Alpacas are extremely bright and can be trained to
do lots of things that could be considered tricks.
I think most people make the mistake of confusing a
lack of intelligence with a lack of motivation.
Most domestic animals with the exception of many
dogs are not particularly interested in making their
mission in life pleasing us ‘two-legged’.
Cats are a great example. They are really smart but
not particularly motivated to please. Alpacas are
very cat-like, ironically not only are they cat like
in their temperament but share many physical
qualities as well. I wrote an article comparing
cats and camelids back in the early 90's that has
appeared in several magazines in one version or
another over the years and is available to members
in the Camelidynamics Guild Library.
So the problem becomes making our agenda important
and relevant to the alpaca. Alpacas that are food
motivated would be much easier to train for this
reason. Clicker training would be my first choice
for teaching tricks. Amy and Jim Logan have done a
wonderful series of videos about clicker training
for camelids that are available from several
different sources. The major focus of my training
is teaching the two-legged to be better handlers
rather than actually teaching the alpacas various
behaviors. In most management situations we really
want the alpaca to do NOTHING so the thrust of my
work is to teach the humans to behave in a way that
the alpaca finds non-threatening. Taken together the
two types of training are very compatible.
As far as enrichment toys go I think you could let
your imagination run wild. In my experience the
very best toy for alpacas is a mound of dirt in the
pasture; it doesn't have to be very big but the
bigger the better. Alpacas will spend hours playing
king of the hill. Balls and dangly things can be
good fun particularly for young alpacas. As long as
the toy doesn't pose a danger, the sky is the
limit. I think having things for young alpacas to
do is very important, particularly if they don't
have a playmate their own age. Beware of becoming a
toy for your alpacas. In my opinion it is not a
good idea to allow young alpacas, particularly
males, to use you as a source of amusement; allowing
your young alpacas to pick at your clothes,
shoelaces, or to rub against you. This often leads
to running at the human or bumping the human from
behind and can get dangerous when the baby grows up.