Information shared by permission from: "The Camelid
A complete guide to handling and training your llama or alpaca.
By Marty McGee Bennett
The Rules of Camelid Herding Behavior:
Effectively herding is a combination of:
- understanding animal behavior
- setting up your facilities or open area to support your efforts
The Flight Zone: All creatures including humans and certainly camelids have an area around them that is protected space.
Finding an escape route is an instinctive response. The animals will be thinking and problem solving as they move. You, too, must think and plan ahead. The animal knows where to stand and where not to stand to remain safely out of reach. They are keen observers of human behavior and nothing is more important to them than being safe.
Prey or predator, human or alpaca: the last thing any creature wants is to be cornered. Herding with your arms outstretched is fundamentally different than cornering an animal with your arms outstretched.
Working Around Camelids in Confined Spaces
At some point you will need to halter the animal:
When moving animals into or through small spaces and particularly when moving around frightened or shy animals, be aware that you are larger than you think. Remember to a camelid you are as big as the physical space you occupy and your reach. You will make major points with your animals, especially nervous ones, if you keep yourself at a safe distance as you work around them. When you walk by an insecure animal deliberately choose a path that keeps him out of your reach.
Your efforts will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. You are demonstrating to these animals that you understand their concerns and are willing to be considerate. You will find by giving these animals the space they crave their flight zones will decrease over time. If you persist in forcing your way into your animal’s personal space to "desensitize" them, you will only cause them to be more suspicious. It is likely that their flight zone will increase and they’ll be even less inclined to relax around you.
Now the halter.
- You trap your alpaca/llama in the corner and hold them around the neck.
- The animal throws their weight into your arm so you brace yourself and hold on.
- Next she throws her head around wildly.
- The tall llama sticks her head as far away and high in the air as possible.
- The crazy llama dives low and leaps up very suddenly, catching you in the chin.
- You have been told that you must not let the llama/alpaca win.
- Show her who is boss and finish what you start!
- So you keep chasing that elusive head around until you snare the nose and clip the quick release buckle before your animal student can break away.
- Since you didn't have time to check it, the halter may or may not be comfortable
- You got whacked in the chin; you are madder than a hornet.
WAIT. STOP. CONSIDER.
What are you practicing? What skill are you perfecting?
It appears as if you will become expert at holding a llama or alpaca, chasing a head around, getting hit on the chin and snapping a halter really fast. More to the point: what is your alpaca or llama going to master? What has your llama or alpaca learned about you? Based on my years of camelid observation, animals become better skilled at fighting and avoiding the human. I have met llamas and alpacas that were so effective at escape and evasion they could join the Marines.
NOT SO COMMON SENSE Animals are not halter trained. Humans learn how to put on halters. This explains why so many new buyers think the seller has misrepresented an animal's training level because they can't halter the llama or alpaca as easily as the seller. You and your animal student will only perfect a skill if you are practicing what you want to do-not what you don't want to do.
So does practice makes perfect? Not necessarily. REMEMBER Practice makes permanent. Be careful what you practice. I suggest that what you really want to practice is putting a halter on a relaxed animal that is standing quietly. You want to practice teaching an animal to stand in balance with his head still while you buckle and properly adjust the halter. Specifically how this is accomplished is addressed in detail throughout in the book. The key point is that your alpaca or llama already knows how to stand still. It is your job to get him to do it. Haltering is a handling issue. If you're having trouble accomplishing a handling task, you are the one that must learn the new skills.
Animals that get loose: Before you run off the get your animal get:
If you don't plan ahead you will be behind
If using more than one person to herd:
Animals that are tangled or otherwise stuck