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January 13th, 2004 . Alpaca Sensitive To The Touch

 
 

Alpaca Training
I have a 5 year old suri male that I would like to show. He leads well, but reacts pretty badly when you reach to lift his tail or even touch his body to inspect his fleece. Help!



Alpaca Training

Thanks for your question. Resistance to being touched is basically a matter of trust and safety. I would be interested to know how this alpaca feels about being haltered and touched around his face. That may be the best placed to start. Haltering and touching the face would be touching 101, lifting the tail is pretty advanced stuff!

If this guy doesn't feel safe being touched around the face under the tail is definitely going to be a challenge. How you catch your alpaca is also a big part of the picture. Make sure to catch in a 
small pen and ideally use a rope attached to a wand or stick instead of using the neck as a handle.

When you begin to touch your alpaca he should be standing in balance in a small pen. 10 x 10 feet is a good place to start, but if you run into resistance make the pen even smaller 5 x 5 is not too small. Remember to breathe and I suggest using the Tellington-touch also known as the TTouch to introduce touching rather than petting or stroking. 

Believe it or not taking your alpaca for lots of walks and using obstacles to challenge him is probably going to make more of a difference than actually working on touching. The idea is to build a relationship of trust-once your alpacas trusts you he will feel safer with your touch in vulnerable areas.

In order to work the tail try working with a second person. One person can balance the alpaca and offer food as a distraction while the second person begins doing gentle rocking touches on the topline by the base of the neck. Lay the entire surface area of your hands on the spine with your hands perpendicular to the spine and rock gently back and forth gradually move your hands toward the tail.

You can also do flat hand circles on the side of the body to prepare him for fleece checking. Make sure you touch firmly and don't pick debris out of the fleece or sort through it. Stick to circles with the whole hand. 

Very short sessions with low expectation are best! It might take a few weeks of feeding him and working on these skills. A nice session would proceed as follows. Catch and halter working on balance and the face for 5-7 minutes. Take him for a walk for 10 minutes preferably out and about with some obstacles worked into the walk, return to the pen offer grain and do some touching. Release. Two or three times a week is better than everyday. 

When you are working on the topline work only as long as you are having success and stop sooner than later. Progress is not going to be linear. You may find that your alpaca will only be comfortable with touching near the base of the neck for several weeks and then suddenly you can progress quickly. You alpaca is decided whether or not you can be trusted. Pushing too fast works against creating trust- being willing to wait and compromise builds trust. For more detailed information about, the TTouch, balance, catch pens, haltering, catching and obstacles visit my website or refer to my book "The Camelid Companion".

~ Marty McGee Bennett

 

 

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