Category Archives: Training

Halter Training

by Jim and Amy Logan

Haltering is a basic behavior that should be taught to every llama in your herd. Happily, by following a few simple concepts easy haltering can be an attainable goal for everyone.  Here we cover one of the most traditional ways to halter your llama.

How Beats When

Effective haltering skills can be taught at any age.  Fortunately, when you train is not nearly as important as where and how to train, so if you haven’t made it out there right at weaning time, don’t worry.  First, set up a reliable, consistent training area.  Make your schoolroom easy to herd your llamas in and out of.  Allow your llama to settle in by himself, and once he is comfortable, you can begin.  Talking to your llama is very important not only for bonding and trust building, but also for the future use of  verbal commands

Start in a small catch pen around 10’ x 10’. Stand quietly in the pen with your llama until he is comfortable with you being in the pen with him. When he accepts your presence as “no big deal,” then start moving closer.  If he moves, then stop, immediately give him the command “stand.”  The llama must associate verbal cues with physical actions.  Llamas don’t know what “stand” means; so in early training when the llama is standing, you say “stand.”

One of the most common mistakes owners make is to say the word “stand” while the llama is still moving. This makes the llama associate the behavior of moving around with the cue to “stand.”  Work on getting closer to your llama, then begin the next step of slowly reaching out to him and stroking him on the neck while he stands. Then practice putting your right arm around his neck while he is standing, as if you were going to halter him.  Your goal is to put your right arm around your llama’s neck without him pulling away from you. If he does, concentrate on releasing the pressure, because the more you pull, the more he will pull.  Note – don’t forget to use your verbal rewards and praises.  Once your llama stands, talk to him while petting him on the neck and then release him.  Always try to release when the llama is not pulling away from you. Remember: to instill good catching habits you must show your llama that being caught is no big deal.

Short Sessions

The age of the llama is important when considering how long to make each  lesson. Younger llamas have shorter attention spans;  10 to 15-minute lessons are fairly basic when teaching catch and halter.

Try to catch your llama as described for several days in a row. By doing consecutive training sessions, the llama becomes more comfortable because  he knows what to expect. After several days, this will create a more relaxed atmosphere.  Each to the vet or for doing toenail trimming, shots, etc. In the beginning it is important to just catch and release.  If you put a halter on and go to the vet  every time you catch your llama, he may associate negative activities with being caught.  Remember, you may know what you are going to do with your llama and where you are going, but he doesn’t!

Fits is Important

     After your llama is easy to catch, you can start desensitizing the nose for haltering.  Put your right arm around the llama’s neck and run your left hand up the neck to the cheek and slowly drift your fingers over the bridge of the nose. How far and fast you progress depends on the llama’s reaction as you do this.  Most llamas will sier.  Do this three or four times and end the lesson.

        When you are ready to halter, be sure to choose a halter that is plenty big enough for your llama.  You don’t want to get to the haltering and then find out you can’t even fit it over his nose!  First, smoothly catch your llama just as you have been practicing previously.  Stand with your right hip into your llama’s left shoulder, facing the same way that your llama is facing.  Hold the halter in your left hand.  Then put your right arm around the llama’s neck with very little pressure on the neck.  Raise your left hand, (holding the halter) with deliberate speed upwards, parallel with the neck, just under the chin.  Grasp the unbuckled strap on the halter with your right hand. Now you are holding the halter with both hands, this allows you to position the nose band so that it is upright and wide enough for your llama’s nose.

Trust Building

Move the halter from beneath the chin all the way up on the nose. Then take it off just as easily as you put it on.  Depending on the llama’s reaction, it’s usually good practice to repeat the above procedure, including catching, haltering, and releasing three or four times before you buckle the halter.  Save the buckling for another lesson.  In the first session or two, we are just showing the llama that the approach, catch, halter, and release are no big deal.  As soon as your llama accepts this procedure, do the approach and halter and then add the buckling.

When you do buckle it, you may leave it on for a 5 – 7 minutes, so that the llama can get used to how it feels.  A proper fitting halter will not squash the llama’s  nose or work up into his eyes. After the halter has been on for a few minutes, approach and release the llama.

When working with your llama, be sure to avoid the chase game. This inevitably  causes more stress, making it more difficult to create a positive learning atmosphere.  Limit your llama’s mobility.  Smaller pens allow for more intimate interaction.  If you are using ropes, bribes, or extra accessories, remember!  There is nothing wrong with finding different ways to get the desired results. But all of these helpers must eventually be faded away in order to get your finished behavior, stress-free haltering.

The more you use a crutch or a bribe, the harder it will be to get rid of it later.

Keep safety in mind. While it may be easy for you to use force when working with the younger llama, physical force with an adult llama is a different story.  Llamas of any age are extremely strong, it is better to use your head instead of depending on your muscles!  It is important that you put in your time percur during the process.

They Have Their Reasons

This building of trust will only help you in future training, particularly when introducing new and potentially scary things.  The llama with haltering problems has a reason for his behavior. His behaviors are in place today because they have worked well for him in the past. Raising a nose up high in the air to avoid the halter, flinging the halter off and running away as soon as the halter is unbuckled, or running away from you as soon as he even sees a halter, have all been effective behaviors for him to avoid unpleasant situations in his previous life.  It is your job to teach him that haltering can be fast, easy, and tolerable, if not pleasant.

Again, use your environment to your advantage.  Don’t get into trtable with you, and realizes that raising the nose is no longer effective, you can lower your step stool object and height until you are eventually catching a normal llama at a normal height.  It just takes a little time and patience to gradually reach the desired behavior.

Use Slow Hands

For those halter-flinging llamas who love to fling their heads and run away the moment you are even thinking of releasing the halter,  take it slow. Be prepared for what you have experienced in the past, you can sense and feel the muscles changing in the llama’s neck and face before he flings his head. Keep adequate pressure on while releasing the halter, and release it as quickly as possible, retaining control of the llama for just a moment after unbuckling, and before removing the halter.  You know what is coming, so just start slowly, accepting a millisecond of control after unbuckling, and slowly increase the amount of time you retain control after unbuckling.  Eventually, you’ll be able to release your llama and retain control for several moments after removing the halter.

So how long does all this take?  The speed of your progress is directly related to your approach and how your llama responds.  Most llamas can learnroaching, catching and haltering and get it down and very familiar before you progress to adding a lead rope, or going for a walk. You don’t have to put up with poor haltering habits.  Show your llama that there is always a better way!

This article originally appeared in Llama Life II Issue No. 53, Spring 2000.

Camelid Community Jamboree Targets New Owners

by Sheila Fugina

cc-logo-webCamelid Community’s “Fiber as Business” conference in Wooster, Ohio, in August created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm about the potential for camelid fiber to generate income for alpaca and llama owners. That income potential is not limited simply to selling fiber and fiber products. A profitable camelid fiber industry would add value to our animals and make them more attractive to new owners, demonstrating why we raise camelids and what we can do with them—and we must have new owners if we are to succeed as an industry.

Just as the “Fiber as Business” conference was designed to provide a format and template for similar fiber conferences to be held in other parts of the country, Camelid Community has developed what we feel is the next step needed to grow our industry, an educational camelid jamboree designed to attract and educate the potential new owners who will insure that our industry’s future is a bright and strong one. The Camelid Community Jamboree also is designed to provide a template for use in future locations.

Target Audience—Young families and newly retired couples living on small acreages are the primary target for an educational camelid jamboree. They and others who are looking for family friendly, easy to care for animals that can generate an income flow are the main focus for such an event. The initial Camelid Community Jamboree will be held Sept. 19-20, 2015, at the Pierce County Fairgrounds in Ellsworth, Wisconsin—ideally located to draw people from a wide area in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and near enough to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area to draw fiber enthusiasts. The event will be free to the public.

Sponsors—Sponsors of the initial Camelid Community Jamboree include Alpaca Owners Association (AOA), International Lama Registry (ILR), International Camelid Institute (ICI) and Greater Appalachian Llama & Alpaca Association (GALA). Additional groups also have indicated interest in becoming sponsors.

Content—The jamboree will include a series of short educational sessions, around 45 minutes or so, that will be repeated mornings and afternoons on both days so that people have the opportunity to attend all or most of the sessions no matter when they arrive. Topics will include camelid healthcare, nutrition, housing, training and handling, camelid 4-H projects, fiber both on and off the animal, the business end of fiber and demonstrations related to many of the topics. There will also be opportunities for hands on experiences with alpacas and llamas for both adults and youth, including animal walks, obstacle courses, etc. Other hands on activities will be fiber related, again for people of all ages. Attendees can leave the jamboree with all the relevant information needed to start their camelid adventure, and they will have made contacts with current owners who can be called upon for mentoring.

Vendors will offer a wide range of fiber and fiber products for sale as well as other camelid related items. In addition to providing a good marketing opportunity for the vendors, it also demonstrates to potential new camelid owners what they can do to generate an income flow from their animals. Exhibitors may have llamas and alpacas on display or for sale, and camelid organizations may have booths and displays to educate both current and future camelid owners as well as the general public. In addition, this will be an attractive venue for fiber mills, pools and cooperatives, as well as livestock related businesses—trailer manufacturers, feed suppliers, producers of farm buildings and equipment, etc. Local food vendors will provide meal and snack items for purchase.

The “workforce” for the jamboree will consist of volunteers: alpaca and llama owners in the region, members of regional and local camelid organizations and 4-H/FFA members and leaders in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially those with llama and alpaca projects. Additional details will be forthcoming the first part of 2015, and updates will be posted on Camelid Community’s website at www.camelidcommunity.us.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor for Camelid Community Jamboree, or if you are interested in vendor or exhibitor information, please contact Sheila Fugina (bsfugina@frontier.com) or Barb Baker (bebaker@earthlink.net).