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August 18th, 2004 . Establish Boundaries with A Frisbee

 
 

Alpaca Training
I just read your response to the question about handling of herdsires. We have a young male alpaca that has recently arrived at our farm and is showing signs of becoming more aggressive because he does not understand the boundaries between him and humans. How do we counteract this behavior and help him understand his place in the herd? We are a new farm and have read much of your information and find it helpful in training our alpacas.  Thanks for the work you have done and the help you provide to the alpaca community!
 

Alpaca Training

You hit the nail on the head...boundaries. He doesn't understand them because you are not setting them obviously enough. Most alpacas are so shy that we usually never have to set a boundary; so we aren't very good at it.

You must insist that he not touch you in any way. No nibbling, no leaning, no sniffing...unless it is a mutual nose greeting in which you lean forward to participate. When he invades your space (usually about a foot to a foot and a half from your body-including your feet) you must correct him and do it consistently. I prefer a Frisbee; it is easy to connect with the nose, it will be obvious, and it will startle him and it won't hurt. As he comes up to engage in any of the aforementioned behaviors give him a short bip on the nose that does not involve any follow through. A short abrupt connect with enough
force to startle him.

A human need only stop an animal from entering this space; we do not need to chase him away. You would be making a big mistake to push this young guy away when he approaches, this only invites him to push back; just exactly what you don't want him to do.

Don't yell. Yelling gets everybody's blood going, escalates the situation, and indicates that you are afraid. Speak like you mean it firmly and powerfully and tell the alpaca what you want him to do STAY BACK; ideally at the same moment you make contact with the Frisbee. You are creating a force field around you. 

It is important that every human in your young alpacas life behave consistently. If you have children keep them away from this young alpaca until he is understands how to behave. If you have farm visitors put this guy on a halter, if he is halter trained, or if he is not put him away. I suggest that you punch a hole in a Frisbee, tie a string to it, and hang the Frisbee around your neck at alpaca eye level to remind him of your personal space. If he is sneaking up from behind, hang another on your back.

This can become very serious and it is worth spending some time to prevent the situation from becoming a real problem. If you are interested in more information on this topic I have written an article on the subject "The Novice Handler Syndrome" This article can be downloaded at no charge from my website. I also have a more detailed audio tape available for $18. in the store. Good luck.

Marty

 

 

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