TRAINING ALPACAS IN 10 STEPS
Training Alpacas may seem a little intimidating if you're a new Alpaca owner. Alpacas are relatively smart. In our experience, we found that all it takes is patience and breaking the task down into steps for the Alpaca to accomplish. You will be massively rewarded if you take the time to train your Alpacas.
To teach your Alpacas a task, take baby steps. Each time they accomplish what you ask of them, you can begin to ask for more, but not before they have completed the original task.
To get and keep your Alpacas attention, do your training sessions in a more confined area like a catch pen. Try to make them comfortable where you do your training. Make sure they can see other Alpacas. They will be nervous and worried about being by themselves and unable to give you their full attention if you try training alpacas with the herd out of sight. Later, when they are more comfortable with you, you may be able to train without their herdmates presence.
Training is easiest if you start when your Alpaca is a weanling. Their smaller size helps you to accomplish the task at hand. That's not to say you can't train an adult. You most certainly can.
We have found that once an Alpaca learns something, they don't seem to forget. This is important because you want to be sure and train them with good habits. If you let them learn bad habits, they won't forget them and it makes it very difficult to change those bad habits to good ones. Again, not impossible, but it will make your life a little more difficult.
Following are ten steps we basically use when training Alpacas to halter and lead. Each one of these steps is broken down even further according to what our Alpacas behavior is during the session. We never go much more than 15 minutes per session.
- Ask the Alpaca to get use to human presence - Move close to the Alpaca and back off before he runs away. Move closer a little at a time and keep repeating this until the alpaca lets you touch him.
- Ask the Alpaca to stand quietly while being held around the neck - Start by touching the alpaca and begin to touch him all over. Touch his face, back, and legs and progress until you can firmly hold him around the neck while they are standing still. Only release the Alpaca when he is calm. If you release a struggling Alpaca, you will give him the message that he can get free if he strains against you.
- Ask the Alpaca to become aware of the halter - Desensitize your Alpaca to the halter by letting him see it, sniff it, and touch it.
- Ask your Alpaca to accept the halter - Stand beside the Alpaca and hold around his neck. Present the noseband to the alpaca.
- Ask your Alpaca to wear the halter - Place the halter on the Alpaca and buckle. Once the halter is on the Alpaca, we have found that they quickly forget about it. Let them wear it for a little while. Only remove it when they are calm and not pulling away.
- Ask your Alpaca to accept the lead rope - Snap a long lead rope onto the halter. Stand off to one side and in front of the Alpaca.
- Ask your Alpaca to take a step - Apply gentle steady pressure to the lead. You can give slight releases but do not fully release the pressure. When the Alpaca takes a step, then you fully release pressure. The Alpaca learns that taking a step relieves the pressure on the lead. Don't pull hard or keep tugging or the Alpaca will dig his heels in. You just want to create a little off balance feel for him until he takes a step to get his balance.
- Ask your Alpaca to keep moving forward - Apply pressure again until your Alpaca takes several steps and keeps moving forward.
- Ask your Alpaca to lead anywhere - Walk the Alpaca in areas that are familiar and unfamiliar to him. He will gain confidence.
- Ask your Alpaca to calmly stand while the halter is removed - If you let the Alpaca bolt from the halter, he will continue to do so. Be sure he is calm and not pulling away before it is removed. We keep the Alpaca with us for a moment after the halter is removed so that they know that they must wait until we give the ok for them to leave.
Really? Yes, really. As we stated before, if you break training Alpacas down into small steps, you will accomplish great things. Does it take time and patience? Absolutely!
One of our Alpacas cushed everytime we tried to lead him. Using the long lead and a buddy worked wonders. Now he leads like a champ and it was accomplished in two sessions! Once he learned to walk on the lead, he has never cushed again when we lead him.
You may need to adjust these steps to your individual needs and your Alpacas behavior. Not feeling confident enough to train your Alpacas? You may do better if you attend a seminar that teaches you how to train your Alpaca.
Training Alpacas is super rewarding when you get the desired outcome. We wish you good luck in your training and other Alpaca adventures.
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