beginning training for treibball with “Flash” the whippet-it’s all about distance and direction!

My youngest dog, Flash, is a 2 yr old race bred whippet. Among other things, I am just beginning his treibball training. Since he is so very prey driven and easily distracted by all moving things, my plan is to lay a solid foundation of distance control before he ever pushes a ball. Here is some video of a beginning training session after introducing him to one barrel, then 2, then 3. I also added in the hoops after familiarizing him with those separately. Introducing various targets (obstacles) with direction and distance builds confidence and the variety adds more fun! He is starting to get the hang of it and I can start adding in more distance any time now.

A reminder that positive reinforcement is not all about “the food”…

I am prompted here by a somewhat negative commentary on “clicker training” which I recently heard. I do agree that it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the “technique”-because it is important to train “clean” if we want the methodology to work. At the same time that should not mean “detached”. While the mechanics of marking, timing and strategic +R are essential, I consider it just as important to include myself as part of the reinforcement in the form of praise, play and tactile rewards right along with that food or toy. So it’s not all about the food, unless I make it that way- and we all have that choice!

So yes, I believe in and apply the science and mechanics of clicker/positive reinforcement training because it works. But I also never forget why I am doing this-because it is FUN and I want my dogs to have fun and enjoy being with me too. So that means personal investment on my part, sincere and joyful engagement. Dogs recognize sincerity, so I can’t “fake” happy with my dogs- and like the most fortunate among us, I am glad I don’t have to:)

Happy training!

Treibball skills-how to handle those “Runaway Balls”

Treibball is a very unpredictable game. Balls can roll anywhere, anytime, depending on the terrain or floor, the wind direction, if the dog bumps the wrong one, etc. Of course these challenges are what make the game so much fun-but you do have to anticipate and train accordingly. As a new sport, many of us are still experiencing the unexpected and then it’s “Uh-oh…I better train for that!”.

One of these situations is when the ball rolls away from the dog as they are going out after it. Some dogs will go crazy and charge after it-maybe even pushing it further away as in “chasing it”, opposite of where you want it to go. Some dogs see a rolling ball as a lost cause and they just give up. In either case, the dog needs to learn to run past the rolling ball to a position on the opposite side and push it back to you.

I have a cue that I use for this which is “GO,PUSH!”. This is different from my regular clock and counter clock sends which mean “go out on the perimeter of the balls and I will give you direction from there”. And that directive might be “wait”, “walk up”, “flip” “back” or a change of direction. On the other hand, “GO, PUSH!” means “run out there, head it off , and push it in”. No further directives-just go out and push the ball back to goal. So when do I use this? I use it in situations where I need a fast run out to catch up with a runaway ball. Or in the middle of the game when I just need to keep things moving, random balls with no directed ball selection. It simply means “go out fast and get the ball however you can”. This is an intermediate to advanced level skill. You will need to already have a fluent send out with directionals, orientation and “PUSH” behavior, all with some distance. It is essential that you have this control before learning to deal runaway balls or consecutive ball pushes at a fast pace.

So first we need to practice running out and past a stationary ball. For this exercise we want to isolate just the running past the ball, no stopping to orient, etc. So to do this you will need to be quick on your mark and +R just passing the ball. Do this a few times until your dog propels forward to get past the ball on your cue, “GO”.

Now you are ready to get that ball rolling. Use a partially deflated ball here so that it does not roll too fast or out of control-that can be too arousing for some dogs and demotivating for others. The end result will be a “GO, PUSH!”, and your dog runs out and heads off the rolling ball, quickly orients and pushes it back to the goal (you). Here then is the step by step for training the retrieve of a runaway ball, and this assumes that your dog will have the prerequisite skills mentioned above:

  1. With your dog at your side in a “wait” and the ball in front of you, gently kick the (partly deflated) ball away from you just enough to get it rolling slowly. As the ball rolls, simultaneously cue your dog to “GO”.
  2. The second your dog takes off from your side, click and +R, tossing the +R just past the moving ball. Repeat this a few times until your dog is eagerly anticipating your cue to “GO”. No pushing just yet, we are working on just the fast send to get past the moving ball. (Up until now it was just running past the stationary ball.)
  3. Now raise your criteria from just leaving your side to actually going past the moving ball. Toss +R on the far side of the ball where you will want your dog to go. Do this until your dog is anticipating the +R past the ball and charging forward on cue. Keep this at short distance only until your dog is comfortable running past the ball as it rolls slowly.
  4. Add “PUSH”: Once you have at least a 10 foot send on your “GO” cue with the moving ball, add your “PUSH” cue just as your dog catches up with the ball. As soon as your dog stops, turns and attempts to orient/push, immediately mark and +R. You may need to isolate and +R the ‘stopping to orient” a few times-doing this with a moving ball is still new. High drive dogs will need control, less motivated dogs need the +R and reassurance at each step.
    • Fluent, oriented pushing skill is necessary here. This is where your foundation work comes into play. As soon as you cue “PUSH” your dog should take a position behind the ball and push it back to you. You may you need to go back and work on that separately if your dog is faltering here.
  5. This end result is a combined cue, “GO PUSH”.
  6. Gradually build distance and speed of the runaway ball. Add distance by rolling or pushing the ball away harder. Inflate the ball to make it roll easier and faster, but don’t make it too challenging too soon for your dog.
  7. The final product is a “kick and send” game. Have your dog “wait” at your side, kick the ball out, then send your dog after it with a “GO PUSH!” cue. That will come to mean “run after it and do whatever it takes to push that ball back to me”!

Once your dog is proficient, you can kick hard and far and watch them fly! This game is also very motivating for less driven dogs. It seems to bring out the prey drive and gets them excited once they realize that they can chase down the rolling ball and “catch” it to push it back.

Have fun!  Char

One trainer’s back to school review…

While I don’t always use a clicker I do always use “force free, mark and reward” as the basis for all of my training. My dogs know 2  markers from me: “Yes” or a clicker. Here are basic reminders that I tell myself at every single training session to keep me on my toes:

Reminder-“You get what you click for” Consistency and timing of your mark is everything. Once your dog understands your mark (word, click or other sound), they will know R+ is coming for the behavior that was marked. The most effective reinforcement is delivered within 3 seconds of the click or mark, and every mark or click must be consistently followed with reinforcement, even if you are wrong. So what if….

If you mark the wrong behavior by accident you must still back it up with R+. Trainers make errors, dogs don’t.  It’s not the dog’s fault that you clicked/marked in error, and they will expect their reward.  If this happens, just use a less valuable reinforcement with no fuss. To not R+ at all will confuse your dog and devalue your mark. Just move on and improve your timing to avoid those errors as much as possible (but it will happen to all of us on occasion!).

 If you are slow on your delivery of R+, praise your dog immediately after the mark/click to keep them engaged until you deliver the treat or toy. This bridges your praise with the primary reinforcement (food or toy) and helps close that 3+ second gap to the goodies. (We all at times get our hand stuck in a pocket!) 

If you are too soon with R+ and have it in view before the mark, then it becomes a distraction from the mark/click, essentially a lure and a bribe which takes the focus away from the task and distracts the dog from learning and thinking. R+ should be out of sight (pocket, bait bag, etc.) until after the click.

It’s not about the food and toys: I train with relationship being the priority and I want my dogs to enjoy training as much as anything else we do in life. I always invest myself along with any food, toys, etc. by praising, petting, or anything else that I know is reinforcing to my dog.

So in a nutshell:

  • Be consistent with the mark and know what you want.
  • Timing should be precise.
  • If your timing is off, still R+ to be fair to your dog.
  • If your R+ delivery is slow, add lots of praise in between your mark and delivery.
  • If your R+ is kept in view, it can make your dog lure-dependent and distract from learning. Keep R+ out of sight until after the mark/click. (pocket, hidden bait bag, etc.)
  • Remember that a “mark” is NOT the same as praise. Like food, praise is R+, and comes after the mark.

All training sessions should end on a positive note, and only you can make that happen!  Happy training and train happy-or don’t train at all!

Char