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May 15, 2007  Controlling a Kicking Alpaca

 
 

Alpaca Training

I am a huge fan of yours, have been to one of your seminars, and I use your training methods on all of my animals to great success, so I hope you can help me with my problem.  I have a yearling female alpaca that is a very sweet girl.  She comes right up to you, and likes to be handled, touched, and stands easily to have her toenails trimmed.  However, lately she has started to kick.  Any time I, or anyone else, get behind her she lets fly.  She also kicks at the other females in her pen.  Can I correct the behavior?

Alpaca Training


Thanks for the very nice words I am glad that you are an advocate and are having some success.  As far as your young alpaca goes.... my antennae always go up when I hear someone describe an animal as being really easy and LIKES to be touched and handled.  These animals are usually what I call Camelid Control Freaks.  These animals quite often start out as very obliging "friendly" youngsters they are very clever and fun but are often very difficult adolescents.  They basically like things their way and as they get older and you want to do things with them that they don't want to do they can be very quick to act out- my guess is that she is probably beginning to feel her hormones.  It is not unusual for camelid control freaks to be difficult herd mates too because they expect all the other animals in the herd to defer to their wishes. So what can you do?  All of the techniques in my book and those you learned at a seminar would be appropriate I am going to highlight a few things below that I hope will help.

Remember that what you are calling friendliness is really more like boundary testing so be aware that encouraging a lot of petting and approach behavior may be sending the wrong message.  With animals like this it is really important to ask for some discipline and by this I don't mean punishment— I mean that she hangs in there when you are asking her cooperate even if she doesn't want to.  Working over her obstacles and taking her for walks, away from the group, are two things that might teach her a bit of tolerance. 

In terms of the kicking, short of tying her legs together there is nothing you can do to MAKE her not kick.  You can only behave in a way that makes it not necessary to kick.  Animals kick for several reasons: they are startled, they are defending themselves from something, they have done it a lot for a real reason and it has now become a habit that is no longer related to anything it is just a habit.

How you catch your alpacas really impacts their need to kick.  I am assuming that you are using a catch pen and that you are approaching from behind the eye if not this is the place to start.  Using a corner to catch an alpaca really encourages kicking as a defense.   Alpacas that kick reflexively because they are nervous and have over active nerves can be helped by giving them lots of room, placing feeders really far apart so that your alpacas are not crowding you and each other when you are feeding.  Talking while you are moving around so that these animals always know where you are may help too.  Another thing to look closely at is her wool and whether or not she can see well.  Many youngsters may begin kicking as they come into full fleece because their peripheral vision gets compromised as their fleece grows. 

So bottom line is that the best approach in my opinion is to have another look at her personality and perhaps re-evaluate her basic nature is she really sweet or is she working you... what could be causing her to kick and see if you can't take away the reason for the behavior— rather than thinking of doing something to her to make her not kick...no can do in my opinion.

Good luck,
Marty

 

 

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