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September 8th, 2003 . Personality Changes in Alpacas


Alpaca Training
We have a male who's personality has changed dramatically since he was shorn. He was sweet, lovable and a great PR animal before shearing day. Now he is difficult to manage (aggressive), likes his hind legs way too much and is frustrating us to no end because we fear him hurting the other animals or one of us. We have had to put him in a separate paddock. 

This all started when he was boarding on another farm after they had him sheared. The behavior continued when we relocated him. We have since gelded him and the behavior continues. What's with this guy? Any help would be appreciated!

Alpaca Training
I think the shearing is a red herring. I think the problem was already in place long before the shearing. 

Alpacas that are described as sweet and lovable are often actually pushy and pre aggressive and people new to alpacas do not have enough experience to understand the difference. 

Young alpacas that leave the herd to interact with humans sniffing inappropriately leaning on humans and following them around are heading for trouble. Unfortunately, new alpaca enthusiasts are often "taken" with these animals and end up really being taken!  

The pushy pre aggression doesn't become full on aggressive behavior until the animal reaches puberty.  All breeds of livestock, particularly males, need to be raised with boundaries and discipline- despite their appearance, they are not teddy bears.  

It is not fair or effective to treat them differently when they are babies and then change the rules when they are teenagers. Aggressive adult alpacas are dangerous.  I consider breeders to be irresponsible when they allow young males to behave badly and then sell them to unsuspecting newbies.  

I would suggest that you seek redress from the person you purchased him from.   Good for you for gelding him.  That may help but you won't really know to what extent until some time (up to a year) has gone by.  In the meantime, you must guard against him hurting anyone by managing him very closely.

How to manage him and work with him to change his behavior is too involved for this format. I have written many articles over the years about this problem and how to work with animals that are either beginning to be aggressive or are already there. The article the Novice Handler Syndrome can be read on my website and I also address this issue in detail in my book the Camelid Companion. 

~ Marty McGee Bennett



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