How do you teach an alpaca not to kick?
We have an intact male, 4 1/2 years old, who routinely resists any attempts at routine husbandry by swiftly kicking out with his rear legs. I've tried de-sensitizing by working with him in a training pen using training wands to gently stroke his legs and rewarding him with a treat (sweet feed) when he allows me to do so. This approach hasn't been successful.
Background Info: We purchased this male from a large herd when he was 9 months old; he's always been "skittish"; will only tolerate minimal handling; has another male herdmate -age 3 1/2- who was born to our farm, and
who we've handled without difficulty since birth.
Your advice is greatly appreciated!
really can't teach an alpaca not to kick. You can only work with
him in a way that makes him not feel the need to kick.
Believe it or not the way you move around your barn and
particularly the way you catch him is probably the biggest change
you can make that will encourage him not to kick. Cornering and
grabbing the neck when you catch will definitely perpetuate the
Catching in a catch pen is critical. Whenever you catch your
alpacas herd them into a small area such as a 10 x 10 catch pen.
Attach a rope to a wand (Photo
A) and use
the wand to get the rope around his neck.
Once you have the rope around the neck you can keep him in balance
and approach the head with out getting kicked.
A: Using a wand and rope to catch an alpaca.
B: A body wrapped alpaca.
I would encourage you to try a body wrap on this
B). A body
wrap is a simple figure 8 device that brings attention to the
alpacas body in a different way. Put the body wrap around
the front end of the alpaca so that the front half touches the
alpaca on the shoulders, put two or three twists in the wrap,
stand at the shoulder stretch out the back loop and place it over
the rear end and step away. The alpaca may kick once or
twice in reaction to the wrap but will quickly settle down (for
more details about how to put on a body wrap and how it works see
"The Camelid Companion").
Based on your description of this fellow it sounds as if he is
kicking without thinking- more a reflex than a thoughtful
response. He will feel the body wrap when he begins to think
and can then decide if it is really necessary.
I would discourage you from your current path of stroking with
wands and using a food reward. When using a reward technique
timing is crucial and you may very well be inadvertently teaching
him to kick. Stroking with the wands in an attempt to de-sensitize
often does the reverse and makes the animal more sensitive.
You must address why the alpaca is kicking and in my opinion
it is likely because he feels threatened by your approach to
catching him or he is kicking without thinking. Hope this
~ Marty McGee Bennett