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October 14, 2004 . Training Vs. Handling

 
 

Alpaca Training
We are new to the Alpaca scene and recently purchased two male alpacas, one for a 4-H project.  Neither of them seem to have had much training, although they have been haltered, they are not easily led or easy to catch.  I know this is fairly normal for Alpacas who don't have much training experience.

My question is how often should I catch them and work on a lead with them?  They both seem to get pretty stressed during the catching process and while on the lead.  I have not had much experience with these animals; however, I have been around horses all my life and was under the impression that halter training would be somewhat similar.  What can I do to make haltering easier and once they are haltered what can I do to make the experience pleasant for them?  Thanks for any advice you can give me.  I am also purchasing you book called "The Camelid Companion" in hopes of learning more information.



Alpaca Training

Welcome to the world of alpacas you are in for a great time. Working with alpacas is by and large handling more than training. Training is when you teach an alpaca to respond consistently to a verbal cue or signal. Handling refers to your skill at working with an animal.

In fact most of what you want to do with an alpaca requires that they do nothing at all - you just need for the alpaca to stand still and do nothing. Haltering is a good example- the alpaca does not participate in the haltering process it is your job as the handler. Good handlers can easily halter alpacas that are either difficult or inexperienced whereas a new handler that is not as skilled will have difficulty with these same animals. Animal handling is a physical skill just like playing tennis or skiing you need practice. However if you have only two alpacas it wouldn't be fair to practice your animal handling haltering skills over and over and over on these same animals.

I suggest that you create a training aid and practice on the training aid. You can make a pretty good facsimile of an alpaca with a pair of panty hose stuffed with newspaper. It is also a good idea to video tape yourself while working with your alpacas and then watch the tape to see what you are doing that may be causing your alpacas to misbehave.

Attend a handling clinic if you can to get some feed back about your technique. My book should be very useful too. Many people who come to a clinic tell me that they didn't do the exercises in the book and wish they had. Doing the exercises in the book will help you learn handling skills much better than just reading it.

To be specific...halter your alpacas two or three times a week and take them for a walk. Do your very best to practice the techniques in the book but halter each alpaca only once and then off for a walk. DO NOT practice haltering over and over in the same session. Incorporate interesting obstacles that can be made easier into your walks and have FUN!

Marty

 

 

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