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August 10, 2005  Overprotective Mother When Haltering Cria


Alpaca Training

We are fairly new to the alpaca world.  I have purchased some of your books and have been impressed with articles I have read.  Perhaps you can give me some words of wisdom on my "problem”.  I would like to halter break one of my crias but each time I put the lead on her the mother goes nuts.  She screams and wraps her neck around the cria and puts herself between the cria and the lead.  She is normally a gentle Alpaca and has a great personality. Does she think I am going to harm the cria?  She is okay when I put the halter on but when I attach the lead and the cria starts to jump around - mom gets crazy.  I don't want to stress her out but I don't know how to approach the situation.  Should I wait until the cria is weaned?  What do you suggest?


Alpaca Training

Hello Paula, I am so glad that you are working with the baby with the mother present.  I am so respectful of a mothers right to protect her baby from anything that she feels could be harmful and do my very best to help the mother understand that I mean no harm and that she would be right to place her trust in me.  So, to that end, it is important to work with your mother alpacas and treat them in a way that inspires their trust.  I have written reams about that.

As for specifics about handling babies I have a few suggestions for you.  First and perhaps the most important, I would encourage you to wait to train an alpaca to lead until he or she is at least 4 months old preferably 5-6 months.  At this age mothers are much less protective for the most part and your youngster has a longer attention span; most importantly he has a larger head that makes it possible to properly fit a halter. 

I would spend time in the early months properly introducing a halter as well as touching the baby all over the body in a structured way.  There is plenty of time for teaching a baby to lead later on.  Pay very close attention to halter fit when you are giving early leading lessons; a halter that slips forward and off the bone will cause your baby to panic and you will have caused a traumatic experience you must over come.  The crown piece of a halter must be tight enough to keep the halter in place even under the most adverse leading circumstances.  This means that in the case of a young alpaca with a small head, this is pretty dog gone tight!

When you do teach the youngster to lead mother could be nearby, but not necessarily in the same pen.  I suggest haltering in a small catch pen that adjoins a long narrow area for lead training.  Don't hold steadily on the lead line but let the size and shape of the pen direct the movement and help get your point across.  I have written about lead training in much more detail in my book and in other articles that are posted on my website.  I hope this short answer helps.

Good luck.





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