Thursday, 12 July 2012

Questions about halter training...

Cast - Me (Mum), 18 y.o Daughter
Starring - Hamish and Sherman (7 month old Alpaca boys)

Sherman in 'face-to-floor' position
We are really persevering with the halter and lead training, and I know that behaviours get worse before they get better - I am impatient!  We are haltering the two boys and letting them get used to leads for about 15min a day.  I am coupling the training with treat-time, and I know that the boys are OK as they return to the treat bucket before and after the training.  However, the little devils have a huge repertoire of tricks and use them all.
Hamish - body language says it all!

1.  Hamish has increased his spitting.  He will allow me to stroke him while eating, but when I have to capture him, he spits (forward).  I tell him off and smack (lightly) his nose.  Then I talk to him quietly, there is a distinct difference in my behaviour when I am cross with his spitting and when I am talking to him.  He has never been reinforced in this behaviour, that is, I have never released him but once when I had to pick up a 3 y.o victim!  Hamish only spits when handled, he has never spat whilst on the lead.   Can someone please tell me how to reduce his spitting?

2. Sherman has learnt to kneel when on the lead.  We then have to rub him vigorously to make him stand.  This is his avoidance behaviour.  He is not released until he is standing and still.  We try to make him walk a step, then slacken the lead, but he drops to his knees. At least he has stopped throwing himself around and is more calm now.

3. Hamish will drop into cush, and refuse to stand until his hindquarters are touched and then he jumps up.  Today we had more success (apart from increased spitting when first handled) and he took five separate steps.  We praised him quietly and whilst he was stood I quickly took his lead off.
Looking better!

Has anyone got any tips for us?  Are we too soft with the boys?  I don't want to drag them around, and we have worked hard to develop a rapport with them.  Once holding them, before haltering, we touch their muzzles lightly (as advised) and their legs (which makes them stamp but they are getting used to it).  Hamish is getting quite big now, and I am struggling to hold him when he tries to buck me off and spits.  We are holding the lead at a 45 degree angle, and when the boys move a step we slacken it off and praise them.

I think that their behaviour is worse because they know what is coming and like naughty children, they have decided they don't want to do it.  Any advice from experience Alpaca breeders would be greatly appreciated! :)


  1. I have never trained an Alpaca but I did take our Shi Tzu puppy to puppy and adolescent dog training and we failed! At 9 years of age he still has the same behaviours - if he doesn't want to walk he stiffens his legs. If we try to drag him he rolls onto his back! The only time he is cooperative is when we turn for home - then he runs! So unfortunately I am unable to give any advice, however I do wish you every success.

  2. Hehe, the same behaviours really! It is hard when there are limited motivators (the strongest is being let go!). We are working with pull/release method. One step = slack lead, this seems to be working and once successful I suppose we increase the amount of steps taken. It is really hard as the poor Alpaca's just want to get away, as a herd animal it is their basic instinct. We are leading side-on, on the right at full extension of the lead. Fingers crossed! I have to train the boys as I don't want two boys that can't be handled (even if we wether them) or moved :)