When it comes to doggie sports, Domena Diesing is on the cutting edge.
The certified professional dog trainer who runs the Definitely Dogs dog training school in Qualicum Beach, is one of only two instructors on Vancouver Island who is training canine athletes to excel at an entirely new sport, called treiball.
“Treiball is a new dog sport where the dog learns to herd or drive an exercise (ball) towards the owner and, ultimately, into a goal,” Diesing said.
Dogs have different behaviours that are species specific, she said.
“It’s different from what a horse would be doing. A horse would be grazing and moving along with the herd for grazing and dog would be hunting or herding and trying to get food that way.”
That herding instinct, she said, is generally strongly discouraged in today’s modern world. However, this behavior is what she plays upon in her treiball training.
“All these dogs formerly were able to exercise their instincts by hunting chasing, driving or whatever, but nowadays we have all these dogs that live with us and they not able to herd or drive any more,” she said.
“Owners suppress the herding and hunting drive and this is a sport that allows the dog and the owner to use their natural drives in a controlled setting.”
The idea, she said, is to train the dog to push an oversized ball into a goal. However, it’s not a simple process.
“You take the whole behavior and break it into little steps,” she said. “Dogs are incredibly specific learners, so you can train them to go for object but if it’s 10 feet further away they can’t do it.
“We teach the dog to push the ball in an effective place — low and hard, not the top. Then we train the dog to orient towards us so whenever the dog is behind the ball it automatically takes the position to push the ball towards us.
“Then we train them to push in a set manner and drive the ball towards us — or next to you, in the goal.”
Again, patience is key during the training process.
“In the first week people have to get their dog ball-ready,” Diesing said.
“You have to teach them that the ball is not to be killed and dogs that are afraid need to learn that the ball is something they can touch and manipulate.”
As one might expect, a Shitzu doesn’t push the same sized ball as a Great Dane.
“Dogs particularly like the pushing of the ball part and the driving part, but the control part is a bit more challenging,” she said.
Eventually, she said, treiball enthusiasts can teach their pets to push as many as eight balls into a net, in set orders — but that’s pretty high-end stuff.
“This was a seven-week class and all were able to train their dog to drive one ball towards them in an outside setting,” she said.
“You can play it on a competitive level though. They are just establishing the different organizations in north America.”
Regardless of how far a dog owner wants to take it though, Diesing said treiball offers a great way to bond with their pet.
“The advantage of this particular sport is that people can play it inside or out, so it’s a great winter thing they can do in the back yard, in a field, on a beach, inside or wherever,” she said.
“There is a very low equipment cost as well, which is nice. It’s just a ball. As well, especially for those breeds that are herding breeds or prey oriented, we can guide their instincts into a happy, cooperative game.”
For more information, call 250-752-2909 or visit www.definitelydogs.ca.