Alpaca training opportunities are often created by youthful curiosity. I love it! Whenever possible, I try to take advantage of the animal’s natural tendencies and interests when training. Just like people, if we are interested and want to explore something new, we are more receptive to learning. This applies to alpaca training too. None of us like having training pushed on us, as I recall fondly from my past corporate life. For the alpacas, it doesn’t matter if the behavior is not exactly what I’m looking for at the beginning. I will shape the behavior in small steps using positive reinforcement and lots of patience. I learned how to clicker train dogs years ago and I find it can also be used to train alpaca with some modification.
Here is my little Suri alpaca boy Shane who learning to wear a halter and exploring the alpaca chute (right). Alpacas are naturally curious creatures, but right now he is more curious than the others. He will often follow me around and explore different areas of the barn. I will stop doing my chores to take advantage of his interest in being around me or as it turned out today, exploring the chute. I offer him yummy pellet treats which he loves. The treats keep his interest and reward him for trying new things. Alpaca training sessions are very short and I always try to end on a positive note.
Each of my young alpacas have different personalities, so each alpaca training plan will be a customized training approach. That said, they will all need to learn the basics. I want them to learn that respectful handling is part of daily life. Each one should learn to wear a halter and walk on lead. Each one should be conditioned to be comfortable in the chute for safe handling in case there is a medical procedure or emergency treatment. A happy chute experience also a major enabler for one person handling. The key will be making these activities part of everyday life. I’m quite sure I will learn a lot in the process, so stay tuned!